The New Saudi Arabia

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Saudi women’s unstoppable momentum

Time: May 14, 2019  

There are two types of people: The ones who forget what they had for dinner last night and those who plan the next five years. Realistically, of course, you do not have to be at the extremes; you could be in the middle, planning your next summer trip or dieting for your third cousin’s wedding in July.

Many philosophers believe that humans evolve every three to five years and their priorities change based on their circumstances — like turning 40 for example. Taking a decision could be tough, for instance: How many times have you asked your friends what they would like to eat and they reply “anything,” so you dial the nearest shawarma shop and then, bam, the complaining starts. This shows that the simplest decisions could also be tough without good reason. The idea is to look into this scenario from a bigger perspective, one that determines the purpose of your life.

Who would have thought that, in a month, women would be driving? Or you plan which movie you would like to watch, but wait, should we attend the next Al-Hilal vs Al-Nassr match instead? This may be cliche but, as youths in the middle of a significant moment, we must be subjective about our contribution to this massive wave of change.

Of the two types of people I mentioned at the beginning, I am the boring one that plans the next five years and gets excited yet super annoyed if the plan does not proceed accordingly. To use more complicated terms, utilizing your potential and exploiting the tools you have are essential to creating two things: A strategic plan for your career growth, and then identifying your level of contribution to the country’s vision.

A year ago, as I was writing my masters thesis, I had a conversation with a consultant at the Ministry of Labor, who said: “Today the country’s vision is not to increase the ratio of employment between genders but instead give women who are already in leadership positions more authority to become effective decision-makers in society.” That statement struck me instantly and made me wonder how I might be able to jump on to the scene like a hungry shark.

Anyhow, as a young, educated female in a growing era I had many excellent career opportunities, but I specifically chose one where I could wear the hat of an “observer” before thinking of making a real impact. My current job involves exposure, traveling and forgetting when the last meal I had. But I got the opportunity to look into the wave of change from a 360-degree view and consider: “What are the gaps I can fill by using the tools I have?” Well, having studied politics and worked in the media, I know for a fact I can convince you that unicorns are real and I just purchased one on eBay — but that is a lie, isn’t it? True. It is a lie, but it is the “acknowledgment” of potential that matters here, not the context.

It is a simple formula: Ask yourself what you are capable of and how you can utilize your capabilities to be an effective contributor. It might take you a year or two, but you will get there. Now, to end, I would like to give a little advice to all the young career seekers (do not get me wrong, the idea of opening a cupcake shop is still very appealing to me). You are lucky to be living in these exciting times and therefore this is your chance to be, say, one of the first female ministers. So grab the opportunity before someone else does — the times of hiding behind a nine to five job no longer exist (I sincerely apologize if my boss is reading this).

If you have a dream, then follow it. If you are passionate about something, then pursue it. If you are dying to buy a cat, then go ahead, it certainly teaches you self-discipline. Whatever it is that you feel like achieving, it is highly doable, possible, exciting and probably unstoppable at this point in spite of all the challenges.

 

• Nada Al-Tuwaijri is the communications managing director at the Misk Art Institute.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

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Sahwa clerics must fix what they have broken

Time: May 08, 2019

The public apology aired on TV this week by the Saudi cleric Ayed Al-Qarni for offenses committed by the Sahwa, or “Awakening” movement, was both significant and welcome. However, it came nowhere close to undoing the harm caused by the extremist ideas so widely spread by Al-Qarni and his fellow Sahwa leaders.

In March, Arab News began a campaign exposing Preachers of Hate. Each week we have shed light on controversial clerics from all religions and explored their malign influence on those who follow them. What these hate-mongers have in common is that they have all used faith, be it Islam, Judaism or Christianity, to manipulate minds and incite violence.

It was no surprise that our first series, which concluded this week with a profile of the Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, included two prominent figures from the Sahwa movement —  Salman Al-Odah and Safar Al-Hawali.

Researching these two men was simultaneously both simple and complicated. Difficult because, for decades, these clerics misled millions into believing they were the protectors of Islam. Of course, the truth is that nothing has done more harm to our religion than the hate and extremism they spread. However, the task was also simple because of the superstar status these preachers very much enjoyed, particularly Al-Odah. Their love of fame meant that most of the incriminating fatwas, videos and sermons we collected and documented were readily available on their own verified social-media accounts and websites.

