France’s push against ‘Islamist separatism’ should be supported


This grab taken from a video obtained by AFP shows French police detaining an alleged suspect after several people were injured near the former offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo following an attack by a man wielding a knife in Paris on September 25, 2020. (AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday unveiled a set of laws to fight what he described as the threat from radical Islamists and other extremists. The centrist president said he wanted to put the French republican values on the frontline in the battle against the divisions in society. Macron reiterated that he wanted Islam in France to be a positive part of society. “I’m not saying we need to create a French style of Islam, but that there can be a solid partnership with the French state,” he said. “The best way we can do that is by freeing it from foreign influence.”

The French president’s overhaul comes close on the heels of the bloody knife attack outside the former offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The attack has been described by French officials as a case of Islamist terrorism.

France has traditionally been a beacon for reformers. However, it is currently at a cultural and societal crossroads. Those who have been following French domestic politics will understand this at once. President Macron’s proposed neo-liberal “reform” of France’s retirement system which was established at the end of the Second World War and the yellow vest protests that only the corona pandemic managed to disperse are obvious examples. However, the traditional French values of liberty, equality, and fraternity must remain unchanged.

It is sad to see that among those who top the list of what needs to be reformed are Muslims — such as the ones who committed the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Of course, it is important to stress that not all Muslims are terrorists, but sadly many terrorists in the past few years have been Muslim — or have claimed to be.

One only has to compare words to actions to realize that religious reform in the Kingdom is real

Faisal J. Abbas

This is not to say there are no glowing examples of French Muslims doing amazing things. There are many — doctors, politicians and football players, such as Zinedine Zidane, Hatem Ben Arfa, N’Golo Kante, Karim Mostafa Benzema, Wissam Ben Yedder and Houssem Aouar — who are perfectly integrated into French society. Another example is that of the singer Mennel Ibtissem, whom Arab News En Français interviewed recently. Despite the success she has enjoyed on shows such as “The Voice,” she was subjected to the worst kind of cyberbullying, simply because she is Muslim and later because she removed her turban. There is, of course, the danger that these cyberattacks might become actual physical ones.

Of course, many will take my words with a pinch of salt, saying that they come from the editor in chief of a Saudi Arabian newspaper based in Riyadh. Many will point a finger at the Kingdom, saying that it has often been the source of extremism. Of course, at the same time — for racist or other political agendas — they will unfairly refuse to accept the reforms made in the country by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is on the record as saying, “We want to take the Kingdom back to moderate Islam.”

Others will repeat religious extremist conspiracy theories suggesting that Saudi Arabia, along with other moderate Arab states, secretly support those who propagate Islamophobia to win publicity points.
However, one only has to compare words to actions to realize that religious reform in the Kingdom is real, brave and is for the benefit of the whole world.

Sheikh Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, a former Saudi minister of justice who now heads the highly influential Muslim World League (MWL), told me in a 2018 interview with this newspaper: “I think no Muslim can call a Muslim woman an infidel or question her values because she has never worn a hijab. The Muslim woman, if she does not wear hijab … is not an infidel and does not depart from Islam.”

In Belgium in 2017, he said Muslims should respect the laws, culture and customs of the non-Muslim countries in which they live, even if they felt that to do so violated their faith. If they (Muslims) were unable to legally persuade the local authorities to respect their wishes, they should either obey local laws or leave, Al-Issa advised.

We, at Arab News, have also played our part and we acknowledged that in the beginning was the word. As such, we realized the influence of radical clerics’ words on the hearts and minds of followers of different religions worldwide. With this realization in mind, in 2019, we at Arab News launched a series called “Preachers of Hate” — a series that names and shames radical preachers, from all religions and nationalities, and we started with our own in Saudi Arabia.

To support President Macron’s drive, we are pleased to translate this series into French and launch it today. It will include profiles of all the extremist preachers that we exposed in the past, along with some additional French ones.

We at this newspaper will do our part, but the French authorities must do theirs as well. “I believe that the most important thing is to control those who convey hate speech from inside or outside the country — separatists, racists, anti-Semites. Such speech is contrary to the values of the French Republic,” French Sen. Nathalie Goulet told Arab News last July. She was commenting on a news report that French lawmakers had finally recommended a preaching ban on clerics affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group classified by most countries as a terrorist group.

Of course, if President Macron is serious about freeing French Muslims from the malign influence of outsiders, then French authorities must also seriously look into the devastating impact Qatar has had ideologically — despite its “soft power” acquisition of historic buildings and the purchase of Paris Saint-Germain.

