Islamic scholars plead for Afghanistan peace, stability

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King Salman has praised the efforts of Muslim scholars taking part in an Afghanistan peace conference in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
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King Salman has praised the efforts of Muslim scholars taking part in an Afghanistan peace conference in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
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King Salman has praised the efforts of Muslim scholars taking part in an Afghanistan peace conference in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
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King Salman has praised the efforts of Muslim scholars taking part in an Afghanistan peace conference in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 11 July 2018

Islamic scholars plead for Afghanistan peace, stability

  • King Salman has praised the efforts of Muslim scholars taking part in an Afghanistan peace conference in Saudi Arabia
  • The king received a delegation of the scholars on Wednesday at his palace in Jeddah

MAKKAH: King Salman received a delegation of Muslim scholars participating in the International Ulema Conference on Peace and Security in Afghanistan, at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on Wednesday.

King Salman commended the scholars’ efforts and those of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in holding the conference.

“No one is more eligible then you to serve Islam and Muslims, unite their words, reunify them, and eradicate wars and crises, and the scourges of extremism and terrorism from the Islamic world,” he said. 

“We feel today very optimistic that your efforts will contribute to opening a new page in Afghanistan, to achieve the aspirations of the Afghan people of security and stability. This requires dialogue, reconciliation and tolerance as dictated by our Islamic religion,” King Salman said.

OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen said: “More than 100 Muslim scholars from around the world have gathered for the sake of this ancient Islamic country, which has suffered and is still suffering from the scourge of war, murder, terrorism and division, to evoke the concept of reconciliation in Islam and to come up with a united stance to address the fallout of the Afghan crisis.” 

Al-Othaimeen said that the conference provided a platform for scholars to discuss the crisis from a legitimate perspective to achieve security, peace and reconciliation between the various parts of Afghan society through dialogue, transcending wounds and renouncing all forms of violence, extremism and terrorism incompatible with Islamic religion. 

“The conference will end by unanimously adopting the Makkah Declaration on the consolidation of peace and stability in Afghanistan, a solution emanating from the teachings of Islam and its people,” he said.

He underlined King Salman’s drive to unify ranks, establish peace and achieve security and peace in the Islamic world and in Afghanistan in particular. 

“This is reflected through his support for the truce reached during the Eid Al-Fitr and his appeal to the parties to respond to the call for truce and extend it to stop shedding the blood of innocents and paving the way for a peaceful dialogue,” he said.

Meanwhile, the two-day conference concluded in Makkah with Muslim scholars outlawing the killing of innocent people.

The final declaration stressed that what was happening in Afghanistan was contrary to the principles and formal teachings of Islam.

“The solution to the cause of the Muslim Afghani must particularly go through mutual understanding and direct peaceful negotiations,” read the closing declaration.

Al-Othaimeen said: “We hereby call on Muslim states, organizations and elites to join efforts and pull their weight toward the establishment of peace and security in Afghanistan, using all their potential and influence toward this goal to ensure a peaceful and decent life where Muslims cooperate toward developing their nation in harmony.”

“We affirm that the suicide attacks targeting innocent people, and internecine killings among Muslims, are all acts that are prohibited by Allah and His Messenger under texts that are conclusively clear and well-established, whereby Allah says ‘And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his punishment is hell; he shall abide in it, and Allah will send His wrath on him and curse him and prepare for him a painful chastisement.”

“We endorse and support the efforts of the Afghani scholars toward a successful Afghani reconciliation. We pay tribute to the efforts by the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Dr. Mohamed Ashraf Ghani, and praise him for his invitation to the Taliban Movement to engage in a direct, peaceful and unconditional dialogue, and for his recognition of the Movement as a political party whose goal shall be the predominance of security in Afghanistan,” he said.

Muslims scholars called on the Taliban Movement to respond to the invitation by the Afghanistan government to abstain from violence, end the mutual killings and sit together around the negotiating table.

Abdullah Al-Tayer, chief adviser to the OIC, told Arab News that the conference was based on a recommendation by the Council of Foreign Ministers in the Islamic countries, and the declaration would be forwarded to them to discuss during their meeting in the UAE. “The council will then submit the declaration and its recommendations to the Islamic summit to decide what will be next,” he said.

Sayed Jalal Karim, Afghan ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News that the declaration was balanced, calling on all parties to bear responsibility. 

