British Council official praises Hajj authorities on ‘wonderful’ pilgrimage

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Head of the British Council Amir Ramzan congratulated the organizers of the pilgrimage. (AN Photo/Seif Al-Mutairi)
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There have been more than 2 million people, many from overseas, take part in the pilgrimage. (AN Photo/Essam Al-Ghalib)
Updated 12 August 2019

British Council official praises Hajj authorities on ‘wonderful’ pilgrimage

  • Head of British Council in Saudi Arabia says Hajj was wonderful
  • Approximately 26,000 UK nationals have performed the Hajj pilgrimage this year

MAKKAH: The head of the British Council in Saudi Arabia praised Hajj authorities on the successful operation of the Islamic pilgrimage.

The Hajj authorities “have done a wonderful job” in providing services and facilities to over two million people to ensure the pilgrimage goes “smoothly,” Amir Ramzan said.

Ramzan, who was performing Hajj with his family, said he had an “amazing experience” during his pilgrimage this year as it gave him an opportunity to meet a variety of people from around the world from different backgrounds and cultures.

“There is such a nice atmosphere and spirit amongst all the pilgrims. Everyone is smiling, helping each other,” he said, adding that he liked seeing pilgrims give up their umbrellas to others when it rained in Arafat on Saturday.

For Ramzan, Hajj is an opportunity to refresh and renew spiritually.

“Hajj is a really important ritual for every Muslim at least to be performed once in their lifetime, so I am really pleased that I have had the opportunity to perform Hajj this year,” he said, adding that he was especially grateful for having performed it with his family.

Ramzan says that an average of 100,000 British Muslims a year travel to Makkah for Hajj and Umrah. This year, 26,000 UK pilgrims traveled to perform Hajj.

Ramzan explained that Saudi-British relations go beyond the pilgrimage.

Since the announcement of Vision 2030 by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in 2016, the UK has been working with Saudi Arabia on a number of projects, according to Ramzan.

Vision 2030 is a roadmap that aims to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil and diversify the economy by developing public service sectors such as education, recreation and tourism.

“It has been a very exciting time in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with Vision 2030, there has been a lot of fantastic change,” he said.

One of the projects include a collaboration with the Ministry of Education called “Khibrat” – meaning experiences in Arabic – to help Saudi teachers develop their skills.  

Ramzan said the UK was a popular destination for Saudi students to study.

“There are almost 10,000 Saudi students studying in the UK,” he said.

Aside from education, the British Council has been working with Saudi Arabia on cultural projects, including creating opportunities for Saudi artists to showcase their work in the UK.

This is so that people in the UK get the opportunity to learn more about Saudi Arabia, Ramzan said, adding it was “really important.”

Saudi Arabia's envoy to UK: We won’t allow Iran to meddle in region 

Updated 25 January 2020

Saudi Arabia's envoy to UK: We won’t allow Iran to meddle in region 

  • “You cannot give in to a country like Iran because they will see it as a sign of weakness,” Prince Khalid said
  • The ambassador encouraged people to visit his country before forming an opinion of it

LONDON: Riyadh does not seek conflict with Tehran but will not let “Iran’s meddling in the region” go unchecked, said the Saudi ambassador to Britain. 
“We do not seek conflict. We do not seek escalation. We have always been supporters of taking a firm stand against Iran. Our issue is not with the people of Iran, it is with the regime running the country,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan told the Daily Telegraph. 
“But we do not believe in appeasement. At no point in history has appeasement proved to be a successful strategy. You cannot give in to a country like Iran because they will see it as a sign of weakness.”
France, Germany and the UK, three of the signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), triggered a “dispute resolution mechanism” recently in response to Iran ramping up its nuclear program in violation of the deal.
Prince Khalid criticized the JCPOA because it does not address “all the other things that Iran” is doing in the region.
“Iran’s meddling in the region is as challenging as the nuclear program. This is why we were concerned with the nuclear deal,” he said.
The ambassador also touched on recent allegations that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in hacking the phone of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
“It is very easy for people to throw these unsubstantiated allegations against Saudi Arabia because they know that it is very difficult for Riyadh to defend itself when it does not have proper access to the details,” Prince Khalid said.
“We need to see the evidence before we make any response, because the evidence made public so far is circumstantial at best.”
Saudis do not always represent themselves well because they are “a reticent people and our culture does not push us to talking about ourselves,” he said. “We need to do a better job on showing the world who we really are.” 
The ambassador, who was appointed last year, encouraged people to visit his country before forming an opinion of it. 
“There are a lot of misconceptions about Saudi Arabia. We want people to come and see Saudi Arabia for themselves, and not rely on what they have read somewhere or heard somewhere to form their opinion of the country,” he said.
“There is plenty to see, and you will find a warm, generous and hospitable people there waiting to greet you.”