Saudi Arabia reaffirms support for UN plan to protect holy sites

Saudi official Faisal Al-Haqbani speaks at the UN in New York. (SPA)
Updated 13 June 2019

Saudi Arabia reaffirms support for UN plan to protect holy sites

  • ‘Personal freedom does not justify aggression against human values’

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia reaffirmed its support for the initiative of the high representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), Miguel Moratinos, to safeguard religious sites.

The Kingdom said that attacks on places of worship and the encroachment on these places is a terrorist act that requires to be addressed.

This support was reaffirmed during a speech by the Faisal Al-Haqbani, the special political and decolonization committee’s official from the Kingdom’s permanent delegation to the UN, in a meeting of the UNAOC at the UN headquarters in New York.

Attacks on places of worship are terrorist acts that must be combatted, said Al-Haqbani, who thanked Moratinos and the UNAOC for holding the meeting.

Many ongoing conflicts broke out due to religious, linguistic or ethnic differences, Al-Haqbani added. 

He stressed that the increasing attacks on places of worship and the encroachment on these places are terrorist acts. These practices and acts that fuel terrorism and spread ideas of hatred and practices of injustice and civilizational clash must be confronted by all.

Saudi Arabia serves the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah and receives millions of worshippers, making it a leader in managing huge crowds in small areas, he said.

The initiative of Moratinos promotes love, peace and security, and confronts all those who violate holy sites, Al-Haqbani said, proposing the criminalization of attacks on places of worship.

He affirmed that the Kingdom supports the initiative of the high representative and is ready to provide all the support in this field.

He stressed that personal freedom does not justify aggression against human values, nor the destruction of social systems.


Saudi Hajj ministry investigating how gift to pilgrims was wrongly labelled ‘anthrax’ 

Updated 18 August 2019

Saudi Hajj ministry investigating how gift to pilgrims was wrongly labelled ‘anthrax’ 

  • The Arabic word “jamarat" was inaccurately translated to “anthrax",  a dangerous infectious disease
  • Citing possible repercussions of the mistranslation, scholars want a probe to pinpoint responsibility

RIYADH: The Hajj and Umrah Ministry is investigating the inaccurate translation of the word “jamarat” into “anthrax,” which led to Sheikh Yusuf Estes making a video warning pilgrims of the mistake and its possible repercussions.

The translation concerned a bag that was a gift to pilgrims, containing small pebbles to use for the “stoning of the devil” upon their return from Muzdalifah. The bag had the correct original Arabic description, which roughly translates as “jamarat pebble bag,” whereas the English version of “jamarat” was translated into “anthrax,” a dangerous infectious disease.

According to SPA, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah was notified and opened an investigation with the contractor and translator on August 10, before handing them to authorities to take the necessary disciplinary action.

“Anthrax, where did they get that? They get it from Google, it’s not Google’s fault. Google allows people to tell the meaning of the different languages of words,” Sheikh Yusuf said in the video.

Google Translate, the free multilingual machine translator, relies on comparing large quantities of content between pairs of languages to establish patterns and, in most cases, determine the probability that certain words in one language will correspond with a set of words in another. 

Putting Google Translate to the test, Arab News used the platform to translate a name of a type of fish known in the region as “sha’oor” from Arabic to English. The scientific term for the fish is Lethrinus nebulosus, a type of emperor fish most commonly known as the green snapper or sand snapper.  

Google Translate’s translation was “thickness of feeling.”

Though it yields imperfect results, the service can be used at a pinch, though real human translators rather than artificial intelligence are far more likely to lead to more accurate translations.  

Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Gisele Riachy, director of the Center for Languages and Translation at the Lebanese University in Beirut, explained how the mistranslation of “jamarat” could have happened.

“We have two possibilities, it was either translated by Google Translate or the translator was provided with a single sentence and therefore didn’t understand the meaning of “jamarat,” she said.

“The translator may have not taken into consideration the general context of the word, which has certain religious connotations, therefore it should have been borrowed, translated by the “Stoning of the Devil” or even left as it is.”

Dr. Riachy said that the word anthrax cannot be translated without an accompanying adjective for a better explanation of the term.

“What surprised me is that when translating the word “jamarat” from Arabic to English, the word should have been accompanied with the adjective “khabitha,” or malignant in Arabic, for it to be translated to “anthrax” in English. That is why I am confused and I do not think Google Translate would have translated it into “anthrax” if the Arabic version didn’t include the word “khabitha.”

Sheikh Yusuf Estes’ video was intended for those who would like to take the small bags home as a souvenir or gift, sending a message that the mistranslation could cause the traveler trouble with customs in their own countries.