No tolerance for extremism, says Saudi education minister

12/05/20

Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh

Al-Asheikh: “We reiterate our stand that we will not allow our educational institutions to be used to promote deviant ideas”
JEDDAH: There is no tolerance in Saudi schools and universities for extremist thought, literature or teaching, Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh said on Monday.

The minister said he would not permit educational institutions to be exploited for the promotion of extremist views, or policies that contradicted those of the state.

Offenders would be dealt with firmly and without leniency, he told a virtual university forum.

“We reiterate our stand that we will not allow our educational institutions to be used to promote deviant ideas,” Al-Asheikh said.

“We stress firmness in dealing with deviant thought. Universities should play a major role in enforcing nationalism as well as enhancing loyalty to the country, and enhancing self-immunity of all their employees.”

He insisted that libraries in educational institutes, curriculum descriptions, postgraduate theses and research for publication should include no deviant thoughts, or references to books related to terrorist movements and groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and others.

The minister said the high level of community awareness in the Kingdom was evident from the response by both students and staff to the need to close universities because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“They proved their sense of responsibility through continuing to remotely give regular lectures and take exams,” he said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Young Saudis take part in contest to promote tolerance

Time: 21 April, 2020

Photo: KACND/Twitter
  • The results of the competition will be announced on Wednesday through the KACND website

RIYADH: Ninety-six young men and women from throughout the Kingdom participated remotely in the “Hawer” competition to promote the values of dialogue, coexistence, tolerance and national cohesion.

The competition, organized by the Dialogue Academy for Training of the King Abdul Aziz Center for National Dialogue (KACND), aims to enable youth to master dialogue and analogy skills using scientific methods and to help them objectively evaluate and criticize ideas. It encouraged them to master research and investigation skills to gather information.

The center will distribute cash awards worth SR48,000 ($12,792) among the winners. The first winner in the boys’ team will receive SR12,000, the second runner-up will be awarded SR8,000, and the third runner-up will receive SR4,000. The same applied to winners in the girls’ team.

The competition’s management team met remotely on April 18 to discuss the mechanisms for the conduct of the competition.

On Monday, a remote training course was held on dialogue and analogy skills for all participants. Instructions on the competition were given to the teams and they were provided with a competition guide and specific topics for each team.

The competition included the following topics: Investing time in self-development, adherence to national regulations and decisions, volunteering and its motivations, and home quarantine and its role in self-development.

The competition took place via videoconferencing. The results of the competition will be announced on Wednesday through the KACND website.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi UN envoy calls for wider terror sanctions

Time: 11 March, 2020

Terrorism should not be linked to religion, nationality or race, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, told a meeting of ambassadors of OIC member states. (SPA)
  • Al-Mouallimi focused on issues agreed by OIC states after consultations led by Saudi Arabia
  • The meeting was chaired by the UAE at the UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday

JEDDAH: Terrorism should not be linked to religion, nationality or race, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, told a meeting of ambassadors of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states.
In his address as chairman of the Islamic group to combat terrorism on behalf of the OIC, Al-Mouallimi said that the use of terms linking terror to religion, such as Islamic State, should be avoided.
There should be no discrimination between terrorist groups from all religions and sects, and calls for extremism and terrorism should be condemned regardless of their source, he added.
The meeting was chaired by the UAE at the UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday.
Al-Mouallimi focused on issues agreed by OIC states after consultations led by Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi envoy’s address summarized OIC member states’ major role in combating terrorism, and their call for the comprehensive implementation of the anti-terrorism strategy, as well as their emphasis on full respect for sovereignty and equality in accordance with the UN charter.
Al Mouallimi called for an extension of Security Council sanctions related to Daesh and Al-Qaeda in order to include all terrorist groups that have targeted Muslims.
He also urged countries to develop comprehensive strategies to protect critical infrastructure from terror attacks.