We also made sure to document the “reforms” and U-turns some of these clerics have executed, or appeared to; like chameleons, they altered their rhetoric to suit different times and political circumstances, particularly after the 9/11 attacks in the US and when terror hit home in Saudi Arabia.

At this important juncture in the history of Saudi Arabia, there is no room for half measures or half-hearted efforts to confront extremist ideas

Faisal J. Abbas

However, much of the extremism they propagated is still out there and the authenticity of their U-turns remains questionable. For instance, if Al-Odah had truly renounced his past, why did he retain his controversial fatwas on his official website?

At this important juncture in the history and development of Saudi Arabia, when the leadership has declared its commitment to bringing the nation back to moderate Islam, there is no room for half measures or half-hearted efforts to confront extremist ideas.

As the Kingdom empowers women, reconnects with other faiths and embraces art, music and entertainment, clerics who once mistakenly denounced all this must now take a firm and clear stand to interpret and present Islam in the tolerant form it was always intended to take.

This is important, not just for Saudi Arabia, but for the whole Muslim world, which will eternally seek guidance and direction from the land of the two holy mosques.

Conceding past errors, as Ayed Al-Qarni has done, may be viewed as courageous; but we must also be clear that this is not the end of a necessary course correction — merely the start.

  • Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News. Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

There can be no tolerance for intolerance

Time: March 25, 2019  

Arab News embarks today on a mission to expose Preachers of Hate. This goes beyond naming and shaming — our aim is to track and document extremist ideology, to hold clerics accountable for what they say, and to analyze how their words affect people worldwide.

For too long, Preachers of Hate have been turning innocent people into either villains or victims. They may not carry guns themselves, but their status and influence make their words as powerful as bullets and bombs. Arguably more so; a spent bullet is harmless, an exploded bomb no longer dangerous, but words have the power to outlive their author. For example, sermons and speeches by the late Osama bin Laden are still shared, taught and idolized by extremists worldwide.

As has been said before in this column, terror has no color, no faith, no unique political ideology. That is why we will exempt no religion, nationality, gender or political belief. We will expose Preachers of Hate who are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or any other religion, from any nationality and all — Saudis included.

Arab News

@arabnews

Preachers of Hate: Arab News launches series to expose hate-mongers from all religions https://bit.ly/2usPxmi 

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Each week we will focus on a particular preacher, explain their beliefs, shed light on their edicts and, most importantly, hold them accountable for their own words. We will express no opinion, because there is no need; these hate-mongers shame themselves with their own videos, audio files or published books and articles.

Of course, some will question whether we are in effect providing a platform to the very preachers we hope to silence. The answer is “no”. These people and their followers do not need us, or any other traditional media outlets, to spit their poison. As the white supremacist Brenton Tarrant illustrated when he live-streamed on Facebook his attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, terrorists already have a platform thanks to social media.

We will expose Preachers of Hate who are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or any other religion, from any nationality and all — Saudis included. 

Faisal J. Abbas

There is, however, a need for reliable and professional journalists to contextualize and analyze such events. We launch our series today by exploring how Tarrant was influenced and radicalized; how the path taken by a once shy and awkward boy was shaped by ethno-nationalist ideologies, specifically those of the far-right French thinker Renaud Camus, author of “Le Grand Remplacement”.

Camus’ book argues that the white Catholic French population, and white Christian Europeans in general, are being systematically replaced with non-Europeans such as Arabs and Africans.

He claims the anti-immigration French writer Jean Raspail and the British nationalist politician Enoch Powell as “prophets.” Raspail’s novel, “The Camp of the Saints,” was denounced as racist and xenophobic for its depiction of the destruction and fall of white Western civilization as a consequence of mass immigration from the Third World.

Powell also demonized immigrants.

His infamous 1968 “Rivers of Blood” speech in Birmingham quoted a constituent as telling him: “In this country in 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.”

You will hear and read similar hateful rhetoric by Muslim and Arab thinkers and extremist clerics. In the weeks to come we will expose them as we seek to make it clear that, as far as we are concerned, there can be no tolerance for intolerance.

Stay tuned …

• Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News

Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

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Is the war on corruption over?

Time: February 05, 2019  

After the conclusion of the work of the Supreme Committee to Fight Corruption, headed by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, many in the media have raised valid questions. Here is a summary of my answers to them.

Why now?

