Arab and Islamic leaders condemn terror plot targeting Makkah’s Grand Mosque

Arab and Islamic leaders condemn terror plot targeting Makkah’s Grand Mosque
MWL Secretary-General Sheikh Mohammed Abdul Karim Al-Issa, left, and Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, chief of the Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques.
Updated 25 June 2017

Arab and Islamic leaders condemn terror plot targeting Makkah’s Grand Mosque

Arab and Islamic leaders condemn terror plot targeting Makkah’s Grand Mosque

JEDDAH: Leaders from around the Arab world have condemned a terror plot targeting the Grand Mosque in Makkah, which Saudi security forces said on Friday they had thwarted.
King Salman received a cable from Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, emir of the Kuwait, in which he expressed Kuwait’s strong condemnation of terrorist schemes, which contradict teachings of Islam and all religious and human values. Cables were also received from Kuwaiti Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah.
The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan also condemned the plot to target the Grand Mosque. “This heinous crime exposes the extent of terrorism and the savagery of those terrorist groups, and no one in their right mind can justify or explain it… this heinous crime will make us even more formidable and determined to eliminate terrorism and eradicate its sources along with all those who finance, incite, sympathize with, or justify it in any manner whatsoever,” Sheikh Abdullah said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack and expressed his full solidarity with Saudi Arabia in confronting terrorism and extremism.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement that the government and people of Egypt stand by Saudi Arabia in confronting any attempt to target its security and stability.
Bahrain condemned the plot in the strongest terms and stressed that terrorism is contrary to all religious, moral and humanitarian values. It reiterated its firm position in rejecting terrorism, and stressed the need for closer international cooperation to eliminate the phenomenon that threatens all nations and peoples without discrimination.
Iraq also condemned the failed terrorist attempt to target the Grand Mosque, affirming its solidarity with the Kingdom in confronting terrorist groups that target its security and stability.
“These attempts demonstrate the extent of the intellectual and ideological deviation of the terrorist-based gangs, which led them to try to attack the holiest mosque during the holy month of Ramadan,” Ahmad Jamal, Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a press statement.
The Yemeni Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued by the Yemeni news agency, “Attempts to target the Grand Mosque by terrorist groups confirm that these groups have crossed red lines and reflect the seriousness of their schemes, which do not hesitate to target the holiest places of Islam.”
Jordanian Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Mohammed Momani condemned the failed attack and expressed Jordan’s support for Saudi Arabia in its fight against terrorism.
Momani reiterated Jordan’s call for united international efforts to fight terrorists and terror organizations.
Tunisia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was categorically opposed to any form of terrorism and radicalism and expressed its solidarity with Saudi Arabia.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in a statement, “I vigorously condemn the terrorist attack that targeted the Grand Mosque in Makkah, which plotted for committing one of the most heinous crimes against Islam and Muslims.”
Hariri commended the swift action of Saudi Arabia’s security forces in thwarting the attempt against the Grand Mosque and pilgrims.
The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its strong condemnation and denouncement of the terror plot.

'Devoid of values'
Muslim World League (MWL) Secretary-General Sheikh Mohammed Abdul Karim Al-Issa said in a statement that terrorism is an evil act devoid of any values.
The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned the terror attempt, voicing the OIC’s full support for the Kingdom in fighting terrorism.
In Riyadh, the Council of Senior Scholars said it appreciated the achievement of the security forces in thwarting the terror plot.
The council said that those who were planning the crime had not respected the sanctity of the Grand Mosque, and therefore they have no religion nor honesty.
The General President of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais lauded the achievement attained by the Ministry of Interior in protecting the holy sites.
The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in the Kingdom of Bahrain denounced the sinful terrorist plot to target the Grand Mosque in Makkah. The council stressed in a statement: “The attempt to target the Grand Mosque in the month of Ramadan clearly reveals that these terrorists are away from any religious, moral or humanitarian values.”
The Council of Pakistani Scholars also expressed its heavy condemnation of the terrorist plot targeting Makkah’s Grand Mosque.
Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayyeb strongly condemned the attack. In a telephone conversation with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Al-Tayyeb said Al-Azhar supports Saudi Arabia in fighting and uprooting terrorism. He praised the vigilance of Saudi troops, who were able to thwart the terrorist plot.
Egypt’s Mufti Shawki Allam lashed out those who were attempting to carry out the attack during the holy fasting month of Ramadan. He also lauded the vigilance of the Saudi security forces, which foiled the attempt.