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Saudi Arabia condemns attack on church in Burkina Faso

20/02/20

A soldier guards refugees who had fled from attacks in northern Burkina Faso. (Getty Images/AFP file photo)
  • Gunmen killed 24 people, including a church pastor, and kidnapped three others in the attack in Dori
  • More than 1,300 civilians were killed in attacks last year in Burkina Faso, more than seven times the previous year

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has condemned a terror attack on a church in northeast Burkina Faso in which 24 people were killed and three kidnapped.

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed the Kingdom’s condolences to families of the victims, and the government and people of Burkina Faso, and reiterated its rejection of violence, terrorism and extremism.

On Sunday, gunmen killed 24 people, including a church pastor, and kidnapped three others in Burkina Faso. It was the latest attack against a religious leader in the increasingly unstable West African nation. Sihanri Osangola Brigadie, mayor of Boundore commune, said the attack occurred in the town of Pansi in Yagha province.

About 20 attackers separated men from women outside a Protestant church. At least 18 people were injured.

“It hurt me when I saw the people,” Brigadie said after visiting some victims in a hospital in Dori town, 180 km from the attack.

Both Christians and Muslims were killed before the church was set on fire, a government security official said. Attacks have targeted religious leaders in the area in the past.

Last week a retired pastor was killed and another abducted by gunmen, according to an internal security report for aid workers.

More than 1,300 civilians were killed in attacks last year in Burkina Faso, more than seven times the previous year, according to Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, which collects and analyzes conflict information.

The insecurity has created a humanitarian crisis. More than 760,000 people have been forced from their homes in the country, according to the government.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi human-rights chief meets delegation from France

Time: 19 February, 2020

Awwad Al-Awwad, the president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission with Christophe Farno, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Middle East and North Africa department director. (SPA)
  • Al-Awwad stressed the strength of the relationship between the Kingdom and France

RIYADH: Awwad Al-Awwad, the president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, on Tuesday met a delegation from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led by Christophe Farno, director of the ministry’s Middle East and North Africa department.

They discussed opportunities for cooperation and how they might work together to enhance human rights.

Al-Awwad stressed the strength of the relationship between the Kingdom and France in all fields. He also gave an overview of recent developments in human rights that have taken place in Saudi Arabia under the leadership of King Salman and the pioneering national reforms led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

He said that there have been 60 human-rights reforms so far, 22 of which were designed to empower women and guarantee their rights. He noted these significant changes are in keeping with the aims of Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to achieve comprehensive and sustainable development to ensure a great future for the Kingdom and its people.

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US delegation lauds Muslim World League’s peace initiatives

17/02/20

MWL chief Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa meets US delegation. (Supplied)
  • Al-Issa stressed “MWL’s commitment to fruitful communications with the US in the name of the Islamic Ummah’s scholars and intellectuals in order to achieve common goals”

RIYADH: Muslim World League (MWL) Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa met with a delegation of the US Congress on Monday.
The delegates appreciated MWL’s global efforts to fight extremism, violence and terrorism and the initiatives the organization has taken to promote dialogue between people of different cultures and to ensure intercultural harmony for the benefit of all mankind.
They also commended MWL’s efforts to promote interreligious and intercultural civilized communication.
Welcoming the delegation, Al-Issa stressed “MWL’s commitment to fruitful communications with the US in the name of the Islamic Ummah’s scholars and intellectuals in order to achieve common goals.”
“Everybody is counting on the relevant religious, intellectual and civil society institutions to contribute to a positive rapprochement between different religions and cultures” to help build an environment of love, cooperation, mutual respect and that rejects rejects all forms of religious and cultural conflicts.
The meeting also discussed issues of common interest in details.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia, Denmark discuss cooperation promoting human rights

17/02/20

Saudi Human Rights Commission President Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad meets Danish Ambassador to the Kingdom Ole Moesby in Riyadh. (SPA)
  • Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan aims to achieve sustainable and comprehensive development for a better future for the country

RIYADH: The president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission (HRC), Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, received the Danish Ambassador to the Kingdom Ole Moesby in Riyadh on Sunday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
They discussed cooperation between the two countries, especially in promoting human rights. Al-Awwad reviewed developments and reforms taking place in Saudi Arabia to support human rights.
The Vision 2030 reform plan aims to achieve sustainable and comprehensive development for a better future for the country, he added.
Also on Sunday, Al-Awwad received a delegation of advisers and assistants of members of the US Congress.
He discussed with the US delegation cooperation between the two countries in the field of human rights.
Al-Awwad affirmed the depth of relations binding the two countries in various fields, and highlighted developments in the Kingdom.
He also highlighted the reforms and efforts carried out by the Kingdom in the field of human rights, including 22 decisions to empower women.