— Why not? We have had to live with corruption issues for ages. Tons of cases were opened and closed, with years of investigation and few indictments. The government agencies charged with the task of fighting corruption have failed so far to give us solid results. Many of those responsible for the disasters that resulted from Jeddah floods in 2011 are still free to enjoy the millions/billions they stole in cash and real estate. Not to mention all the mega projects that were inflated in cost and deflated in quality. Or the shady deals, power abuse, money laundering and misuse of public funds and property.

It was high time someone did something about it. The King and his Crown Prince did exactly what we were waiting for – only faster and better than our best expectations and wildest dreams.

So, instead of asking why now, we should be asking why not before. And the answer to that is: We have had enough of the incompetency of the process and the processors. The system was ineffective and incompetent to deal with the issues at hand. A higher authority had to be created with the mandate and required power to do the job, quickly, efficiently and comprehensively.

Why start at the very top?

— Because that is exactly where we should start. Leaders are supposed to lead, inspire and set a model to be followed. If the example they set is low, what do we expect from their followers? Worse still, such a model creates societal culture that tolerates corruption and regards stealing from public treasure as fair game. You cannot heal a body if the head is sick.

So what is the message here?

— Actually there are two messages here. One for the Saudi people, which basically says: “We will not tolerate corruption any longer. Starting today, the cleaning process is on full speed. If you are clean you will benefit from the new environment. If you are dirty, then clean up or else!”

The second message is for the world. It declares: “Saudi Arabia is entering the race for the world’s best business and investment environment. Justice, honesty, and the rule of law are top concerns. Corruption in all its forms is at the bottom. Investors, inventors, workers and businessmen will enjoy an even playing field, where only the best may win. No one is above the law, and no VIP is privileged enough to have an easier run or a corner cut in any competition.

What has this to do with Saudi Vision 2030?

— Everything! In the new world we dream, plan and sweat for, we cannot and will not tolerate dirty tricks and money, low quality projects, overpriced services or under-the-table deals. Our new world will shine under the bright sun, and those who can only live and work in the dark have no space or place reserved.

Any unintended consequences? Bad reactions? Strong backlash?

— Maybe! For every action there is a reaction. However, these are well-studied moves. Safeguards must have been taken. Counter moves were readied.

As for the economy, I believe it will benefit from the cleanup. While foreign investors and businessmen will benefit from the new order, Saudis will also find it up to their best expectations and standards. The youth and women have been complaining for ages about an uneven playing field. A healthier environment and culture will certainly give them more space to operate. No more glass ceilings; the sky is the limit.

Is there any link between the war on corruption, local politics and regional conflicts?

— We do not live on an isolated island. We live in a dangerous neighborhood and a competitive political and business world. If we do not wake up quickly, the slippery road we have been walking on for ages will take us down – way down! With our oil getting cheaper and more irrelevant, we many soon not have sufficient income to sustain our development and lifestyle.

Time is running out. Regional conflicts are eating up our treasury. Facing Iran’s destructive intervention and sponsorship of terrorism is distracting us. The war on terror is depleting our resources. We cannot afford on top of all of that to let the corrupted steal our wealth, slow our development and damage our economy.

Is the campaign on corruption over?

— Not at all! It has just started. The Supreme Committee to Fight Corruption had achieved its goals. Other watchdog agencies and newly established regulations will continue to safeguard our institutions against the danger of corruption.

Your comments, dear readers, are welcome.

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @kbatarfi

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link Saudi Gazette Home

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No stable country without tolerance

Time: December 19, 2018  

In the beginning of 16th century, an exceptional cleric rose to prominence in Europe. It was Martin Luther (1438-1546), professor of theology, who used lexicon that Christians were not familiar with.

He believed in and promoted the idea of direct relation between man and God as this relation does not require mediation. The concept infuriated the church.

“Faith is a matter between the individual and God,” Luther said. This idea was tantamount to a ball of fire that burnt whatever traditional fundamentalism was in its way.

Due to this Protestant critique, Europe witnessed different balances between the feudalists’ investment of Luther’s criticism and a sharp opposition by the church.

The peak of the conflict was the eruption of the 30-year war FROM 1618-1648. It was a multipurpose war in which several parties were involved. However, the slogan “war on heresy” mainly reflected a bloody way that killed between seven and nine million people!

The war mixed politics with religion. The Catholics’ and Protestants’ war was enhanced by French ambitions against the influence of the Roman empire. Following decades of bloodshed, the negotiations yielded the Peace of Westphalia in 1684.