More than 450,000 people apply to perform Hajj during first 24 hours of registration

More than 450,000 people apply to perform Hajj during first 24 hours of registration
Updated 18 min 50 sec ago

More than 450,000 people apply to perform Hajj during first 24 hours of registration

More than 450,000 people apply to perform Hajj during first 24 hours of registration
  • Of those registering, 60 percent were men and 40 percent were women
  • No priority will be given to those who apply early and registration will be open till June 23

RIYADH: More than 450,000 people in Saudi Arabia applied to perform Hajj this year during the 24 hours since registration opened, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said on Tuesday.
Of those registering, 60 percent were men and 40 percent were women.
No priority will be given to those who apply early and registration will be open till June 23, the ministry added.
Vaccinated citizens and residents in the Kingdom between the ages of 18 and 65 who do not have chronic diseases and have not performed Hajj in the last five years are able to apply.
Saudi Arabia announced on Saturday that this year’s Hajj will be limited to 60,000 pilgrims from within the Kingdom due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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Saudi minister Jubeir meets US climate envoy John Kerry

Saudi minister Jubeir meets US climate envoy John Kerry
Updated 37 min 17 sec ago

Saudi minister Jubeir meets US climate envoy John Kerry

Saudi minister Jubeir meets US climate envoy John Kerry

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir met on Tuesday US Climate Secretary John Kerry.

Kerry was on his first visit to the Kingdom after assuming the position of US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.

Since President Joe Biden was sworn in on Jan. 20, he has made several moves to emphasize the importance of mitigating global warming and reinstating America's role as a leader in that battle. This included appointing former Secretary of State Kerry to be the country's first Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, making him the administration's global face on the issue.

Biden also recommitted the US to the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change through which 196 countries agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

 


AlUla can become important aspect of local life, source of pride for Saudis, experts say

AlUla can become important aspect of local life, source of pride for Saudis, experts say
Updated 15 June 2021

AlUla can become important aspect of local life, source of pride for Saudis, experts say

AlUla can become important aspect of local life, source of pride for Saudis, experts say
  • AlUla is part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan to diversify its economy, increase tourism and raise its international profile

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s AlUla has the opportunity to become a crucial aspect of local and regional life and an area for all Saudis to take pride in, a panel discussing how the ancient valley can foster change heard.

“AlUla, in my opinion, has the opportunity to become one of the most important aspects of local and regional life, and also an area for all Saudis to feel so proud of,” President Emeritus of the Guggenheim Foundation Jennifer Stockman told the panel discussion, “At the crossroads: The living museum as a barometer of social change.”

“The change will dramatically happen when the world realizes that this is a brand-new discovery and fills in that white spot on the map. An interest in tourism will absolutely follow,” Stockman said.

AlUla is part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan to diversify its economy, increase tourism and raise its international profile.   

The city, in the Kingdom’s Madinah region, is home to 200,000 years of still largely unexplored human history, and plays a central role in its tourism strategy.

The panel discussed ways to ensure that the living museum fosters the changes that the Kingdom desires.

Director of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery Eike Schmidt agreed that there was an opportunity to discover the ancient city and its wonders that many people did not yet know about.

“If we look at AlUla, I think we have a huge opportunity here because it is still for many people . . . a relatively white spot on the map that needs to be filled,” Schmidt said.

The director praised the Kingdom’s dedicated efforts to make the cultural site a center of scholarship and to place the people of AlUla at the core of the city.

“I already know about this wonderful project to make it a center of scholarship and of the communication of arts, and not just of the time period but far beyond that. So I think I can only congratulate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to have undertaken this wonderful project and to bring it along,” Schmidt said. 

Scientific Director at the French Agency for AlUla Development (Afalula) Jean Francois Charnier was also keen for the world to learn about the “regional and international hub of influence” and place it back on the world’s map.

“This small city of AlUla was a door, a crossroad of cultural civilization around the world. We have to talk about that, we have to replace AlUla on the map of the world’s history,” Charnier said.

