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

Sheikh Yusuf Estes says the wrong translation has possible repercussions and that those responsible have to be disciplined. (SPA)
Updated 19 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. 

HIGHLIGHT

The contractor and translator are being investigated for the inaccurate translation of the word ‘jamarat’ into ‘anthrax.’

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.


Attacks on oil facilities in Kingdom threaten world economy: Saudi energy minister

Updated 49 min 51 sec ago

Attacks on oil facilities in Kingdom threaten world economy: Saudi energy minister

  • Saudi Aramco says no staff have been injured in attacks
  • The oil giant is working on restoring the lost quantities

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said drones that attacked Saudi Aramco installations had caused an interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels in crude supplies and threaten the world economy.

The Arab Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said in a statement that investigations are ongoing to identify the perpetrators.

And Al-Maliki said Arab coalition forces would continue to implement necessary measures to deal with the terrorist threats.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said as a result of the terrorist acts, oil production in Abqaiq and Khurais was knocked out temporarily and that estimates show that 50 percent of the company’s production had been interrupted.

Part of the decrease will be compensated to clients through reserves, Prince Abdulaziz said in a statement carried on the Saudi Press Agency.

The newly appointed minister confirmed there were no injuries to staff at the locations targeted, adding that the company is still assessing the resulting damage.

The attacks not only target the Kingdom’s vital installations, but also target the international oil supply and threaten its security, he said, and are a threat to the world economy. 

The blasts took place at 3:31am and 3:42am at the two locations, both in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, causing fires that were brought under control by emergency services.

The drone attacks, at the world’s largest oil processing plant at Abqaiq and at an oilfield in Khurais, highlight the importance of the international community to protect energy supply against “all terrorist sides that carry out, support and finance such cowardly disruptive acts,” the statement said.

He said that these blasts also knocked out the production of 2bn cubic feet of associated gas daily, used to produce 700,000 barrels of natural gas liquids, which will lead to an approximate 50 percent decrease of Ethane and natural gas liquids supply.

The statement said the company is currently working on restoring the lost quantities, and will present updated information within the next 48 hours.

World leaders condemned the attacks on Saudi Arabia on Saturday and those behind the terrorist acts. 

Donald Trump called Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to reassert his country's “readiness to cooperate with the Kingdom, by all means conducive to maintain its security and stability.”

The Crown Prince "underscored the Kingdom’s willingness and strength to thwart such a terrorist aggression and deal with its consequences,” SPA reported on Saturday.

The UAE said it “condemns this act of terrorism and sabotage and considers it as a new evidence of the terrorist groups’ attempts to undermine the security and stability of the region as a whole.”

“The Houthis must stop undermining Saudi Arabia’s security by threatening civilian areas and commercial infrastructure,” said the British government.

“The US strongly condemns today’s drone attacks. These attacks against critical infrastructure endanger civilians, are unacceptable, and sooner or later will result in innocent lives being lost,” said the US envoy in Riyadh John Abizaid.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was emphatic about the need to condemn Iranian aggression, specifically on Saudi Arabia, and the need to ensure the security of world energy supplies.

“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy. Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen,” he tweeted, “We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks. The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression."

The Council of Ministers of Lebanon have also condemned the targeting of Saudi’s Aramco facilities.

The Houthis, who are backed by Iran, said they had carried out the attacks and that 10 drones had been used.