Asharq Alawsat runs an interview with Denise Spellberg, author of the new book Thomas Jefferson’s Quran: Islam and the Founders. The book takes a look at how the founders of the American republic viewed Islam and how those views colored the writing of the US Constitution and state laws.
The author notes that 18th C. Americans generally shared the negative attitudes of their European contemporaries, but that exception men were far-seeing in certain regards, though seemingly blind in others.
The book certainly looks interesting.
Islam at the Birth of America
Mohammad Ali Salih
Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat—Denise A. Spellberg is an American scholar of Islamic history. She is an associate professor of history and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas and holds a PhD from Columbia University. She is also the author of Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past, which looks at the portrayal of Aisha in Islamic tradition.
Spellberg is perhaps best known in the media for the controversy that surrounded the Sherry Jones novel, The Jewel of Medina. Spellberg sharply criticized the novel from a historical perspective, informing publisher Random House that the book might result in violence by radical Muslims.
In her latest book, she looks at the impact that Islam, in particular a copy of the Qur’an owned by Thomas Jefferson, had on the birth of the US Constitution and the concept of religious freedom during the infancy of the United States of America.
Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders is published by Knopf Publishing Group and was released in October 2013.
It’s slightly out of the proper sequence, but Saudi Arabia is increasing its efforts in vocational training in order to have Saudis qualified to fill many of the jobs vacated by departing foreign workers. Arab News reports that 300 vocational training schools will be established to augment the hundreds already in existence. The new facilities, though, won’t be online for another three years.
450,000 Saudis to be trained
RIYADH: GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN
In a major move to cut down reliance on foreign workers, the government has rolled out a skills and training action plan that promises to meet the shortfall of skilled workers in the local market.
“About 450,000 Saudi boys and girls will be trained in different vocations over a period of five years under the new plan,” said Ali bin Nasser Al-Ghafis, governor of Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC), on Monday.
Al-Ghafis said the state-owned TVTC is working to set up 300 new vocational training facilities across the Kingdom. “All these vocational training centers — both for boys and girls — will be operational within three years,” Al-Ghafis told Arab News on the sidelines of a ceremony.
One of the stated purposes of the recent effort to regularize foreign workers’ status in Saudi Arabia was to create more job opportunities for Saudis. According to this Saudi Gazette/Okaz report, that is what has happened.
150,000 private sector jobs for Saudis after correction
Abdullah Al-Qahtani | Okaz/Saudi Gazette
ABHA – About 150,000 job opportunities for young Saudi men and women have been created in the private sector, thanks to the campaign for status correction of foreigners.
According to a source at the Council of Saudi Chambers, this figure was based on preliminary reports received from various parts of the Kingdom.
“There has been a 33 percent increase in demand for administrative jobs during the last three months of the seven-month grace period while the demand for teachers rose by 23 percent. The demand for accountants increased by 18 percent and that for engineers rose by 12 percent.
The central region ranks first in the number of job vacancies, the Eastern Province comes second, followed by the western, southern and northern regions.
Saudi Gazette and other media are reporting that Saudi researchers have found the MERS-CoV flu virus in a camel owned by a patient who had come down with the new flu. This is the first time the exact virus has been identified in a camel, though earlier research had shown the presence of a similar, related virus in camels. Saudi public health officials consider this a major breakthrough in their investigation of the disease.
Camel owned by Jeddah patient tests positive for MERS-coronavirusSaeed
Al Khotani | Saudi Gazette
RIYADH — The Ministry of Health announced that an initial investigation on a group of camels conducted by its experts indicated that one of these camels tested positive to MERS-coronavirus.
“We had to conduct this investigation on this group of camels that was owned by a 43-year-old citizen, also a MERS patient. He is currently under treatment at a hospital in Jeddah. The investigation was part of the surveillance procedures, ” the ministry said.
According to the ministry, whenever there is a suspicion of a infection a surveillance process is conducted that includes the patient himself, and the people, and animals that were in contact with him. The process includes lab tests of samples taken from these people and animals.
“The Jeddah patient appeared to own camels, so the tests were made on his camels as part of the process, and also on everything that he was in contact with,” the ministry said.
