New courses in Jeddah aim to counter extremism

In 2017, King Salman and US President Donald Trump inaugurated the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, which aims to promote moderation and counter the spread of extremism. (SPA)
Updated 30 August 2018

New courses in Jeddah aim to counter extremism

  • The two-week courses, to begin on Sunday, will focus mainly on ways to improve intellectual security, promote moderation and fight the money laundering that helps to finance the spread of extremism

JEDDAH: Hundreds of journalists, educationalists, bankers, entrepreneurs and other professionals from 57 Islamic countries are expected to benefit from new training courses on intellectual security that aim to prevent the spread of extremist ideology.

The two-week courses, to begin on Sunday, will focus mainly on ways to improve intellectual security, promote moderation and fight the money laundering that helps to finance the spread of extremism. 

They will be held throughout the year at the Jeddah headquarters of the Union of News Agencies (UNA) of the member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, in partnership with Distance Learning and Training Company Group (DLT), a specialist international training company. It is the first project of its kind between UNA and a private company.

DLT CEO Zuhair Azhar said intellectual security is an important issue that is key to quality of life and stability. His company, he added, has developed training courses in which experts from inside and outside the Kingdom will educate people on the issue, along with related concepts such as moderation and money-laundering crimes.

“We have set up a work plan for the UNA training center, taking into consideration its role in fighting intellectual terrorism and its financing sources, as well as its supporters,” Azhar said, adding that Muslim nations in particular need to protect their culture and identity against cultural invasions.

“Thus, we have worked on preparing courses to protect our identity,” he said. “We have also selected our audience on the basis of their effectiveness to help us spread moderate, peaceful ideologies.”

Azhar said the courses would focus on practical ways to help protect individuals and families from intellectual deviation.

“This course will also shed light on the role of families, schools, and media to keep Muslim societies safe from aberrant thoughts,” he added. “The courses will also provide practical measures that can be taken to achieve such a goal.”

The Kingdom has, he said, been successful in promoting moderation, fighting extremism and battling against money laundering. “Saudi Arabia has become a global model to follow in combating deviant ideologies and preventing all sorts of illegal money activities,” he added.

A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

Updated 28 min 23 sec ago

A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

  • Lamsa was launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012
  • It provides an innovative way of motivating children to learn

DUBAI: The most crucial year in a child’s education may be the age of 8, or third grade, according to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.The organization, which focuses on improving the wellbeing of American children, found this to be the developmental phase when children transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

The research also established that third graders who lack proficiency in reading are four times as likely to become high-school dropouts.

The significance of this pivotal point in early childhood development is what drives Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa, to develop innovative ways of motivating kids in the Arab world to read and learn in their language.

“If we don’t encourage reading at that age, we could be taking the risk of them having a life-long issue with catching up,” Ward said.

Since children already spend a considerable amount of their time on connected devices, Ward is convinced that edutainment — media designed to educate through entertainment — is the best way to make screen time “relevant and meaningful.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Lamsa. (Supplied Photo)

Launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012, Lamsa provides an ad-free platform featuring animated literature, rhymes, songs, interactive games and educational videos in Arabic for children aged between 2 and 8.

Ward said: “We have to face reality. Education systems across the world are legacy systems. Whether we like it or not, technology has changed the way we consume information. Children today have access to devices from the moment they are born. So whether it’s reading on paper or e-books or interactive storytelling, we need to look at encouraging them to read, and to love to read and learn.”

Ward explains that much like a favorite teacher impacts a child’s interest in a subject, edutainment has a significant effect on their curiosity about a topic.

He modelled the characters in the edutainment app after his daughter Joory and son Adam, whose lack of interest in reading prompted him to start Lamsa.

Ward sought advice from his friend Leonard Marcus, an author, historian and expert on English language children’s literature. Marcus recommended taking the kids to a comic book store and letting them explore without forcing them to buy anything.

“So I did that,” Ward said. “We went to the comic book store, and I let them roam around. They were fascinated by the images.”

“Arabic is not just a language. It’s so important for children to understand their heritage and culture.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa

He then asked his kids if they wanted anything, and they asked to have some of the comics. “In the evening, I found my children opening the comic book and just laughing,” he said.

“Because of that start three years ago, they can’t let go of books now.”

Ward said seeing the power of images and illustrations has made him support using pictures to captivate children.

The lack of quality and culturally relevant educational material in Arabic remains a challenge, he said. For this reason, Lamsa’s content library has been developed to celebrate Arabic not just as a language but as a source of heritage, culture, literature, music and food. The app team works in partnership with Arab authors, illustrators and organizations.

“Arabic is not just a language,” Ward said, adding that for Arab children everywhere, understanding cultural context is crucial to their values, beliefs and identity.

“It’s so important in the development of children to have a clear understanding of where they come from. In order to establish understanding of other cultures and learn tolerance, you need to start with your own. It’s fundamental to confidence, identity and heritage.”


 The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.