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Saudi Arabia calls for steps to combat N-terror

Time:11 February, 2020

Riyadh is keen on ensuring that nuclear security will be one of the main elements of its national peaceful nuclear energy program. (SPA)
  • Riyadh expresses confidence in China’s ability to fight virus

RIYADH: The Cabinet on Tuesday called on the international community to reinforce all measures aimed at combating nuclear terrorism.

The meeting, which was chaired by King Salman in Riyadh, made this call in view of regional tensions and the rise of armed terrorist groups.
Media Minister Turki Al-Shabanah, in a statement issued to the Saudi Press Agency, said the minister reviewed Arab, regional and international developments underscoring the Kingdom’s firm stance on efforts aimed at achieving global security and stability.
Saudi Arabia had during its recent participation at the International Conference on Nuclear Security in Vienna underlined its support for international resolutions related to nuclear terrorism.
Riyadh is keen on ensuring that nuclear security will be one of the main elements of its national peaceful nuclear energy program.
The Cabinet expressed its confidence in China’s ability to deal with the new coronavirus outbreak.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Cabinet approved the Kingdom’s accession to the framework agreement for the establishment of the International Solar Energy Alliance.

• The ministers welcomed the declaration of Riyadh as the ‘Capital of Arab Women 2020.’

King Salman had voiced this stance during a telephone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week.
He had ordered the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) to provide urgent aid to Beijing to address the crisis.
The Cabinet praised King Salman for his gesture, saying it reflects the solid bilateral relations enjoyed between Saudi Arabia and China.
The ministers welcomed the declaration of Riyadh as the “Capital of Arab Women 2020.”
The Cabinet approved the Kingdom’s accession to the framework agreement for the establishment of the International Solar Energy Alliance.
The ministers also reviewed the preparations for the 47th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and appreciated Kingdom’s continuous support to the OIC.

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Racism goes beyond words or beliefs

09/02/20

HODA AL-HELAISSI

The King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies has an amazing program that should be replicated by other institutions. It is called Gateway and it invites students from some of the best universities in the world to visit Saudi Arabia. It’s a program that, in a distinctive and interesting way, tries to shatter countries’ stereotypes of the Kingdom. Participants, like many people visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time, are amazed at how different the reality is from the perception they have been fed throughout their lives.
I was recently asked an interesting question by one of the students. He wanted to know what caused the world to hate Saudi Arabia so much. Although there are many reasons, the one I elaborated on was racism, which is destructive globally.
Racism takes on many forms and has reprehensible consequences. Starting from biological race and developing into exploitation and the more commonly seen human invention of cultural differences, racism goes beyond words or beliefs. It touches attitudes and behavior, is disdainful and disrespectful, affects the dignity and self-esteem of victims and, as such, harms society in general.
It is a vehicle of recognition and admission of differences between peoples, communities, cultures, faiths, traditions and deeds, provoking disruptiveness, divisiveness and dissention, prompting hatred and misunderstanding based on suspicion and doubt. Racism is not only founded on hatred, it is also built on ignorance and fear, usually of minorities who are seen as threats to national identity or social security. Often, national pride is used as a justification for this loathsome behavior and it is interesting to see that certain words and expressions have become interchangeable either to justify a certain stance or to hide deeper nefarious feelings without being outspoken about it.
We have seen countries which once prided themselves on being multicultural and multifaith fight the very richness of their diverse social fibre in the name of nationalism. The melting pot of globalization is rapidly being replaced by inner-looking individualism which can no longer accept the other, the different or the diverse, and which breeds sentiments of prejudice, discrimination and sectarianism.
Today, abusive, violent or intimidating racist behavior has found a new and more powerful platform — social media, where racial harassment marginalizes or excludes individuals. Cyber-racism commits these blatant offenses — which spread like wildfire — under the blanket of anonymity and in the name of freedom of speech. Traditional media, too, is a perpetrator of racism by voicing unfair or negative opinions on racial minorities, or unknown and misunderstood cultures in articles or programs that are capable of reaching millions of readers or viewers. People use this information as a weapon to attack and judge that of which they know nothing about, as is the case for Saudi Arabia.
Racism is learned. A child is not born racist. Racism is wrong. It challenges social equity and value systems. It needs to be fought, if not eradicated, through awareness and education and by denouncing practices that are demeaning and patronizing. Although laws and policies cannot change mindsets, they can nevertheless restrain social conduct and attitudes.