Qatar is the Muslim Brotherhood’s main global financier and backer. To understand the impact of the evil ideas of this group, we recommend skimming through the horrific videos and fatwas our research team found on Yusuf Qaradawi, the Doha-based Muslim Brotherhood preacher.

A good start for French investigators might be a fascinating book entitled “Qatar Papers — How the State Finances Islam in France and Europe,” by French investigative reporters Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot. The book reveals how Qatar is pouring hundreds of millions into Muslim Brotherhood-controlled organizations across France.
Bonne chance!

Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News. Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas
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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Arab News to launch French edition, appoints Paris Chief Correspondent


Arab News en Français Chief Correspondent in Paris Randa Takieddine (L) and Faisal J. Abbas, Editor-in-Chief of Arab News. (AN Photo)
  • Arab News en Français will be the third international digital edition of the leading pan-Arab English language daily

PARIS: Arab News, the Middle East’s leading English-language daily, is to launch a new digital French edition: Arab News en Français. The Riyadh-based daily also announces the appointment of veteran journalist Randa Takieddine as its Chief Correspondent to the French capital, Paris.

The new edition will go live on July 14, coinciding with the French National Day. It will be inaugurated virtually by the French Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, François Gouyette. The launch event will bring together a number of high-profile Arab and French speakers, and will be conducted via a Zoom video conference and live-streamed on YouTube and other Arab News social media platforms.

Arab News en Français will be the third international digital edition of the leading pan-Arab English language daily. It follows the success of Arab News Pakistan, launched in February 2018, and Arab News Japan, launched in October 2019.

“We are delighted to be launching Arab News en Français as part of our ongoing ‘more digital, more global’ strategy. This means we can bring our quality journalism to a whole new audience which is of enormous significance to us given France’s historic importance to the region and the large number of  French-speaking Arabs worldwide,” said Faisal J. Abbas, Editor-in-Chief of Arab News.

“We are also equally delighted to announce the appointment of Randa Takieddine as our Chief Paris Correspondent. Randa brings years of journalistic experience and a vast understanding of Arab-French relations. She will be supported by a team of highly qualified reporters in Paris and other French speaking Arab and African countries,” he added.

Takeidine has been a bureau chief and has reported in Paris since 1974 for numerous pan Arab publications such as Al Hayat and Annahar.

Her work has been recognized with the French Legion d’honneur which was bestowed upon her personally by the late President Jacques Chirac.

“I am honored and pleased to be part of Arab News in Paris and in its new French edition. It is a challenging and exciting task to be contributing to a better understanding of Arab affairs by French public opinion and vice versa,” said Takieddine.

Arab News is part of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG). It has been the English newspaper of record for Saudi Arabia and the region since its establishment in 1975.

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LIVE: Taraweeh prayer from Makkah


MAKKAH: Watch Isha and Taraweeh prayers live from the Grand Mosque in Makkah, empty this year due to the coronavirus outbreak in the Kingdom.

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How Arab News helped support one Saudi woman’s dreams


  • Lina Almaeena was teen editor in chief of the Jeddah Girls Gazette
  • Her 1995 article ‘Wild Female Dreams’ envisioned more freedoms

JEDDAH: “Wild Female Dreams” is the title of my article as a teen editor in chief of the Jeddah Girls Gazette in 1995. Writers and contributors were dynamic high-school friends and family members. My uncle Tariq was our mentor and publisher.

It took 25 years for all my teenage dreams to come true. My first dream turned into reality on June 24, 2018, when women were allowed to drive, not just their cars but also the country’s development. It was one of the most liberating feelings I have ever experienced, simple as it may have seemed to women living outside the Kingdom.

I dreamt in my article about women in the police force, only to see in 2018-2019 women progress as far as joining security services, drug enforcement and military jobs, with possible ranks from private soldier to sergeant in the army’s branches of ground, navy and air defense.

My third dream, as simple as it may have seemed, related to the sense of modesty for women. In the 1990s, there were no women in retail, and salesmen dominated female apparel outlets. The campaign in 2008, headed by Reem Assad and aimed at replacing salesmen with women in lingerie shops, made waves and eventually victory was achieved by a royal decree in 2011.

My fourth dream was to buy tickets to attend a local match in Saudi Arabia. That came true in January 2018 when I attended the first local match in King Abdullah Aljohara Stadium between Alahli Club and Al-Batin FC. It was an ecstatic feeling with beautiful and respectful cheering crowds, eroding certain segments’ fears regarding a possible catastrophe with women attending games in stadiums.

