Grand Mufti: Giving Syrians Zakat an Islamic duty

Updated 27 February 2014
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Grand Mufti: Giving Syrians Zakat an Islamic duty

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh called upon Saudis to give their Zakat to Syrian refugees as the Kingdom marked Tuesday as a day to express solidarity with Syrian children hit by their country’s bloody civil war.
“Giving Zakat to the Syrians is an Islamic duty as it will help save them from poverty and destruction,” the mufti said in a video statement aired by the National Campaign for the Support of Syrians. The campaign is expected to raise millions of riyals for the Syrians.
He also urged Saudis and expats to donate — in cash and kind — generously for the Syrians.
The solidarity day was held on the directive of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to help raise funds and improve international humanitarian aid for Syrian children living in abject conditions.
Meanwhile, an estimated 100,000 Syrian expatriates in Saudi Arabia have allegedly been unable to renew their passports because they oppose the regime back home.
Several Syrians here told Arab News that their country’s missions have stopped renewing their passports.
Mohammed Al-Turkawi, a member of the Syrian opposition living in Jeddah, told Arab News this affects 10 percent of the estimated 1 million Syrians living in Saudi Arabia.
“Syrian expats have to go to neighboring countries to renew their passports. The Syrian mission in the Kingdom had previously canceled the passports of some Syrians who are members of the opposition,” said Al-Turkawi.
Riyadh Saadon, a Syrian dentist, claimed that an official at the consulate in Jeddah refused to renew his passport because of his views.
“The consulate has a blacklist of the names of Syrians living in Jeddah who do not support the government,” Saadon claimed. “Syrian missions in all countries have blacklists with the names of Syrian residents who are involved in activities against the regime.”
All the Syrians on this blacklist face threats of having their passports canceled and cannot deal with their missions, Al-Turkawi claimed.
Most Syrians work in administrative, medical and engineering positions in the Kingdom. Many are afraid to speak openly at meetings here because “spies” might send reports back to the Syrian government.
Many Syrians have posted tragic stories on the Internet about the atrocities perpetrated by the military forces of the regime. “I used to attack the Syrian government on Twitter. I do not travel to my country because I’m afraid of being arrested the moment I set foot on its soil,” said Waleed Abdullah, a Syrian resident in Jeddah.
Hussain Al-Shareef, director of the National Society for Human Rights in Jeddah, told Arab News previously that the organization could help Syrians in these circumstances. Syrian expatriates blocked by their mission can lodge complaints with the NSHR, which would take up their cases with the Saudi Interior Ministry. Syrian expatriates can also approach the ministry directly, Al-Shareef said.
Bandar Al-Aiban, president of the Human Rights Commission, praised King Abdullah for giving his directive to organize the solidarity day all over the Kingdom. He described the Syrian crisis as a human catastrophe and hoped the Saudi campaign would help alleviate the suffering of Syrian refugees, especially children.
In a related development, the office of the International Islamic Relief Organization in Beirut organized a special program for Syrian children. Majed Atiyah, first secretary at the Saudi Embassy in Lebanon, said the king’s solidarity call would reawaken Arabs’ feelings toward Syrian children. IIRO organized recreational programs for 1,000 Syrian children living in refugee camps in Beirut.
People may deposit their donations in the NCB account No. SA 231 00000 201 88888 000100. Donations in kind would be accepted at the campaign’s warehouses in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, Qassim and the Northern Border Province. People can also announce their donations by phone through a joint No. 5565 of telecom companies.


Fantastic four: Saudi women fly the flag for cycling

Updated 26 min 37 sec ago
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Fantastic four: Saudi women fly the flag for cycling

  • Saudi Arabia’s first women-only 10-kilometer cycling race was held in April 2018 at the King Abdullah City for Sports in Jeddah
  • More than 70 Saudi cyclists took part in the tour, including the four HerRide members

JEDDAH: Before Saudi Arabia’s women drivers there were Saudi women cyclists. Thousands of women around the Kingdom have taken to two wheels in the past few years, and groups of female cyclists are a common sight on city streets.

Now four young women have taken cycling to a new level by becoming the first Saudi female cycling team to join the Global Biking Initiative (GBI) European tour, an annual seven-day ride that highlights the sport and raises money for a range of charitable causes.

Sisters Fatimah and Yasa Al-Bloushi, Dina Al-Nasser and Anoud Aljuraid — founder members of the HerRide cycling group — joined hundreds of cyclists from all over the world earlier this month when the tour kicked off from Gothenburg in Sweden before heading through Denmark and on to the port of Hamburg in northern Germany.