This is in addition to two other treaties, which are Munster and Osnabruck. The treaty noted that it was “to the glory of God, and the benefit of the Christian World that the following Articles have been agreed on and consented to,” adding: “That there shall be a Christian and Universal Peace, and a perpetual, true, and sincere amity.”

During this phase, English Philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) had returned from Paris and had witnessed the bloodshed. He did not think the treaty included enough as he believed there must be a theory to penetrate this religious alignment.

His written work tackled law and politics and he laid down the core that later on developed under the name “social contract.” Hobbes had though the war and its atrocities realized that the absence of a comprehensive concept to regulate social relations, the individual’s relation with the other and the nature of the state and its institutions was the reason for what he described as “the war of all against all.”

He then wrote the book Leviathan, which is a reference in the philosophy of political sciences. It’s here that the world engaged in a different form of dealing with matters, and his theories decreased the tensions of religious civil wars.

Wars that the Islamic world has witnessed, and terrorism in the name of religion, make it necessary for societies to learn from the experiences of nations that suffered woes before us

Turki Aldakhil

Europe’s civil wars

Civil wars crushed France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and America but what stopped them?

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the idea of “tolerance” crystallized between John Locke and Voltaire, the nucleus of the age of enlightenment, via their famous theses and other works.

Their main point is that differences between people in terms of religion do not justify attacking them or derogating them or doubting their citizenship or their destiny in the hereafter.

This concept changed the facet of humanity forever. It was not magical but it was the most rational idea that prevented an individual from insulting or attacking or killing the other.

Today, we need this concept not only to teach it and turn it into an educational curricula – and a path to be followed in terms of how Muslims from different sects deal with each other – but also to develop it and deepen it especially that its roots in our religious and civil culture are solid.

However, the merchants of intolerance have tried to destroy it as they hate the “idea of the state,” hence, they only make gains via the concept of elimination in the name of religion.
Wars that the Islamic world has witnessed, and terrorism in the name of religion, make it necessary for societies to learn from the experiences of nations that suffered woes before us.

How can we overcome religious wars, genocide and hatred in the name of religion? It’s a difficult question but planting the values of tolerance yields an approach in the right path and leads to taking a secure passage to attain peace.

The UAE believes in the fruit of tolerance and announced 2019 as the Year of Tolerance. It has made advanced and civilized leaps via laws and legislations and established an independent ministry to sponsor this concept and solidify it in the society on the level of education.

This is in addition to plenty of initiatives that do not just set the concept but also seek to develop it via a policy of awareness.

Tolerance is not a luxury but a necessity. It establishes for the idea of the “stable state,” and it is the path to civilization. Tolerance, my dear, is an effective potion against violence and war. Ask history!

Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.

This article was first published in Al Arabiya English  

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link Al Arabiya English Home

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A memorable Friday sermon

Time: November 14, 2018   

God has chosen Friday as the best day and made it superior to all other days of the week. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said about this day: “The best day on which the sun has risen is Friday; on it Adam was created, on it he was made to enter Paradise, and on it he was expelled from it. And the Day of Judgment will take place on no day other than Friday.”

God has singled out Juma prayer as it differs from other prayers. Islamic scholars have unanimously agreed that it is an obligatory ritual for every Muslim, who is capable of performing it.

It is the only prayer mentioned in the Holy Qur’an in the sense that everyone who hears the call for it should leave their businesses and go to the mosque to perform the prayer. The Holy Qur’an says: “O you who have believed, when (the adhan) is called for the prayer on the day of Juma (Friday), then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave trade. That is better for you, if you only knew.”

The Friday prayer is not obligatory for women, young boys, as well as for the sick and travelers. There are different opinions among scholars about the number of worshippers required for holding Juma congregational prayer. Some scholars say the number is 40 while some others say it is 12 or that even a minimum number of three is permissible. According to Abu Yusuf, a scholar representing the Hanafi school of thought, there should be at least 12 worshippers for Juma prayer in addition to the imam.

There are two sermons for Juma prayer. The imam will deliver a sermon before the prayer. After praising God, he calls on the faithful to be pious and fear God in all walks of life. The imam will recite a few verses from the Holy Qur’an and pray for the Prophet (pbuh) and his family members and Companions. Then, he speaks about any of the problems facing the Muslim community and concludes by proposing solutions for them in the perspective of Islamic principles based on the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah. In the second sermon, which is not much different from the first, the imam emphasizes that God commands justice and charity and forbids indecency, evil and abominable things.