My fifth dream was to switch on the TV and watch girls play basketball. That came true in 2017 when Jeddah United women’s basketball team participated as the first local team under the Saudi Arabian Basketball Federation in the fourth Arab Club tournament in Sharjah, the UAE, and winning the tournament’s sportsmanship award.

As I reflect 25 years later on the Jeddah Girls Gazette article, I realize I had listed six dreams, of which the last long-awaited one came true in August 2019: The lifting of a travel ban for women without a male guardian. Even though the travel permit was not a personal issue, I still felt the relief for many women of all ages with various circumstances. Widows who had to get permission from their sons was an ironic example.

Twenty-five years may seem like a long time, but in the context of women’s evolution, and considering the young age of Saudi Arabia as a country united in 1932, it is considered a fast pace. I say that now since all restrictive walls have fallen.

That is not how it felt years ago, with continuous frustrations and limitations, especially as a teenager. But women have endured and struggled for decades all over the world; in Saudi Arabia, it took less than five years since the announcement of our Vision 2030 reform plan on April 25, 2016, for transformation to take place.

A famous Japanese proverb states that a vision without an action plan is a daydream, but an action plan without a vision is a nightmare. I am proud and humbled to say we have one of the most promising and empowering visions. Vision 2030 has enabled 50 percent of the population to play an active part in nation-building.

That is not to say women did not contribute prior to that. If I just look at my immediate family, my mother Samar Fatany was one of the first TV and radio presenters in the Ministry of Information in the 1970s.

During her 35 years at the ministry, she was the chief broadcaster of the English section at the Jeddah Broadcasting Station, a columnist for Arab News and the Saudi Gazette, and a participant in many local and international conferences. She also has four publications to her name, the last titled “Modernizing Saudi Arabia,” published in 2013.

Times have changed, indeed. It was only in 2013 that women joined the Shoura Council. I am honored to have joined the 2016 second term for women on the council as I strive to recommend reformist legislation and participate in a friendship committee that communicates with parliamentarians around the world.

Reflecting on all my dreams, and on this occasion of the 45th anniversary of Arab News, the newspaper known as the “Green Truth” played a huge role in female empowerment. It was one of the first papers that hired women in a mixed environment. It was the only local paper that was happy to cover our first women’s street basketball tournament in 2006-2007, when all other publications politely refused.

If I were to ask myself what my dreams are today, I would say I dream of more women actively participating in decision-making in Saudi Arabia and the globe. I dream of world peace, I dream of a green planet, but above all in these times, I dream of a healthy planet, conquering COVID-19 and having treatments available for all illnesses.

As we experience the curfew, I also get to do something I was never able to do in the past. I ride my bike safely around my neighborhood before the 3 p.m. curfew and visit the mini-market next to my house.

All I can think about is the last two questions in my article “Wild Female Dreams.” Can these dreams be reality? Can the impossible be possible? The answer is a double YES. But we will need a newspaper to document this, and what better one than Arab News to do so. Happy 45th anniversary and many more anniversaries to come.

• Lina Almaeena is a member of  the Shoura Council, co-founder of the Jeddah United Sports Co., and on Forbes’ list of Most Powerful Women in the Middle East. She is also a member of the Top 20 Young Leaders of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Region.

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When Arab News arrived in Japan


Ali Itani, region head for Japan of Arab News, Faisal J Abbas, the paper’s editor-in-chief, and Abe Shinzo, the Japanese Prime Minister in Riyadh. (AN)
  • In a first for a media outlet in the Arab world, we launched an online edition in Japanese
  • The launch took place in Tokyo on Oct. 21, 2019, the day before Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement

TOKYO: On Oct. 21, 2019, Arab News did something no other media outlet from the Arab world has done: Launch a dedicated online edition in Japanese, as part of its ongoing global expansion.

The launch, which took place in Tokyo the day before the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito, was a reflection of the cordial business, trading and cultural relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan.

The news website,, which is available in both Japanese and English, focuses on enabling an exchange of information between Japan and the Arab world in a number of fields, including business, current affairs, and arts and culture.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Kono Taro, the Japanese minister of defense, said: “It will be good to have news in Japanese so many Japanese can read about the Arab world.

“We need to know what people in the Middle East are actually thinking, what is happening on a daily basis, and we didn’t have a source for that, but now Arab News is in Japan.”