Understanding Shoura: how the Saudi consultative ‘parliament’ works

Updated 19 November 2018

Understanding Shoura: how the Saudi consultative ‘parliament’ works

  • The Shoura Council that the King is addressing today has a vital role to play in government
  • Female Shoura Council members have played a major role in raising their voices over many issues concerning social development in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: When King Salman gives his annual speech that will open the third year of the Shoura Council’s seventh session today, it will set the tone for what lies ahead for the Kingdom, laying the groundwork for the consultative assembly to help to move the country forward.
“The King’s speech in the Shoura Council lays the road map to achieving Vision 2030,” said Lina Almaeena, one of its 30 female members. Women make up of 20 percent of the council, the same percentage of women who now hold seats in the US Congress.
While only midway through its seventh session, the roots of the Shoura Council date back to before Saudi Arabia’s founding. After entering the city of Makkah in 1924, King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud entrusted the council with drafting the basic laws for the administration of what was to become the future unified Kingdom.
In 1928, amendments were made as public interest grew. A new law consisting of 24 articles, which included the permanent appointment of a vice-president by the King, was issued to facilitate the council’s work.
In 1953, the council’s jurisdictions were distributed between the Council of Ministers and other government entities, reducing the Shoura Council’s power, although it continued to hold sessions until its mandate was once again broadened this century.
Its current format consists of a Speaker and 150 council members, among them scholars, educators, specialists and prominent members of society with expertise in their respective fields, chosen by the King and serving a four-year term.
The council convenes its sessions in the capital of Riyadh, as well as in other locations in the Kingdom as the King deems appropriate. Known as Majlis Al-Shoura inside the Kingdom, its basic function is to draft and issue laws approved by the King, as the cabinet cannot pass or enforce laws, a power reserved for the King to this day.
The Shoura can be defined as an exchange of opinions, and so another of its functions is to express views on matters of public interest and investigate these issues with people of authority and expertise, hence the 14 specialized committees that cover several aspects of social and governmental entities. From education, to foreign affairs, members assigned to committees review proposed draft laws prior to submitting them to the King, as they are able to exercise power within its jurisdiction and seek expertise from non-Majlis members. All requested documents and data in possession of government ministries and agencies must go through a request process from the Speaker to facilitate the Shoura Council committees’ work.
Female members are a fairly recent phenomenon. In September 2011, the late King Abdullah stated that women would become members of the council. In 2013, two royal decrees reconstituted the council, mandating that women should always hold at least a fifth of its 150 seats and appointed the first group of 30 female Shoura members.
Five years on, female Shoura Council members have played a major role in raising their voices over many issues concerning social development in Saudi Arabia. “It’s a golden age for Saudis and, as women, we’ve come a long way,” said Almaeena. “We’re living an era of historical change, and we’re making up for lost time.”
As part of their roles, members of the council have the right to discuss general plans for economic and social development, particularly now with the Vision 2030 blueprint. Annual reports forwarded by ministries and governmental institutes, international treaties and concessions are also within the council members’ remit, to discuss and make suggestions that are deemed appropriate.
“Many positive changes have taken place in the past few years, and the Shoura Council’s role has always put social developments first and foremost,” said Dr. Sami Zaidan, a council member of two terms. “The appointment of women diversified and expanded the discussions and has added value.”
Major achievements were chalked up in this term’s second year. Many of the draft proposals discussed received approval votes. On Nov. 8, a proposal with 39 articles to protect informants from attacks, threats and material harm was approved by the majority of the council. The draft law, suggested by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Economy and Planning, would provide whistle-blowers with protection.
In May, the Shoura Council also approved legislation criminalizing sexual harassment in the Kingdom. The Cabinet, chaired by King Salman, backed the legislation, which required a royal decree to become law. Under it, perpetrators may face a jail sentence of up to five years and a SR 300,000 fine.
Draft regulations must go through a two-step process. The first, a chairman of a committee reads a draft of a proposal on the floor, and council members vote on referring the proposal to the designated committee. If members agree to the referral, each article is discussed thoroughly, studies are conducted on the aspects of the proposal, and after completing all the necessary checks, it reaches the second stage. The council then discusses the committee’s recommendations and a vote is set for each article proposed in an earlier session by the committee’s chairman.
Other proposals on the discussion table for this session include one that recognizes the importance of voluntary work in the community, in compliance with Vision 2030, which talks about one million volunteers in the Kingdom by 2030. The council has also asked the General Sports Authority to speed up the development of sports cities and to diversify its functions in different parts of the Kingdom to help the organizational level of women’s sports become an independent agency affiliated to the GSA chairman.
The council has also discussed a recommendation for women to hold leadership positions in Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic missions abroad, from a report by the council’s Foreign Affairs Committee. With approximately 130 women working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the report recommended the necessity of an appointment as an affirmation that Saudi women are able to take over leadership positions as ministers, ambassadors and Saudi representatives in international forums.
Almaeena pointed out that Shoura Council members are the ears of society, playing an important role in relaying the public’s message to the designated committees. “The Shoura Council’s doors are always open, although not many know this,” she said. “The public is always welcome and can attend sessions, scheduling ahead of time. The doors to the council have always been and will always be open to all.”