The length of the sermon or its shortening differs from one imam to another. However, everybody would agree that long speeches are not at all appropriate. Television channels are used to air programs on religious subjects with the participation of scholars and intellectuals before the Friday prayers every week. These speeches are eloquent and are an in-depth analysis, much better than any Friday sermons. Some of the Friday sermons are replete with repetition of the same matters.

For a long time, I have taken a special interest in listening to Friday sermons delivered by various imams. This interest has led me to move between the mosques in many of the countries where I have worked. In most non-Arab countries, the imam delivers a sermon in the native language of the country and then reads two short sermons in Arabic before leading the prayer.

While working in Japan, I saw only one mosque in Tokyo that was built by Turks after fleeing Central Asia following its occupation by the Soviet Union. The mosque continued to be administered by the Turkish community. The Turkish imam delivered the Friday sermon first in Turkish, then in Japanese and finally in Arabic, taking equal time for sermons in these three languages.

Perhaps, I have moved the most from mosque to mosque in order to listen to Friday sermons and offer prayer in Jeddah and Riyadh, where there are large numbers of mosques. However, I have only found a small number of mosques where I was impressed by the Friday sermon delivered. In most cases, the sermons were either long and boring or appropriate but spoiled it with frequent repetitions.

Perhaps the shortest Friday sermon I ever heard was delivered by an imam in Sudan. After entering the pulpit, he urged the faithful to be God fearing. He emphasized in his speech that feeding the hungry is better than building 1,000 mosques.

For the past several months, I have attended the Friday sermon at a mosque in Rehab district in Jeddah. It is with great attentiveness I that have listened to the imam’s extremely awe-inspiring sermons. He delivers the first sermon in not more than ten minutes, dealing with a current problem related to the community. The second sermon lasts for around five minutes.

Last Friday, the imam, in his first sermon, addressed the issue of sponsors, who hire workers without having any job for them to do. Hence, these sponsors ask the workers to find a job by themselves. In return, they charge the workers monthly amounts, and those who refuse to comply with the sponsor’s orders are sent back to their country. The imam emphasized that this is wrong on religious, legal and moral grounds. He further said that those who do this should seek forgiveness and stop doing it, because they will be held accountable for it on the Day of Judgment.

This was the first time I had ever heard an imam speaking about this serious matter in a Friday sermon. He had chosen this subject to shed light on the unethical practice being pursued by some people who do not seem to live in fear of God.

— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette

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On men’s guardianship of women

Time: October 15, 2018     

In his recent interview to Bloomberg News, Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “The rules of guardianship were held in 1979, and we’re talking to most of the Council of Senior Scholars to see what’s Islamic and what’s non-Islamic in that area and I believe there’s opportunity in that area.”

This great pioneer and reformer is a man of action. I have no doubt that women will be freed of some illegitimate restrictions in the coming months. He said: “To see what’s Islamic and what’s non Islamic in that area,” which means that there are some social restrictions in these matters that have nothing to do with Islam and with what is allowed and what is forbidden in Islam. Hence, he is implying that some inherited customs and traditions which are not of divine origin have crept into these laws and should be removed.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) honored women and called for honoring them. He even consulted them while taking decisions and took their opinions, as when he consulted his wife Umm Salama while forging the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah

Mohammed Al Shaikh

Some people might believe that many of these matters are related to religion while in fact they have become pictured as sacred over time without any evidence in the Qur’an or Sunnah. At best, some of these provisions are controversial even among jurists, and do not have unanimous consent. Thus, some extreme fatwas have been issued to put their verdicts on par with unanimous consent, although it is the complete opposite.

There is no need to say that general consent of man’s guardianship of woman relates only to matters of marriage. Everything else is a subject of controversy among jurists. This is what Sheikh Abdullah al-Manea – and many others – said in a statement to Okaz newspaper. Sheikh al-Manea is one of the most senior members of the Senior Scholars Council.

He is known for his tolerance and for not setting restrictions in social matters, especially in matters to which there is no text as a reference. He is also one of the jurists who does not issue prohibitions on matters which sources are customs, conventions and traditions and not religion.

Honoring women

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) honored women and called for honoring them. He even consulted them while taking decisions and took their opinions, as when he consulted his wife Umm Salama while forging the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah.