Kono reacted with great encouragement when Faisal J. Abbas, the editor-in-chief of Arab News, raised the idea of a Japanese edition of the newspaper when he met Kono, at the time the minister of foreign affairs, for an interview in July, 2019. Japan hosted the G20 last year, before a historic handover of the presidency to Saudi Arabia for 2020. The Kingdom is the first Arab and Islamic country afforded the honor.

The Japanese edition of Arab News is the first international edition published in a language other than English, and the second after the successful launch of Arab News Pakistan edition. The launches are in line with what Abbas described as “part of our more digital, more global direction.”

“Japan is a long-time, reliable strategic partner and friend,” Majid Al-Qasabi, the Saudi minister for commerce and investment, said during the launch in Tokyo.

“Since 1955, business has been great between the two countries. We appreciate all the cooperation, the partnerships and the business with the Japanese community. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a special relationship, especially the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, with the new Emperor.

“We hope that Japan will have a fruitful future and I would like to congratulate Arab News; this is a great opportunity, a moment in history.”

Koike Yuriko, the first female governor of Tokyo, also congratulated Arab News at the launch of the Japanese edition. She is no stranger to the Middle East and the Arab world: she spent five years in Cairo in the 1970s, and studied Arabic at the American University in the Egyptian capital, graduating in sociology.

Less than three months after its launch, Arab News Japan was quoted by Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Motegi Toshimitsu during a press briefing. He cited a special report by the newspaper titled “How Arabs view Japan,” which was based on a survey conducted by Arab News in conjunction with YouGov. The report, which asked more than 3,000 Arabs in 18 countries for their views and perspectives on Japan, was widely circulated in the Japanese media.

Arab News Japan was also in a unique position when former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn fled from Japan to Lebanon while facing allegations of financial improprieties in his business activities. It was able to deliver regular updates and reports about the case, including exclusive interviews carried out in Lebanon, to the Japanese people in their own language.

This year began with a landmark visit by Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo to Saudi Arabia to discuss matters of State with King Salman in Riyadh and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in AlUla.

Arab News produced extensive coverage of the three-day visit to the region, including a special edition printed to mark the occasion. In addition, the newspaper was honored when the prime minister personally thanked the editor in chief for the launch of the Japanese edition during a private meeting, at which Abe was presented with a special hand-drawn cover in Japanese welcoming him to the Kingdom.

• Ali Saleh Itani is the region head for Japan at Arab News and oversees ANJP.

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How Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s first English-language newspaper, was born


  • 45 years ago, Hisham and Mohammed Hafiz launched it in a Jeddah garage
  • The first issue was a 16-page tabloid published on April 20, 1975

JEDDAH: Brothers Hisham and Mohammed Hafiz had a dream: To publish a daily, English-language newspaper in Saudi Arabia. In 1972, they began to seriously discuss how they might turn that dream into a reality.

Almost everyone they spoke to was skeptical about the idea. Undeterred, in 1974, they pushed ahead with their plans and began to buy the equipment they needed. They also hired Ahmad Mahmoud to be the newspaper’s first editor-in-chief, and sent him to Pakistan to hire a team of journalists.

The first issue of Arab News, a 16-page tabloid, was published on April 20, 1975, from a small garage in Jeddah. Thanks to its instant popularity, and the quantity of advertising it generated, by the end of August it had blossomed into a broadsheet.

The late Farouk Luqman, who died in July 2019 at the age of 84, was there at the beginning and became editor-in-chief 18 years later. In his book “Globalization of the Arabic Press,” he told the story of the Hafiz brothers and their incredible journey, which began with the launch of Arab News and grew into the biggest publishing house in the Middle East. He revealed that in the early days the newspaper had only six employees, including the editor-in-chief.

“We were doing everything, from writing stories to translating news and laying out pages,” said Luqman, who was managing editor at the time of the launch. The entire operation was based in the garage — from writing, editing and layout to advertising and administration.

“We worked until dawn preparing the first issue and the publishers stayed with us all the time until we finished and printed,” Luqman said. “They were true journalists and often pointed out mistakes, even spelling errors.”

Newcomer Arab News was in direct competition with the renowned International Herald Tribune, which was published in Paris, and the Lebanese Daily Star, both of which went on sale in Saudi Arabia the day after initial publication.

According to Luqman, Arab News proved popular not only with Europeans and Americans but also Asians and Africans.

During an interview in 2005, Mahmoud, the first editor-in-chief, recalled the offer of the top job caught him off guard.


