Diversity is part of human nature, says Muslim World League chief Al-Issa

Muslim World League Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa at the Wilton Park Forum. (SPA)
Updated 11 March 2019
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Diversity is part of human nature, says Muslim World League chief Al-Issa

  • MWL chief urges steps to promote inclusive citizenship
  • Al-Issa was speaking at the Wilton Park Forum in London

LONDON: The world needs generations raised with an education that teaches them how to think, promotes accepting and respecting others, and instills a belief that diversity is part of human nature, according to Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL). 

Al-Issa’s comments came during an address to the Wilton Park Forum, held for three days in the UK to discuss “Promoting Inclusive Citizenship,” with the support of the British government and the attendance of a number of religious, political and intellectual figures. 

“All of our participations aim to protect human dignity, including protecting people’s rights and legitimate freedoms in the light of the constitutional provisions and laws,” he said. “We have also agreed on the importance of understanding the nature of diversity as a human nature that God has created and then guided people to dialogue for the sake of reaching mutual understanding, convergence and cooperation.” 

Al-Issa quoted a verse from the Qur’an that says: “And if Allah had willed, He could have made you (of) one religion, but He causes to stray whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And you will surely be questioned about what you used to do.”

The MWL chief added: “God has created diverse people, and had He willed, He could have made them one nation, which means there will be a negative difference between them and only an aware group of people will be able to overcome this difference by realizing God’s wisdom in diversity.” 

He pointed out that the verse indicates that God created people for that diversity. “This invites us to reflect on the divine wisdom, the test it conveys, and the subsequent reward in the Hereafter,” he said. “If people were not diverse, they would have been a different creation like angels, who were created in one form.”

Al-Issa discussed the challenges facing inclusive citizenship, in particular the lack of awareness that often arises from a negative family or school environment, a negative general culture established by religious, political and legislative discourse as well as the negative discourse of civil society institutions, in addition to the availability of fair values in the vision, mission and objectives of each state. 

“We must explore ways to treat this problem, review ideal global experiences in this regard, and learn the secret behind their success and excellence in inclusive citizenship and positive integration between their religious and ethnic diversities,” he said. 

The MWL chief said that the most important problem associated with inclusive citizenship has to do with the foundations of the general culture, which requires the employment of effective practical programs that suit the conditions of each society. 

“How great it would be to see everyone during national occasions at the height of convergence as they rally under the flag of one country, proving in practice that difference does not mean hatred or exclusion. It is also important to build inclusive moral institutions on the foundations of the citizenship project.”

“From here, we welcome the human harmony, or the human family, that exceeds the abstract meaning of fraternity imposed on us as a fate. Man is the brother of man, whether he wishes it or not. How great it would be if this harmony included everyone, not only in spiritual words or through the Abrahamic system so as not to fall into the taboo classification and exclusion of humanity in general.

“Spiritual people can also set their own framework for fraternity, harmony, or the faith family. For instance, the Abrahamic system in the human harmony project has a restriction that excludes half the population of the earth.

“Special groups, whether Abrahamic or otherwise, can cooperate in any productive work that is beneficial for them and for all mankind without bearing any exclusionary message on the subject of coexistence and human peace in general,” Al-Issa said.


How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

Dr. Fatima Alakeel, cybersecurity expert. (AN photo)
Updated 20 March 2019
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How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

  • ‘Securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,’ says Dr. Fatema Alakeel of King Saud University in Riyadh
  • ‘Saudi women are ambitious,’ says one graduate. ‘We are acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers’

DUBAI: More and more girls in Saudi Arabia are opting for an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and now the challenge is finding them employment, said Dr. Fatima Alakeel, a cybersecurity expert and faculty member at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh.
“In the Kingdom, STEM-related jobs are limited at the moment, as the economy is primarily oil-based and there are few technical jobs available,” said Alakeel, who is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability Group (CIAG), which focuses on information security training and research in Riyadh.
According to a government report on the labor market situation in the third quarter of 2018, more than 30 percent of Saudi women aged between 15 and 65 are unemployed.
Among them, the highest rate of unemployment is among 20-24-year-olds (more than 70 percent) and among 25-29-year-olds (55 percent).
According to the report, there are 923,504 Saudi jobseekers, of whom 765,378 are women (82.2 percent).
“We have more girls in STEM education compared to Western countries,” said Alakeel, who completed her doctoral degree in computer science in the UK at the University of Southampton in 2017.
According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry, girls accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom.
That same year, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics and statistics, and physics.
According to a survey Alakeel recently conducted on social media, “almost 80 percent of (Saudi) girls were keen to study STEM, but securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,” she said.
Maha Al-Taleb, 22, graduated earlier this year with a degree in technology from KSU, specializing in IT networks and security.
“It’s common for girls in the Kingdom to opt for STEM education,” said Al-Taleb, who now works in a public sector company in Riyadh as a junior information security analyst.
“Saudi women are ambitious. We’re acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers. I don’t know why the world assumes that Saudi women are a backward tribal species who have no say in these matters. This entire perception is flawed.”
Al-Taleb got a job offer immediately after university, but realizes that not all her peers are as fortunate. Women “are facing problems in securing jobs, not because companies don’t want to hire us, but because employment for Saudi youths is a major challenge,” she said.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, parents are encouraging their daughters to get a degree not just in the Kingdom; they also want them to go to Western universities. It has become a common phenomenon. Things have changed. Women are a crucial part of the nation’s development process.”
Not all women graduating in the Kingdom are as lucky, among them Razan Al-Qahtani. “It has been several months since I graduated, yet I haven’t been able to find a job. It has been a struggle so far,” said the 25-year-old IT graduate. “We have more talented and qualified girls, especially in the field of technology, but there are few jobs available. It’s a difficult situation, but we’re hopeful things will change very soon.”
Al-Qahtani expressed confidence that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan will bring opportunities for qualified Saudis.
As part of Vision 2030, the government has committed to raise employment among Saudi women.
Alakeel said the government is working hard to find a solution, and it is only a matter of time until more such jobs are on offer.
“As per Vision 2030, there will be more jobs, including technical jobs, available in the country. Once we have more jobs, women will eventually get their due share,” she added. According to Alakeel, female empowerment and promotion to leading roles have made huge progress in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect existing STEM job opportunities.
“We’re glad to see Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud becoming the first female ambassador of the country. It only suggests change is on the way,” Alakeel said.
Al-Taleb expressed pride in the way her parents have supported her, saying: “My father isn’t educated and my mother has basic literacy, but both provided me with the education I desired. They want their daughters to be as successful as their sons.”
Like women in any country, the transition from university to the workplace is not always easy, even for young Saudi women with technology degrees. Yet they are not losing hope.
“We realize these are difficult times in terms of employment, especially in technology-related fields, but things will change,” Al-Taleb said. “Saudi women will soon be ruling the fields of STEM all over the country.”