Many things have changed today, and women are now part of various administrative, economic and political affairs. Thus, it became a necessity to change such important matters according to changes in society.

For example, there are some women whose families depend on their incomes, and which did not happen in the past. Consecutively out of fairness and justice, she should have the rights which suit these new circumstances. One of the important rules of jurisprudence on which the Shariah is based is that the provisions revolve around their causes — their existence or absence. If the cause has changed then it becomes necessary to change the provisions accordingly. This is what we hope our jurists would take into consideration when revising these rules and regulations, which Prince Mohammed promised would be reviewed by the Council of Senior Scholars.

We should highlight the point that women, especially when it comes to their rights, have been the primary victims of extremism that characterized the last three or four decades of the Sahwa’s influence. The period started in 1979, as His Highness has stated.

Therefore, one of the top priorities today is to reconsider these laws. What is Islamic and has complete consensus should be respected, while all that is based on inherited customs and traditions or matters of debate among the jurists should be looked into while taking into consideration the society’s highest interests as these are what determine accepting them or rejecting them.

Mohammed Al Shaikh is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah newspaper. He tweets @alshaikhmhmd.

This article was first published in Al Arabiya English  

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link Al Arabiya English Home

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The investment that will never fail

Time: October 02, 2018    

I think anyone with the slightest knowledge in investments will ignore this article after just reading its headline. It’s one of the certainties in life that any form of investment could fail.

But let me explain this story to you.

One of the most important talk show hosts in the Arab world, Mr. Amr Adib, would not end his visit to us in Al Arabiya news network a few days ago without leaving “a public opinion matter” behind him.

I am not idiomatically referring to the episode in which Amr Adib participated in in the drama series Qadiyat Ra’y Am (A Matter of Public Opinion) but I literally mean his smart question to our quick-witted colleague Leen Shouman which intrigued me after that long, pleasant day with him and the Al Arabiya team.

The question seemed expected, not just from Amr Adib but from anyone who meets someone who works in the business department, as Leen does, and who has gained credibility and professionalism which everyone acknowledges.

The question was logical and professional, and I admit that I did not expect the question. What’s interesting though is that I did not pause for a moment from the astonishment of the answer which planted smiles and garnered admiration!

Adib surprised Leen with the direct question: “What do you advise me to invest in?”

She did not think twice and immediately said: “Invest in your happiness!”

This kind of answer does not leave you with an opportunity to resume the conversation. You take your share of words and another part lingers with you to think about, as you try to involve others so they can think about it too – like what I am doing now writing these lines.

Sometimes years pass by without one realizing what really makes him happy, let alone devise a plan to invest in it

Turki Aldakhil

I hope Amr Adib does not precede me in talking about this to his wide audience, and I know that he has begun since that moment in doubling the investment in his happiness, and meanwhile, we, in Al Arabiya, do not expect Leen to take a vacation to publish her first book about investment in personal happiness.

Sometimes years pass by without one realizing what really makes him happy, let alone devise a plan to invest in it. But one can simply recall something he likes to do or things he is proud of having achieved or visit exhibitions he likes, and he is a new person all over again.

He can recall an old passion that never ceases. He can meet a friend talking with whom gives hours an entirely different meaning!

I personally admit an old joy that’s still in its youth and when I later realized throughout the years that it means a lot to me, I’ve become more persistent in pursuing it.

This joy is the acquisition of interesting headlines at book exhibitions. Sometimes I wish I can go back to be someone who can start a simple conversation with a publisher who only sold two books a day, a young man in high school whom the library seller pities and gives him a discount to encourage him to read.

Ecstasy of discovering

I may have invested more than I should in my happiness as I established a publishing house years ago and among all this, what remained is the ecstasy of discovering a great work among the piles of new publications.

I also admit that I do not resist calling a young writer whose book I liked before it’s printed and tell him that I wish he chooses a certain headline, while of course he has the right to name his work as he likes. And now I acknowledge what’s funny as I feel this incomprehensible joy when I steal time and write an article or write an introduction for a book using a pen – as I’m bored of writing on the computer.

Those who are very close to me know that I love poetry a lot, and I like to recite it even if for myself. When I really like a verse, I choose a pen which I am fond of and write the verses and gift them to a dear friend or keep them to myself because this really makes me happy. I consider this, even before Adib’s question to Shouman, an urgency to man’s happiness.

I am thinking now and I’ve been thinking since yesterday in investing in happiness. What can we plant today so it contributes to what’s hoped for tomorrow?