The Hafiz brothers went on to publish over a dozen newspapers and magazines, but Arab News retained a special place in their hearts. (AN) 

“One fine morning in 1974, I got a call from Mohammed Ali Hafiz asking me to meet him and his brother,” he said. “At that time I was with Al-Madinah Arabic newspaper. They told me about their project and, in the same breath, offered me the post of editor-in-chief. That took me completely by surprise.”

Mahmoud added that he did not have much time to ponder the offer as the Hafiz brothers told him the first issue would roll off the presses within six months.

“I did accept the offer, but I made it clear that I had no experience in English journalism,” he said. The response of the Hafiz brothers was: “When one is a journalist, one will always be a journalist.”

Like all new arrivals, Arab News had its share of teething problems. Following some trial dummy runs, Mahmoud — assisted by Luqman, who had experience of English-language journalism — encountered a series of niggling problems as they tried to put this new and novel venture to bed every night.

“There were challenges and trials, but with youthful determination and zest we did our best and overcame them,” Mahmoud said. “Arab News came out in difficult circumstances. As it was the first of its kind, we had to face up to the fact of limited news sources, a dearth of photographs, inadequate manpower and poor printing quality. Despite all this, surprisingly, the paper was well received.”

Despite the large number of additional successful publications launched by the newspaper’s publishers in the past 45 years, most notably Asharq Al-Awsat, Arab News retains a special place in their hearts.

In a letter to readers, the Hafiz brothers wrote: “The solid base of Arab News, financially and its journalistic success, paved the way for the birth of other successful papers and magazines, of which the majority are still being read today.”

As for the distinctive green-tinted paper on which Arab News is printed, that tradition began with its Arabic sister paper, Asharq Al-Awsat. In 1978, when the Hafiz brothers launched the pan-Arab newspaper, which is published and printed in London and other European cities, they wanted to make it easy for readers to find their paper on newsstands.

Noting that almost all of the hundreds of newspapers available in a variety languages are published on white paper, they decided to print theirs on green stock so that it would stand out. Later, Arab News began to follow its sister paper’s example, using green paper for its front page.


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SAMA pledges financial support for those hit by coronavirus crisis


The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has pledged to support people living in the Kingdom who lose their jobs as a result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis. (Shutterstock)

Statement said it was important for banks to commit to supporting their customers
RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has pledged to support people living in the Kingdom who lose their jobs as a result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis – offering financial support for any charges incurred as a result.

“The measures taken include supervisory measures and their preventive policies to tackle the impact of coronavirus. This aims to support the banks during these difficult times and help them focus on providing their customers with the best banking services to meet their financial needs,” the Authority clarified.

The statement added that it was important for banks to commit to supporting their customers, so that they can withstand the impact of the virus, as well as support the private sector as its cash flow falls.

These means include supporting and financing the private sector through preventive measures that benefit the customer, the bank and the economy, the statement added.

The SAMA said this would be achieved by adjusting or restructuring existing funds without incurring any additional expenses or fees on banks.

The aim is to also sustain their activities and adopt and implement the plans of their private sector customers to preserve the employment rates of the affected enterprises.

Rates will be preserved by providing the enterprises’ financing needs, supporting the individual customers that have lost their jobs in the private sector and exempting all customers, for at least six months, from e-transaction fees, minimum balance fees and from any fees imposed on refinancing operations or on terminating existing agreements.

The reassessment of interest rates and other fees on credit cards for current and new customers will be reviewed in line with the current decrease of interest rates due to the economic situation. The fees on foreign money exchange will be refunded to customers wishing to cancel their transactions. Those who cancel travel-related bookings made on credit cards, Mada debit cards or prepaid cards will also be refunded.

“SAMA is following up on the development of the coronavirus-related impact on various economic sectors including the banking and financial sector. It will provide the required assistance to maintain the safety and stability of the financial sector and enable it to support and finance the activities of other economic sectors,” the Authority stressed, highlighting the importance of banks following up on all the development and challenges and the extent of their impact on the available capital, liquidity and other financial safety indicators.

