European-Islamic media forum calls for clampdown on hate speech in Western press

Maha Mustafa Akeel, the information department director of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, speaks at the first Islamic-European forum in Brussels. SPA
Updated 30 June 2018

European-Islamic media forum calls for clampdown on hate speech in Western press

  • The OIC is in the process of establishing a global press award for journalists who contribute to the promotion of inter-cultural dialogue and tolerance
  • The OIC has adopted many resolutions that call for clear and tangible measures to address Islamophobia and counter-terrorism resulting from it

JEDDAH: The first Islamic-European forum for examining ways of cooperation to curb hate speech in the media began on Friday at the Press Club Brussels Europe, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

During the opening session, the head of the Council of Journalists Union in Brussels, Peter Knappen, spoke about the importance of press freedom and stressed that it should be used responsibly and follow ethical and professional values.
Director of the information department of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Maha Mustafa Aqeel explained that the forum is part of the OIC’s media strategy to counter Islamophobia.
“Our strategy focuses on interacting with the media, academics, and experts on various relevant topics, in addition to engaging with western governments to raise awareness, support the efforts of Muslim civil society bodies in the West, and engage the latter in developing plans and programs to counter Islamophobia,” she said.
Aqeel said that, since 2005, the OIC has adopted many resolutions that call for clear and tangible measures to address Islamophobia and counter-terrorism resulting from it. These efforts have included establishing the Islamophobia Observatory, which issues an annual report on countering Islamophobia.
She also pointed out that the OIC has made efforts to engage the media, western governments, civil society and regional and international organizations such as the European Union and UNESCO in order to fight Islamophobia.
Aqeel explained that the OIC established a ministerial Contact Group of European Muslims in 2016 to communicate more closely and regularly with officials and communities in Europe, in addition to establishing a correspondence center to respond to the arguments and fatwas of extremist groups.
“The OIC is in the process of establishing a global press award for journalists who contribute to the promotion of inter-cultural dialogue and tolerance,” she added.
Aqeel said that the two-day forum would explore ways to establish cooperation between media professionals from OIC member states and the European Union to help curb hate speech, stereotyping and fake news, “all of which negatively impact society and provoke intolerance.”
The forum’s sessions discussed press freedom from legal and religious perspectives, and introduced attendees to the contents of the OIC Media Strategy to Counter Islamophobia and ISESCO’s Program for Training Media Professionals on Redressing Stereotypes about Islam and Muslims.


Saudi rural tourism recovers after months of forced isolation

Updated 11 July 2020

Saudi rural tourism recovers after months of forced isolation

  • Saudis turn to domestic traveling and flock to their nation’s cooler cities and rural areas

TAIF: As Saudi citizens turn to domestic tourism in the country’s summer resorts, adapting to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, rural areas have become targeted by local tourists wishing to get away from the soaring temperatures in most of the Kingdom’s cities.

Visitors are now choosing cold Saudi cities instead of Europe, which they are accustomed to visiting, such as Taif, Al-Baha, and Abha.

COVID-19 has postponed all plans to travel abroad, and attention has now focused on domestic tourism amid strict health protocols in parks, gardens and recreational areas.

Walid Al-Hamidi, vice president of the Tourism Development Council, confirmed to Arab News that Asir, with its facilities and attractions, was ready to receive summer visitors from across the country.

He said that under the directives of Asir's governor, who supervises all activities and events directly and constantly, many committees had been formed to prepare a successful summer tourism season, to optimize the opportunity and allow people to enjoy the exceptional ambiance of Asir.

“A comprehensive tourism plan was set up two years ago, which resulted in a successful Al-Soudah Season with the support of Asir’s Investment Authority,” Al-Hamidi added.

He noted that Asir’s directives aimed this year to build an exceptional tourism model that meets optimal health standards in dealing with COVID-19.

The model is supported by the “Nashama Asir” team — consisting of 4,000 volunteers — who have been trained for months and have all the necessary skills to make the season successful. Their work will continue until the end of the pandemic and throughout the summer.

“Everyone is ready at public facilities, gardens and parks, to serve tourists,” he said, adding “tourists coming from all the over the Kingdom will be welcomed with smiles, enhanced services, and warm welcomes.”

Dr. Sami Al-Obaidi, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Taif, told Arab News that the tourism sector was the economic backbone of any country or city.

He said that Taif was considered one of the most important tourist cities, given its many attractions  that made it top of any list of places to visit in the Kingdom.

“Suspending travel abroad, and limiting tourism … due to the coronavirus pandemic, makes us, as officials and citizens in Taif, well placed for a beautiful and safe tourism season for Taif’s citizens and visitors,” said Al-Obaidi.

“Meetings are held around the clock, headed by Saad Al-Maimouni, the governor of Taif, with the participation of the relevant authorities.”

He expected all sectors, especially tourism, hospitality and a few other businesses in Taif, to recover to some extent during this season, especially now tourists have already started flocking to the region, with numbers set to increase over the coming weeks.