The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDREP) of the University of Minnesota also reports:
Saudi and international media are reporting that the sweeps being conducted to catch illegal workers remaining in Saudi Arabia after the expiration of the seven-month amnesty period have turn deadly. Two people are reported as having been killed and scores injured as the illegal immigrants battled police sent out to verify residency status.
AFP – Hundreds of illegal migrants targeted in a Saudi nationwide crackdown turned themselves in on Sunday after security forces besieged a Riyadh neighbourhood where riots had killed two people.
Men, women and children lined up carrying their belongings to board police buses transferring them to an assembly centre before their deportation, a week after a seven-month amnesty expired.
Police said they intervened on Saturday following riots in the poor Manfuhah neighbourhood of the capital after foreigners attacked Saudis and other foreign expats with rocks and knives.
One Saudi and another person, whose nationality and identity remains unknown, were killed, said a police statement carried by the SPA state news agency.
Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that the government has started an investigation into the riots. The paper reports that the attackers, in at least one area, were predominantly of Ethiopian origin.
Probe begins into Riyadh clashes
Mansour Al-Shahri and Sa’ad Al-Shamrani | Okaz/Saudi Gazette
RIYADH – Hundreds of illegal migrants, who were involved in clashes Saturday night, turned themselves in on Sunday after security forces cordoned off a Riyadh neighborhood where two people were killed.
An investigation has been launched into the violence in Manfuhah after illegals attacked Saudis and other expats with rocks and knives.
One Saudi and another person were killed, said a police statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA). Another 68 people – 28 Saudis and 40 foreigners – were injured and 561 were arrested.
Riyadh Deputy Emir Prince Turki Bin Abdullah oversaw the security operation against the rioters, most of whom were Ethiopian nationals. Riyadh police chief Maj. Gen. Saud Al-Hilal and top officials of various security agencies supervised the operation.
Men, women and children lined up carrying their belongings to board police buses transferring them to an assembly center before their deportation.
In Asharq Alawsat, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed opines that the government must do its utmost to control illegal immigration. It should also, he says, show some mercy toward those who have lived most of their lives in Saudi Arabia and have no homes to which they could plausibly return. He suggest, too, that making the workers more expensive to hire — that is, offering a decent wage — would reduce their numbers.
Opinion: Saudi Arabia Must Regain Control of Immigration
The worries of four million residents in breach of Saudi Arabia’s residency laws have ended following a seven-month grace period, after which they were granted their work permits. But no one knows how many still remain without papers, a few thousand or several million.
It is clear, however, that security forces are having difficulty finding undocumented migrants and controlling the situation, especially after the first inspection campaign against illegal workers in Riyadh, where unprecedented riots erupted.
The situation has become dangerous as a result of years of accumulated legal and social chaos which resulted in the increase of illegal employment. Deporting illegal workers won’t be easy. It will also not be easy to prevent thousands from entering the country through land borders stretching 4,400 kilometers and shared with eight countries. There are also 2,600 kilometers of coastline, part of which is shared with Bahrain.
It is probably best to make the employment of illegal workers costly for the Saudi employers themselves. At the same time, the government can facilitate the process of hiring workers domestically through specialized companies and prevent the sponsorship system which has brought no good to anyone. A better system is needed whereby both the rights of migrant workers and the country’s security are achieved.
Meanwhile, Arab News reports, fully 50% of contracting firms in the Kingdom have gone out of business following the sweeps. That suggests that there were an awful lot of Saudi businesses hiring illegal workers.
Writing at pan-Arab Al-Hayat (here translated by Al Arabiya TV) Abdullah Hamidaddin goes after the ultra-facile ‘analysis’ of CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria. Zakaria, in my view, gets some things right in his global analyses. At other times, he gets them very wrong. His latest piece on Saudi Arabia and US-Saudi relations, alas, falls in the latter camp and Hamidaddin calls him on it.
Ranting or analyzing? Fareed Zakaria and Saudi foreign policy
Fareed Zakaria is a very influential media figure, but his understanding of the region is somewhat limited, and his approach to foreign policy analysis is quite immature. Both qualities featured in his recent Time Magazine article: “Zakaria: The Saudis Are Mad? Tough! Why we shouldn’t care that the world’s most irresponsible country is displeased at the U.S.”
