Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dialogue Crucial to Counter Violence, Says Analyst

by Ebtihal Mubarak from Arab News

Hamza Al-Mezaini, a lecturer at the King Saud University and a columnist for an Arabic newspaper, spoke on Tuesday to an audience at the Jeddah Literary Club in a public lecture entitled “Extremism Roots: Reasons and Solutions.” ... He listed incidents from recent history — not only in Saudi Arabia but also in the region — that has contributed in fermenting extremism. One was the conflict between progressives and conservatives in the 1950s across the Middle East, which led to many Muslim Brotherhood members from Egypt and Syria moving to the Kingdom. He said that after that came the attack on the Grand Mosque in Makkah in 1979 after which hidden intentions of extremism clearly appeared on the surface and pervaded its agenda publicly in Saudi Arabia. “After that extremists tried and succeeded to enforce the concept of jihad in textbooks in schools,” said Al-Mezaini.

France backs off Saudi fighter sale

from Reuters

France is no longer pushing Saudi Arabia to buy Rafale fighters now that the kingdom has purchased Typhoon jets from Britain ... During a visit to the Kingdom on Sunday, French Defence Minister Herve Morin said Saudi investment in strategic French industries was welcome. "EADS already has UAE and Qatari funds in its capital. So there is no reason for such investments not to be made in French or European firms as long as it's in the interest of the company." he said. Qatar Investment Authority has an indirect ownership in EADS through shareholdings in Lagardere and a Dubai fund. EADS is part of the BAE-led consortium building the Eurofighter aircraft and the parent company of commercial airliner Airbus ... When asked about the bid by Riyadh and fellow Gulf Arabs to start a peaceful nuclear energy programme, Morin said "France considers itself open to this."

Saudi king's state visit to Britain faces protests and boycotts

by Ian Black from The Guardian

Vince Cable, the acting Liberal Democrat leader, announced yesterday that he would boycott the rare visit because of the Saudi record on human rights, including its maltreatment of British citizens. Other groups plan protests over weapons sales, the kingdom's human rights abuses and its homophobic laws. King Abdullah, 82, came to the throne two years ago. He has reformist instincts, but progress in the kingdom has been halting. Saudi Arabia is Britain's biggest trading partner in the Middle East and the UK is its second biggest foreign investor. The Guardian and BBC reported that Prince Bandar bin Sultan, now the king's national security adviser, received secret payments of £1bn. The prince will also be staying at Buckingham Palace ... Labour leftwinger John McDonnell said: "Why is it that in the same breath the prime minister condemns the lack of democracy in Burma and the abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe, but remains silent when it comes to the Saudi dictatorship?"

Randeep Ramesh in New Delhi

by Randeep Ramesh from The Guardian

The BBC documentary Clash of Worlds came under attack from one of India's largest Islamic groups for linking their movement, Deobandism, to Osama bin Laden and "extremist" Muslim groups around the world ... Clerics in Delhi have also been incensed that their creed has been termed an Indian version of Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi school, seen as a hardline, revivalist form of Islam. Charles Allen, a historian and one of the documentary's presenters, said: "I don't feel bad about condemning Deobandism. In India it set the Muslim cause back by a couple of centuries by turning its back on the west. In Pakistan and Afghanistan it has helped to promote extremism, intolerance and violence, and in Britain today it is helping to drive a wedge between Muslim and Muslim and between British Muslims and the rest of Britain."

Beaten, Locked Up for Refusing to Be a Maid

by Ebtihal Mubarak and Ronald Concha from Arab News

A 37-year-old Filipino beautician is being treated at a hospital in Jeddah for serious injuries she suffered after falling from a building while trying to escape alleged maltreatment from her employer. Myrna Salvador was admitted to Dr. Baksh Hospital after suffering a fractured spine and hip. Despite Salvador’s condition, her employer, Malika Al-Otaibi, told her driver to take Salvador to a police station and have her deported. “Fortunately, her husband took pity and insisted that I be brought to a hospital instead,” Salvador told Arab News ... Al-Otaibi had asked Salvador to sign a new contract stating she would work as a maid despite being hired as a beautician as stated by her contract authenticated by the Saudi Embassy in Manila and the Philippine Overseas Employment Office (POEA). Al-Otaibi reportedly became angry and beat her up in front of her children and others.

Saudi panel refuses to fix minimum wage for foreign maids

by Habib Shaikh from The Khaleej Times

Saad Al-Baddah, chairman of the National Recruitment Committee, said it would not take any decision on minimum salaries until the problems of maids running away after signing their contracts to work illegally (often for higher salaries) and of maids being sent back as they lack adequate skills to fulfill their duties, are resolved ... Earlier this year, the Philippines declared that maids would not be granted permission to work as overseas Filipino workers unless they were granted a minimum wage of $400 a month. In return the Filipino government pledged to increase training and skills of what it terms household service workers (HSWs) prior to their departure. Baddah rejected the Philippine move and said recruiters should simply look elsewhere.

Domestics hired from Nepal and Vietnam

by Mariam Al Hakeem from Gulf News

Following the recent obstacles of recruiting housemaids from Indonesia and the Philippines , Saudi Arabia is now looking for other options.Recruitment of housemaids from Nepal and Vietnam is what local recruitment offices are currently involved in ... Earlier, the Indonesian authorities, in a move to improve the conditions of housemaids working in the Kingdom, asked among other conditions, for the increase of monthly salaries of housemaids. In the past, recruitment advertisements were dominated by Indonesia and the Philippines.

Iranian dissident Mina Ahadi wins Secularist of the Year prize

from the National Secular Society

Richard Dawkins says that it is “the awakening of women” that will solve the problem of “the worldwide menace of Islamic terrorism and oppression”. His remarks came while praising Mina Ahadi, winner of this year’s NSS Irwin Prize for “Secularist of the Year” ... She formed the Central Council of ex-Muslims in Germany early this year to help people renounce Islam and religion should they so wish. Dawkins continued, “This brilliant idea has now been replicated in several other European countries, including in Britain by our own Maryam Namazie. Undeterred by the inevitable death threats, Mina has pressed on, determined as ever to protect women from the ravages of Islam. Apostasy, of course, is forbidden in Islam and in some Islamist states it carries the death penalty – including in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Mauritania.

Face-Veil: Mistaking Social Customs for Religious Rules

by Maha Al-Hujailan from Arab News

Saudi women have been burdened with several social customs imposed on them as though they were inviolable religious injunctions. Islam, apparently, is not the only factor shaping the Saudi social life, as many outsiders or even some within the Saudi society itself are inclined to assume. It is closely tied to the local customs and traditions ... Women of conservative or tribal families conceal their faces as though they are observing an indisputable religious rule. Any one who dares to challenge the practice would be punished psychologically and at times even physically. While Islamic law permits a man to look at a woman when he is seeking a spouse, some Saudi families deny this right, resulting in bizarre situations such as a bridegroom being unable to identify his bride.