Global center to combat extremism launched in Riyadh

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and other leaders tour the new Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Sunday. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 May 2017

Global center to combat extremism launched in Riyadh

RIYADH: King Salman and US President Donald Trump on Sunday inaugurated the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (GCCEI), which aims to promote moderation and counter the spread of extremism.
The center is “the fruit of collaboration between Muslim countries that believe in the importance of combating terrorism,” said Nasir Al-Biqami, secretary-general of the GCCEI in his inaugural speech.
The center — named “Etidal,” or “moderation” — embodies the international cooperation in combating terrorism and enhances constructive dialogue to fight the problem. The selection of the board of directors, consisting of 12 members from different countries and organizations, is intended to reflect its independence.
On the center’s Twitter account, @etidalorg, it was explained that the mission of the new entity is “to expose, combat and refute extremist ideology.”
In his speech, Al-Biqami said: “Today in this historic moment that witnesses further partnership and cooperation to fight extremist ideology. This comes as part of the efforts paid by Muslim countries to combat terrorism and to recognize that fighting terrorism is a priority to Muslims and the rest of the world. These countries took the initiative to establish this center to combat extremist ideologies with its different shapes and means.”
Advanced technology has been used to operate the center, which is based on three pillars — ideological, digital and informational.
The center monitors and analyzes any extremist content as it detects several languages and dialects that are mostly common in addressing these ideologies. The processing and analyzing of data is done within six seconds of detecting content that may reflect extremist ideologies.
“The center will develop artificial intelligence technology to determine geographical spots that incubate terrorism to reach the roots of extremist ideologies, while creating an informational content that encourages tolerance and moderation under the supervision of a high committee that consists of thinkers and Muslim scholars from different countries,” the center’s secretary-general said.
The opening of the center came on the same day as the Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism & Fighting Terrorism.
It concluded a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia by the US president, during which three key summits were held: The Saudi-US Summit, GCC-US Summit and the Arab-Islamic-American Summit. Trump’s visit also coincided with the Saudi-US CEO Forum and Tweeps 2017.

EXCLUSIVE: Saudi singer-songwriter Tamtam releases music video ahead of historic end to driving ban

Updated 22 June 2018

EXCLUSIVE: Saudi singer-songwriter Tamtam releases music video ahead of historic end to driving ban

  • Singer-songwriter Tamtam has released a music video to coincide with the day her fellow countrywomen make history
  • In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the LA-based musician said she hopes the song inspires women to see that with patience and perseverance anything can happen. 

JEDDAH: With the long-awaited day when Saudi women can finally drive drawing near, a Saudi singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles has written a song to mark the historic occasion.

Called simply “Drive,” Tamtam’s take on the breakthrough reform covers a range of emotions: Happiness, pride and even surprise.

Millions around the world shared the news that Saudi women would be allowed to drive when it was announced last fall, and with all the preparations taking place, the singer wanted to take part in the best way she could. So she wrote the lyrics to a song that mirrored the exciting events ahead.

Tamtam’s release focuses on the themes of freedom, equality and empowerment that she has explored in her music since the start of her career in 2012.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the LA-based musician said she hopes the song inspires women to see that with patience and perseverance anything can happen. 

“If I had to use one word to describe the feeling, it would be hope. Women in Saudi are ready to have a bigger voice and become more independent.

“This is a huge step forward for all of us. The country is showing us that they know we are ready, and they are here to support us and help launch us forward,” said Tamtam. 

Her song’s lyrics include the words: “We know what we want, we know it’s our time, let go of past perceptions, tomorrow is mine, we got drive” — suggesting that it’s time to look forward and stop looking back at what once was.

The verse mirrors the narrative many Saudis are sharing with the world, empowered by the dramatic changes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is accomplishing with Vision 2030 and beyond. 

Tamtam, inspired by the late Michael Jackson, started singing aged 15. She wrote her first single, “Little Girl,” while attending high school in California after her family moved to the US from Riyadh. Her singing and songwriting have been influenced by events around her, always related to current issues with a twist of optimism. 

Whether it’s her strong vocals or hauntingly beautiful voice, Tamtam’s music transcends expectations. This young Saudi is singing and making a name for herself in the City of Angels, and her positive energy is reflected in her music.

As Saudis embrace a host of reforms, Tamtam believes many Westerners are shocked by the news. Yet people forget that Saudi is a relatively young country and more good changes will come, she said. 

“With hope comes more aspirations, dreams, new achievements and positive energy.”

The “Drive” video is uplifting, with playful, artistic imagery, and soulful and empowering vocals. The singer and her friends wear white, representing peace and femininity, and drive a yellow Ford Mustang convertible (Tamtam’s dream car). 

“Whenever I’m in a car, especially if there is traffic or it’s a long drive, I always turn on music to put me in a better mood. Driving is so much more enjoyable with music,” said Tamtam. “I hope that this song will be blasting through car speakers everywhere.” 

So the question is: Will Tamtam get her Saudi license, too?

“Yes, I can’t wait,” is the answer, obviously.