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Arab News closer to goal of gender-balanced newsroom


Arab News launched its gender-balance initiative in April 2018 during the inaugural Arab Women Forum at King Abdullah Economic City. (AN Photo by Huda Bashatah)

  • Gender-balance initiative was launched in April 2018 at inaugural Arab Women Forum
  • Over the past year, proportion of female editorial staff has risen from 35 to 46 percent

JEDDAH: Arab News has made great strides in improving the gender balance among staff in its newsrooms, and is getting close to its goal of achieving a 50:50 split by the end of this year.
The Riyadh-based newspaper revealed that in the past year, the proportion of female editorial staff has increased from 35 percent to 46 percent.
This includes employees at its offices in Saudi Arabia, London and Dubai, along with its regular op-ed writers and foreign correspondents. An all-female team was also assembled to provide special coverage of Hajj.
Arab News launched its gender-balance initiative in April 2018 during the inaugural Arab Women Forum at King Abdullah Economic City. The efforts it has employed to achieve its goal include active recruitment, and specialist training and career guidance provided by experienced professionals at the newspaper and from other prestigious news organizations. It has been assisted by the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, the paper’s publisher.
Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas said the initiative reflects the wider reforms in Saudi Arabia in recent years, which includes a drive to encourage more women to enter the workforce.
Assembling a diverse newsroom is not simply a box-ticking exercise, he added, it is about providing equal opportunities to all skilled journalists in Saudi Arabia and beyond.
“It is also about serving the community better by doing what we do best: Quality, insightful and inclusive journalism,” Abbas said.

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King Salman holds talks with US state secretary Pompeo


King Salman receives US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (SPA)
  • Both sides discussed relations between the two countries, and regional and international issues
  • Pompeo also met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

RIYADH: King Salman received US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday, the second day of the US official’s three-day visit to Saudi Arabia.

They discussed the distinguished relations between the Kingdom and the United States. They also reviewed the position of the two countries on regional and international events.

Arab News


: ‘s King Salman received US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Riyadh on Thursday (@SecPompeo) 

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Pompeo then visited American troops at the Prince Sultan air base, south of Riyadh, where some 2,500 US troops are stationed in response to threats from Iran.

“Pompeo’s visit to Prince Sultan air base and a nearby US Patriot battery highlights the long-standing US-Saudi security relationship and reaffirms America’s determination to stand with Saudi Arabia in the face of Iranian malign behaviour,” the State Department said in a statement.

“In response to the attacks and at the request of Saudi Arabia, the United States deployed missile defence, and fighter jets on a defensive mission to deter and protect against any future attacks.”

Pompeo is also met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and deputy defence minister Prince Khalid bin Salman.

Pompeo’s visit to the Kingdom comes in the wake of a US-ordered drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful general, as he visited Baghdad on January 3.

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Responsible Lending: A risk mitigant of consumer lending


Since 1999, commercial banks operating in Saudi Arabia have expanded their consumer loans to individuals, and as consequence personals loans have risen from SR38.4 billion ($10.2 billion) in 2001 to SR324.7 billion at the end of Q3, 2019 (excluding credit cards loans extended to individuals, totaling SR18.3 billion for the same period).
The main reason for this significant rise in personal loans is the high demand on such loans from retail customers, supported by the service of the Saudi Arabian Riyal Interbank Express (SARIE) which provides direct transfer of salaries to customers’ accounts at banks, guaranteeing these loans to enable them to deduct installments from customers’ accounts on due dates electronically.
The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has chosen to control the huge expansion in personal loans by issuing “principles of responsible lending” to encourage lending that meets actual needs of consumers.
The principles aim to enhance financial inclusion by providing adequate financing for all borrowers, while taking into account a reasonable deductible percentage ratio that the consumer can afford.
In addition, the principles focus on ensuring fairness and competitiveness among creditors, making sure credit evaluation procedures and mechanisms are effective and applied to all creditors fairly.
Moreover, the principles dictate that creditors must adopt a clear method for evaluating the creditworthiness of the consumer, to ensure his/her ability to repay. These criteria and procedures must be applied to all borrowers before granting them any type of loan, and must be documented in the customer’s file held by the lending institutions.
Based on a credit study and assessment of a consumer’s financial state, the lending institutions must also identify and classify the regular basic expenses of various borrowers, such as food expenses, and housing and services expenses, which depend on whether the consumer is a homeowner or tenant. They must take into account the health, transportation, communications and insurance expenses of the consumer, which are all affected by their number of dependents.
In my opinion, SAMA has succeeded in encouraging responsible lending by issuing such principles, evidenced by the noticeable shift to asset-based financing, as mortgage lending has grown by 21 percent in the third quarter of 2019 compared to the same period of the previous year, while the personal loans offered by financial institutions to its customers have shown a drop of 1.2 percent for the same period.
I totally agree with Jonathan Westley, a financial analyst, in saying: “Responsible lending is to act in a customer’s best interests, ensuring affordability, transparency of terms and conditions and supporting a borrower if they experience repayment difficulties.”

Talat Zaki Hafiz is an economist and financial analyst.

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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