“The living museum is a wonderful gathering of exceptional assets. AlUla is already a living museum, an open-air living museum,” the scientific director said. “Currently more than 100 archaeologists are working on the site and it’s now the biggest archaeological cluster of the Middle East.”

Charnier detailed the scale of expertise involved in bringing alive the history of the cultural city. “There are not only archaeologists, there are anthropologists, biologists, archaeozoologists, archaeobotanists. We are here writing the narratives, writing the history of the place, and this narrative will also be the roots and the narrative of the assets and the museum.”

Director of EPFL Pavilions Professor Sarah Kenderdine highlighted the significance of the archaeological programs at AlUla and the Kingdoms Institute.

The Kingdoms Institute is dedicated to the study of the history and prehistory of the Arabian Peninsula and is committed to becoming a world-class scientific center for archaeological and conservation research.

“The archaeological programs at AlUla and the Kingdoms Institute are so important; already the archaeological surveys are vast and complex and they cover 22,000 square kilometers of archaeological materials, including the oldest dog in the world. Researchers have found this dog’s bones in the burial site and that’s one of the earliest monumental tombs identified in Arabia,” Kenderdine said. 

“Therefore, AlUla plays this really pivotal role in the development of humankind across the Middle East and a global team is working at the Kingdoms Institute to give us the bridge that allows us to walk into deep time. The essence of historical consciousness is not just remembering what we see of their past, but also what we see in the present, and this link with the present is so vital at AlUla and it’s embodied in this rich vision for the living museum,” she said.


Young winners of Saudi tech challenge receive awards from Makkah governor

Young winners of Saudi tech challenge receive awards from Makkah governor
Updated 15 June 2021

Young winners of Saudi tech challenge receive awards from Makkah governor

Young winners of Saudi tech challenge receive awards from Makkah governor
  • As part of the Makkah Region Projects Digital Exhibition, students were tasked with developing ideas for projects to support digital transformation in Kingdom and beyond

JEDDAH: Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, the governor of Makkah region, on Monday presented awards to six winners of the Makkah Days for Programming and Artificial Intelligence contest.

The two-day event, which began on Sunday, is one of the leading initiatives of the Makkah Cultural Forum’s current season. It brought together more than 90 male and female students in 30 teams from 11 universities and colleges in the region.

Saad Al-Qarni, CEO of the Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA) Academy, said that in recognition of the winners’ abilities, and in an effort to encourage and promote young talent, the authority will offer them support, training and jobs.

He added that the SDAIA is proud to be a strategic partner of a competition that aims to motivate young people to enhance their knowledge and make the most of their studies by developing innovative ideas for projects that can serve their country.

Under the theme of how to set an example in the digital world, the students were tasked with developing ideas for applications and programs to support digital transformation in the Kingdom and beyond in the fields of Hajj and Umrah, tourism, entertainment and other services.

The contest was part of the week-long Makkah Region Projects Digital Exhibition which opened on June 9 at the Jeddah Super Dome. To help them develop their ideas, the teams of students took part in panel discussions and seminars with experts covering a variety of topics.

For example, the session E-commerce: From Idea to Implementation looked at ways to introduce and enhance e-commerce, and increase its use as part of the shift toward virtual shopping.

Another session offered an introduction to the use of the Python programming language, which has become a popular option because it is considered easier to learn and use than many other languages.


Jeddah-based studio making online gaming educational for children

Jeddah-based studio making online gaming educational for children
The game targets children aged between five and 11 and consists of four levels lasting 15 to 20 minutes each. Players can still play, interact with characters, and complete tasks after the game is over. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 15 June 2021

Jeddah-based studio making online gaming educational for children

Jeddah-based studio making online gaming educational for children
  • Hakawati offers alternatives inspired by Arab culture, history, and language

JEDDAH: Many parents worry over their children’s screen time and gaming habits, and debates over the damaging effects of video and online games on mental health, behavior and cognitive functioning have become a staple of social conversations.