Criticizing the foreign policies of any State is absolutely necessary. The one who benefits most is the target of the critique. But it is one thing to offer political critique and another to offer political ranting; which is what Zakaria did in his article. But the problem is not his rant, rather, the problem is that it would be taken as a serious political analysis. Saudi Arabia is stereotyped. And as a result people are allowed to think about it in certain ways, regardless of the facts. Worse still, people are allowed to analyze it nonsensically and still be taken seriously. This is a fundamental problem. If the logic which Zakaria used in his article was applied in an analysis of German or Russian foreign policy, it would become a laughing matter. But applying that logic to Saudi Arabia made it a political analysis.
He starts by saying: “America’s Middle East policies are failing, we are told, and the best evidence is that Saudi Arabia is furious.” And then he sarcastically says: “Surely the last measure of American foreign policy should be how it is received by the House of Saud.”
Over the last decade — and increasingly — there have been suppositions that, push come to shove, Saudi Arabia would be able to request nuclear weapons from Pakistan. The reasoning usually starts with the idea that Saudi Arabia provided much of the funding for Pakistan’s nuclear program. The fact that Saudi Arabia has publicly stated that it is not going to accept a nuclear Iran with equanimity adds to the equation.
Below is a link to an article from a security blog, Stratrisks, that explores the issue, based on the BBC’s “Newsnight” program.
Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, and believes it could obtain atomic bombs at will, a variety of sources have told BBC Newsnight.
While the kingdom’s quest has often been set in the context of countering Iran’s atomic programme, it is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic.
Earlier this year, a senior Nato decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery.
Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, “the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.”
Since 2009, when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned visiting US special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross that if Iran crossed the threshold, “we will get nuclear weapons”, the kingdom has sent the Americans numerous signals of its intentions.
Al Arabiya TV runs an Associated Press report saying the Pres. Obama intends to nominate Joseph Wesphal as ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Westphal, currently Under Secretary of the Army, is a consummate Washington insider. He has an academic background as well as a range of experience with both the legislative and executive branches of the US government. He is not, however, a Middle East expert.
The publishing of the announcement suggests that the US government has already received agrément from the Saudis and that, following Senate confirmation, he will be the next ambassador in Riyadh.
Obama picks ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, Hungary
Associated Press, Washington
President Barack Obama is nominating a top Defense Department official to become the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
The White House announcement Wednesday comes as tensions mount between the two countries over Obama administration policy toward Syria, Iran and Egypt.
Obama says he intends to nominate Joseph William Westphal to fill the critical Middle Eastern diplomatic post. Westphal has been undersecretary of the Army since 2009.
The crackdown on illegal workers that led to over a million leaving Saudi Arabia, now coupled with the arrests of many of those still remaining has led to a bit of chaos in the country. The overall intent of the crackdown was to increase the number of jobs for Saudi citizens. Those citizens, however, were not lining up, ready to replace the foreign workers who were being sent home. The result, as reported by Saudi Gazette, has been problematic.
Shops formerly staffed by unregulated expats are closed. The manual work done by underpaid foreigners is left undone.
If nothing else, Saudis are learning first-hand just how much they have grown to depend on cheap, foreign labor.
Crackdown cripples life
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH/RIYADH – Residents and citizens woke up on Tuesday to a day crippled by a lack of necessary services as illegal expat workers, who failed to rectify their status, stayed indoors for fear of being arrested.
Streets were less crowded where taxi drivers charged exorbitant fares, markets wore a deserted look, many commercial establishments and hospitals reported no-shows, shutters were down on many grocery stores and eateries, street vendors were no where to be seen. Customers were forced to fill grocery bags themselves at super market counters in the absence of expat workers who did this job.
A Saudi national in Jeddah summed up the scenario: “It seems that the country was full of violators. Shops are closed, streets are empty, restaurants are empty. I counted 30 cell phone shops on one street closed. God help us! Where are the citizens?”
Arab News reports that the crackdown is successful, at least for some values of ‘success’. It notes that over 10,000 illegal workers still in the country have been arrested.
The paper also reports that remittances by foreign workers are set to decrease by 20%, representing an economic benefit to the Kingdom.