More than 70 Saudi cyclists took part in the tour, including the four HerRide members. 

The dynamic HerRide team shares a passion for adventure, and a love of outdoor activities and sports. Fatimah Al-Bloushi, the team captain, told Arab News that when she started the group in July, 2017, “we were a group of amateur cycling enthusiasts and our idea was to train to be the first Saudi female team to participate in GBI Europe 2018.” 

This year was Fatimah’s second time in the GBI tour. Last year she was the first and only Saudi woman to take part in the event. 

“I want to empower Saudi women and encourage cycling,” she said.

Fatimah also enjoys skydiving, surfing, abseiling and climbing, and is also the first woman member of the Saudi Cycling Federation. In her hometown of Alkhobar, she organizes women’s gatherings twice a week to cycle together along the beachfront. She also volunteers to teach cycling for beginners. 

Like all sports events and tours, training plays a crucial role in preparing for the GBI tour. Team member Anoud Aljuraid, an accomplished hiker and technical climber, met Fatimah two years ago while climbing the Ol Doinyo Lengai, or “Mountain of God,” volcano in Tanzania.

“For me the challenge was sitting on the bike for up to eight hours while riding up to 100 kilometers a day,” Aljuraid said. “It was also hard to maintain a certain speed to reach the next destination or nutrition point on time, but my training helped me get over those challenges.”

Although the number of women cyclists on the streets of Saudi Arabia is growing, challenges remain for those joining the sport.

Team member Dina Al-Nasser lives in Riyadh and enjoys long-distance cycling as well as hiking and boxing. Her biggest challenge during the GBI tour was cycling alongside cars.

“I mostly trained at home, but it’s hard for me to train in areas where men usually train, such as Wadi Hanifa and Ammariyah,” she said. “However, I was able to get over my fear and by the third day on the tour I was riding alongside trucks and didn’t even notice.”

Al-Nasser said that cycling is challenging not only for women in Saudi Arabia but for professional cyclists in general.

“We hope that the streets will be more bike friendly, and that people can adopt the same infrastructure for cyclists that we have seen on the tour — such as special paved paths and traffic lights — here in the Kingdom,” she said. 

“Hopefully, cycling will become a lifestyle in Saudi Arabia and we will see people cycling to work one day.” 

The Saudi HerRide women’s team celebrate a challenging stage finish on the GBI European tour. (Supplied photo)

Despite the challenges, the HerRide team say they are hoping to join the next GBI tour. “It was a great experience to cross three countries by bicycle,” Yasa Al-Bloushi said. “Of course, we got some bruises and had falls here and there, but I look at that as a sign of accomplishment.”

The team members gained valuable skills from watching other riders during the tour. “I learned how to be a part of a team and to look out for each other. It was important to listen to my team-mates and focus on their needs,” said Dina Al-Nasser.

 Fatima Al-Bloushi said that the support of her team made her second tour more special than the first. “We knew each other’s weaknesses from day one and we always had each other’s back. If our energy levels were low, someone would provide nutrition. When our spirits were down, we had music to give us a boost, and when someone was nervous, we reminded each other to have fun,” she said.

“I experienced GBI twice. The first time I went alone and came back with a family of friends. The second time I went with friends and came back with family.”

The woman said the spirit of cooperation among cyclists on the tour was empowering. “What made this experience even more amazing, besides the beautiful scenery, was the quality of people we met,” said Fatima. “If we were struggling, they would pass by with a smile, give you a pat on the back and tell you that you were strong enough to push through — it really did make us feel stronger.”

 In future, the group plans to hire a professional trainer and offer cycling workshops for Saudi women. They also hope long-distance cycling events, such as the GBI, will one day be held in Saudi Arabia. 

“Under Vision 2030, I’m sure there will be a lot of local events for cyclists in the Kingdom, including women,” said Al-Nasser.

The four cyclists have some words of encouragement for Saudi women hoping to fulfil their dreams. “You will always find people who will give you negative comments, but as long as you are doing what you love and are not hurting anyone, just keep going,” said Al-Nasser. 

Fatimah said: “Two years ago I was looking to join a cycling team, but as a woman in Saudi Arabia I was unable to — now things have changed. My advice to all women out there is never say ‘no,’ always say ‘yes’ to opportunities.”