The Jeddah-based game development studio Hakawati was set up to offer alternative educational games for Arab children inspired by their culture, history, and language, while also encouraging them to raise their aspirations.
“We cannot prevent children from playing games. Parents can no longer do that,” Hakawati founder Abdullah Ba Mashmos told Arab News. “So, offering a good alternative is the best solution.”
Ba Mashmos said that keeping children busy with games also offers parents time to relax. Trying to wean off children from playing games on their devices is impossible and tiresome.
As children’s experience with the world becomes increasingly virtual, the potential harm posed by violence in online games is a major concern for Ba Mashmos and his team.
“We oppose any manifestations of violence in games,” he said. “Entertainment does not need to be violent.”
Hundreds of media reports, posts, and videos calling on parents to pay attention to their children’s online gaming activities are circulating almost daily among parents across the region.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Through stories narrated in Arabic within the game, Hakawati is bridging the scientific heritage of Arabic culture with the present.

• The interactive storytelling game takes players on a series of adventures in a safe environment.

• Hakawati is encouraging children to explore their identity and learn new things about themselves and their culture.

These warning messages invariably spike after a tragic story related to popular video games finds its way to the media.
One of the latest stories to go viral concerned a 12-year-old Egyptian boy who died from a heart attack while playing an online game known as PUBG for hours without rest.
However, many parents worry constantly about their children spending too much time playing games on screens.

We oppose any manifestations of violence in games.

Abdullah Ba Mashmos, Hakawati founder

Screen time is often seen as harmfully addictive, triggering concerns about children’s physical and social health, as well as youth suicide, family violence, and bullying.
With experience in teaching game development and programming, Ba Mashmos said that he has seen how easily online games can normalize aggressive language among children.
Hakawati Game, the fledgling studio’s first offering, is expected to be released by the end of 2021. However, a demo version is available for free.
The interactive storytelling game takes players on a series of adventures in a safe and culturally inspired environment alongside original Arabic-speaking characters.
Ba Mashmos said that the studio aims to educate, strengthen values and spark curiosity in the young by helping them develop their creativity, strategic thinking, problem-solving, and research skills.
“In this game, we focus on values, Arabic language, and science,” he said, “We want to promote science among children.”

The talented team behind the idea, which aims to offer a safe alternative to violent online games.

Through stories narrated in Arabic within the game, Hakawati is bridging the scientific heritage of Arabic culture with the present by introducing influential Arab scientists from history, enhancing the player’s interaction with the Arabic language through the characters, their names, and their sophisticated backstories.
Ba Mashmos said that scientists used to be portrayed in films and cartoons as obsessive, introverted nerds who lacked social skills.
Hakawati wants to promote a more realistic and inspirational view of science among children. “We want them to understand that well-educated people are the ones who can do great things,” he said.
The game targets children aged between five and 11 and consists of four levels lasting 15 to 20 minutes each. Players can still play, interact with characters, and complete tasks after the game is over.
By creating an original game that matches children’s reality, Hakawati is encouraging children to explore their identity and learn new things about themselves and their culture.
“We are a community of scientists, ambitious and smart people, and we want to erase all kinds of negative stereotypes,” Ba Mashmos said.
The game also promotes diversity and inclusivity.
“Diversity was another major focus when developing our characters. We brought characters from different backgrounds and races with a special focus on the Arab region,” he said. “We also made sure to represent disabilities.”
Hakawati (@HakawatiAR) is believed to be the only studio in the Kingdom focused on developing games solely for children.  
Although game development is still in its infancy in Saudi Arabia, Ba Mashmos believes that his young and diverse team of different nationalities and backgrounds will help the studio prosper.
Hakawati’s developers, software engineers, designers, and artificial intelligence specialists are all based in Saudi Arabia, he said.
The studio relies mainly on and invests in Saudi-based talents, whether in building their team or allowing young members of the Saudi development, design, and animation community to take part in their work when needed.
Hakawati’s biggest goal is to be a Middle East pioneer in game development for children and also expand its audience around the world.
“Our biggest challenge is time — games and development take a lot of our time. At the same time challenges are also increasing quickly.”
Hakawati took part in MITEF Saudi Arabia this year, a program organized by MIT Enterprise Forum in collaboration with Bab Rizq Jameel, and was were among 15 semifinalists out of over 500 startup applicants.
The studio also among finalists competing at the TAQADAM Startup Accelerator staged by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.