Writing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Anthony Cordesman says that the recent flaps concerning US-Saudi relations and Saudi Arabia’s renunciation of a seat on the UNSC are perfectly understandable and should have been expected.
Saudi Arabia, he argues, is acting rationally in the face of manifold threats, both foreign and, given Saudi demographics, internal. It sees itself endangered by discord in many of the countries surrounding it as well as by an aggressive Iranian foreign policy. At the same time, it must deal with the fact that as more young Saudis — female as well as male — enter the job market, there must be jobs.
There is no doubt, however, that the Saudi government sees American reaction to the threats as insufficient, if not utterly naive.
The whole, brief piece is worth reading.
Saudi Arabia and the Arab “Frontline” States
Anthony H Cordesman
The United States needs to rethink its attitudes and polices towards Saudi Arabia and the Arab “frontline” states. The “Arab spring” has not become some sudden window to democratic reform. It has instead unleashed a broad pattern of regional instability in an area already deeply destabilized by extremism and terrorism, growing religious struggles between Sunni and other sects as well as between Sunni extremists and moderates, the U.S. invasion of Iraq and its removal as a military counterbalance to Iran, a growing Iranian set of threats at every level, and massive demographic pressures on weak structures of governance and economic development.
The day may come some years in the future where the resulting convulsions in states like Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen produce the conditions for effective reform: political parties capable of producing effective leaders and governance, politics based on compromise rather than a history of conspiracy and winner’s take all, elections that produce national rather than ethnic and sectarian tensions, and a rule of law rather than winner takes all and repression. Today, however, upheavals mean political instability and violence, massive new economic problems, power struggles, repression and refugees. The issue is not democracy and the more ideal human rights, it is the most basic set of human rights: security and the ability to lead a safe and secure life.
Arab News reports that Rajaa Al-Sanea, author of Girls of Riyadh, has been honored by the University of Illinois, where she is an assistant professor, for her work in stem cell research and neurology. Being a successful author as well as a successful scientist is no mean accomplishment.
‘Girls of Riyadh’ author honored in US for stem cell research
JEDDAH: ROB L. WAGNER
Rajaa Al-Sanea, the Saudi author of “Girls of Riyadh,” or “Banat Al-Riyadh,” which sparked controversy in 2005 for its frank depiction of Saudi women’s lives, has been honored for her research in stem cell science in the US.
Al-Sanea, 31, is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago. The university honored her last week for significant achievements. She received the award for distinctive research in stem cells and her work in neurology. The university also recognized her literary efforts, singling out “Girls of Riyadh,” which had sold 3 million copies and was translated into 40 languages.
The deadline by which illegal workers in Saudi Arabia had to regularize their status and Saudi employers to rid their rolls of them has passed.
Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that country-wide sweeps of job sites will start today. Illegal workers will be detained, punished, deported, and permanently banned from working in the Kingdom. Saudis hiring them face a two-year jail term, fines up to SR 100,000 (US $30,000), confiscation of vehicles used to transport workers, and being permanently banned from recruiting foreign workers.
Amnesty ends; all-out raid begins
Mansour Al-Shahri | Okaz/Saudi Gazette
RIYADH – Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, announced that the seven-month grace period to correct labor and residency status of foreigners ended on Sunday and an all-out security inspection campaign will start on Monday. The campaign would continue throughout the year and there is no time limit set for it, he said.
Addressing a joint press conference with the Ministry of Labor officials at the Officers’ Club of the Internal Security Forces here on Sunday evening, Al-Turki said that the raids will cover all cities, towns, regions and villages as well as highways across the Kingdom.
“All expatriates who work for their personal gain or overstayed their Haj, Umrah, and visit visas and infiltrators will be caught and will be detained until completing legal procedures for penal measures and deportation. The campaign also aims at catching Saudis who employ illegal residents or those who leave their workers to find job on their own.
“Those who cover up illegals or those who give them shelter or transportation or any kind of help will also be apprehended,” he said, adding, that those who recruited foreigners and then did not report their overstay will also face penal action.
Arab News reports that because deportation facilities have limited capacity, regular jails across the country will be used to hold those caught in the raids.