I do not precede Mohammed bin Rashid in anything as he has preceded us in investing in this, not just on the level of individuals as he has also launched a global alliance for happiness as his vision is far-sighted.

He confirms: “Investing in happiness is an investment in security and peace and in co-existence between peoples of the world. It is the enemy of hatred and extremism.” He even looks forward to establishing the international alliance for happiness in order to produce positive change in the world!

The path to happiness

Achieving a healthy morning routine seems like a real long-term investment in happiness. There is no beautiful morning without sound sleep and no real sleep without altruism and no altruism without patience and good habits, and all this cannot exist without real faith in the necessity of finding happiness for ourselves and for those around us as it’s every man’s right on earth.

A little smile is contagious and so is arriving happy to work or to a friend’s gathering. Those who surround themselves with happiness and people with good hearts will be safe and after all this they will be happy.

There is something that’s very important in enjoying small things as those who are not happy with small things will not be happy with big ones!

Invest in building yourself, raising your children and in connecting with those who sometimes do not expect this link. You can always take more than you give if you choose wisely and if you have fewer expectations.

And before I forget, always lower your expectations but raise the strength of your reasons so you don’t get angry at yourself if the ball backfires against you.

Anyway, all this does not mean that you have to be convinced of Leen’s answer to Amr Adib as her advice to you may be different, and we also do not know if having this investment in happiness has a certain age or date!

What’s important is to never predict the answers in a conversation between two media figures!

Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.

This article was first published in Al Arabiya English  

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The land of dreams

Time: October 01, 2018   

Okaz newspaper 

There is no doubt that things are changing, since Saudis who were hypnotized with money filling up foreigners’ pockets are now on alert.

FOR many years Saudi Arabia has been the land of chances, hope and dreams for millions of young men and families from all over the world. They flocked into Saudi Arabia as early as 1950s. They have been working in our stores, factories and companies in order to build a bright future for them and their families. Their countries and cities flourished after they started sending large amount of money back to their countries.

Saudi Arabia was in a state of rapid growth and was almost an undemanding land of business and trade. It was also a vast land with cities and villages interspersed and it needed development in every corner. Luckily, the burst of oil was the main treasure that helped Saudi Arabia’s economy and development.

The most difficult thing Saudi Arabia faced with its massive development plans was the scarcity of labor, which was an essential component of meeting the needs of rapid growth and large-scale projects. The other difficulty was the absence of buildings. Saudi Arabia had to deal with its arid land and undeveloped cities, as well as lack of water, asphalted roads, education, industry, construction, trade, and most of all healthcare. The cost of providing the basic necessities was double, and cutting down the time required for building the infrastructure made it more costly.

Saudi Arabia was forced to recruit tens of thousands of laborers, experts and technicians to fulfill its dream of achieving sustainable development for its people. This helped society to move away from poverty to one of the wealthiest states in the world. All things considered, it was an opportunity for the willing youth from the Philippines eastward and to America in the west to lay their feet on this land of dreams. The only thing that was needed was a work visa to reach the country. Expats spent many years working and in return they flew back to their countries with pockets loaded with their savings.

Some of those who came to Saudi Arabia with nothing turned millionaires in the world of business and finance. Others became rulers, heads of government or ministers in their countries. Of course this was due to the huge wealth they made working in Saudi Arabia, possibly because the law did not mind turning ambitious and enterprising foreigners into big businessmen.

It did not take new expats more than a few days or weeks to find a job in the Kingdom, whether they were diligent laborers or managers at the biggest of companies. All what they had to do was work hard and seize the opportunities they got one after another, as there were no taxes or fees to pay, which made Saudi Arabia an inexpensive place to live in.

I have always been wondering how expat workers were so fearless about finding a job in the Kingdom. These diligent people were convinced that new opportunities would be born every day in this land of dreams.

There is no doubt that things are changing, since Saudis who were hypnotized with money filling up foreigners’ pockets are now on alert. They no longer accept the fact of draining their money and ending it up in someone’s bank account. This reluctance has not done them any favor, and that is why they need to take further steps to regain their fortunes.

Future projects and plans in Saudi Arabia will help improve people’s lives based on quality standards, which will generate millions of small and big opportunities. In addition, there is certainly an economic and political policy that has begun to restructure the labor market and entrepreneurial opportunities. In fact, this will bolster the national economy and money will flow into the pockets of Saudis, instead of expats who transfer huge amounts abroad.