Hoda Al-Helaissi has been a member of the Shoura Council since 2013. She is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee within the Shoura.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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Muslims, Jews make historic joint visit to Auschwitz

25/01/20

The mission, led by the MWL and the American Jewish Committee, is the most senior Islamic leadership delegation to ever visit any Nazi death camp. (Supplied)
  • We not only honor the dead but celebrate the living, says MWL chief.

KRAKOW: Muslim World League (MWL) Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa and American Jewish Committee (AJC) CEO David Harris led a ground-breaking visit of Muslim and Jewish delegations to Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi death camp.

Al-Issa, who is based in Makkah, led a delegation of 62 Muslims, including 25 prominent religious leaders, from 28 countries.
According to a press statement, the mission is the most senior Islamic leadership delegation to ever visit any Nazi death camp.
The mission to Auschwitz is a key element of the memorandum of understanding between the AJC and MWL, which was signed by Al-Issa and Harris at the AJC headquarters in New York on April 30, 2019.
The visit occurred just ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which this year will mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi camp.
More than 1 million Jews were exterminated at Auschwitz, as well as over 100,000 non-Jewish inmates, among them principally Polish Catholics, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war.
“To be here, among the children of Holocaust survivors and members of the Jewish and Islamic communities, is both a sacred duty and a profound honor,” said Al-Issa.
“The unconscionable crimes to which we bear witness today are truly crimes against humanity. That is to say, a violation of us all, an affront to all of God’s children.”
The AJC delegation of 24 people included its President Harriet Schleifer, her predecessor John Shapiro and his wife Dr. Shonni Silverberg, and Roberta Baruch and Steven Zelkowitz, members of the AJC’s executive council. The parents of Schleifer and Zelkowitz were Holocaust survivors.
“Visiting this sacred place, understanding what transpired at Auschwitz, is vital to preserving the memory of the Jewish, and non-Jewish, victims of the Nazis and striving to ensure that such horrors never happen again,” said Harris, the son of Holocaust survivors.

BACKGROUND

• The mission to Auschwitz is a key element of the memorandum of understanding between the AJC and MWL, which was signed by Al-Issa and Harris at the AJC headquarters in New York on April 30, 2019.

• More than 1 million Jews were exterminated at Auschwitz, as well as over 100,000 non-Jewish inmates, among them principally Polish Catholics, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war.

“We are deeply moved to be the hosts for such an unprecedented visit. This creates the chance not only to deepen understanding of the unparalleled crime that took place here, but also to build bridges of friendship and cooperation between Muslims and Jews in pursuit of a more humane and safer world for all.”
Each member of the Muslim and Jewish delegations carried a memorial candle and placed it at the monument honoring the more than 1.1 million people murdered at the Nazi camp.
Following the ceremony and memorial prayers for the dead, Al-Issa said: “By paying tribute to the victims of the Holocaust, we not only honor the dead but celebrate the living. Throughout the visit, stories of our shared humanity showed through the horror.”
He added: “I was amazed by stories of some individual Muslims who sought to save Jews from the Holocaust at great personal risk in Europe and North Africa. These precious men and women represent the true values of Islam, and today’s visit by the AJC and MWL is made in the spirit of this noble tradition of brotherhood, peace and love.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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