The most important question will possibly be: Is Saudi Arabia still considered to be the land of opportunities and dreams as it has been throughout the last half century?

With no doubt, Saudi Arabia is still and will always remain a land of dreams, holding an astonishing future with all the enormous elements it has. We will discover many more with new projects such as Qiddiya, Neom, Islands of the Red Sea, Jeddah Town, Al-Ula, Al-Diriyah, and the Umrah and tourism programs. It is important to realize that these projects and programs are intended to exploit the precious treasures and give Saudis the priority to enjoy them in the Land of Dreams.

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette

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The need to end tension with philosophy

Time: September 26, 2018 

The new Saudi Arabia, with all its economic, political, social and religious weight, is making an unprecedented cultural and developmental leap. This is demonstrated by the fact that anyone visiting the kingdom’s cities and regions can see the projects being carried out.

Saudi Arabia has witnessed an abundant educational renaissance as is evident in the number of universities which are among the best in the region. Many of these universities offer the best curriculums in natural sciences, yet in the disciplines of philosophy and humanities we have faced a problem since the beginning of modern education till this day.

Islamic doctrine and some philosophical texts are taught in sharia faculties and so are linguistic concepts and modern literary criticism but when it comes to humanities and their modern products or philosophy with all its important history, we only find fear and apprehension from these disciplines.

Muslim philosophers

The establishment of educational curricula and the building of academic institutions and the whole structure of education developed under special circumstances as the state was young, and it was gradually establishing itself. But after a century, we can aspire for exceptional development at all levels including in the institutional and social relation with different portals of knowledge including philosophy.

Our Islamic history has had exceptional philosophical legacy since the early centuries as there were major debates of thinkers and benefiting from Greek philosophy. Curiosity to learn from adjoining civilizations was the features of the times. There are immortal names in our Islamic history such as Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Ibn Arabi, Al-Razi, Ghazali, Avicenna, Averroes, Brethren of Purity and hundreds others.

Decadence hit the Muslim world, as if the universe called on the world to stop thinking and the world responded, as was lamented by Ibn Khaldun. A prejudiced movement took control over the mental and philosophical discourse, and history was drawn into a long babble outside the context of science and logic, and years passed in intellectual stagnation as a long passage of debate continued between Tarabishi and Jabri.

In the disciplines of philosophy and humanities we have faced a problem since the beginning of modern education till this day.

Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

Senior scholars tried to humanize Islamic culture, such as Ibn Miskawayh, al-Tawhidi and another important philosopher Abu al-Hassan al-Amiri (10th century AD). Mona Abu Zeid has many writings on this subject such as her book “Philosophy in the Thought of the Amiri” but Mohamed Arkoun’s book “Battles for the sake of humanizing Islamic context”, which is a continuation of his thesis on “the generation of Ibn Miskawayh and Tawhidi” delved more into this topic.

Arkoun entitled the fifth chapter in his book “the central Logos and the religious truth through the book ‘An Exposition on the Merits of Islam’ by Abi Hassan al Amiri.”

Arkoun’s argument

Arkoun’s aim of examining Amiri’s work is to highlight two points: to show the fault in banning teaching philosophy and the fault in preventing teaching religions in France. He also criticized Jules Ferry, the founder of the Modern Secular School, as he calls for the teaching of comparative religions considering it is an essential part of the students’ curriculum so they learn about the history that crushed them. Arkoun does not believe that this method would bring to the surface any religious fanaticism. It is for these reasons that fanatic Muslims and traditional secularists are furious with Arkoun. Thinker Hashem Saleh said his teacher Arkoun is like Renan in Christianity. Of course, fanaticism denies the ability for knowledge and learning.

Amiri refuses to challenge modern sciences when he wrote: “Science has been challenged by prejudiced people who claimed that it is against religious sciences, and that those who wish to study this field would lose the world and the afterlife. They said it’s only huge words decorated with fancy words to deceive the young ignorant. However this is not the case.” Amiri added that science’s origins and branches are supported by evidence.

This has been said eleven centuries ago, yet we still resist modern sciences whose concepts develop daily in the world.

After his death, a book about the life of Arkoun was published entitled “Human formation” in which he bitterly said: “Personally, I feel like a human being in a barren desert of thought with my writings and research. I feel lonely.”

Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.

This article was first published in Al Arabiya English  

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