OIC chief demands international law to criminalize Islamophobia

From left to right: Yousef Al-Dhobei, Dr. Al-Othaimeen, Dr. Saud Kateb and Tariq Bakhit. (Supplied)
Updated 22 November 2019

OIC chief demands international law to criminalize Islamophobia

  • “There are laws against anti-Semitism and racism. So, we request a law against mocking religions.,” says Al-Othaimeen

JEDDAH: Muslim leaders on Thursday demanded the introduction of an international law to criminalize all acts of Islamophobia.

Announcing plans for the celebration of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) 50th anniversary in Jeddah on Monday, its secretary-general called for a global crackdown on individuals or groups responsible for “insulting religions or prophets.”

Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen told Arab News: “There are laws against anti-Semitism and racism. So, we request a law against mocking religions.”

In a report released by the OIC, he said that modernization and the Internet revolution had turned the world into a “global village” where religions and cultures should coexist, and races and nations must live side by side as neighbors.

“Islamophobia is a sentiment of excessive fear against Islam that is transformed into acts of intolerance and discriminations against Muslims and even violent crimes against people with Islamic attires.”

A press conference held at the Jeddah headquarters of the OIC, to reveal the organization’s anniversary plans, was attended by Al-Othaimeen along with the  Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ deputy minister for public diplomacy, Dr. Saud Kateb, assistant secretary-general for humanitarian, social and cultural affairs, Tariq Ali Bakhit, and the assistant secretary-general for political affairs, Yousef Al-Dhobei.

Al-Othaimeen said the OIC had witnessed a remarkable expansion since it was founded half a century ago, working in many areas including backing for the Palestinian cause and the international fight against terrorism and extremism.

He pointed out that the organization had established the “Voice of Wisdom,” an electronic platform to combat hate speech on social media.

A host of foreign ministers of OIC member states are expected to attend the anniversary celebrations to be staged under the slogan, “United for Peace and Development.” The gathering will include an accompanying festival and symposium reviewing the most important political, economic and cultural issues currently being worked on by the organization, and a number of prominent Islamic figures will also be honored during the event.

Kateb highlighted the goals of the OIC, especially the Palestinian cause and spreading the culture of unity and solidarity among the Islamic community, and he praised the Kingdom’s efforts to support the achievement of its objectives.

On Islamophobia, Al-Othaimeen said that the behaviors of some Muslims who did not truly represent Islam, had brought prejudice to the surface.

“Islamic moderation centers and entities concerned with fighting extremism are reflecting the true image of Islam. When a successful Muslim physician, businessperson or engineer is found anywhere in the world, this person does not only represent himself but Islam in general. These are the good role models we are honored to introduce to the world,” he added.

“The decisions that the OIC works on implementing are basically decided upon by the presidents and leaders of the Muslim world who meet every three years. When they meet and issue a number of declarations, it is then the role of the OIC to put these decisions into effect whether they are cultural, humane, developmental or political.”

The secretary-general added that the real power of the OIC was in the shape of “moral authority.” He noted the “effective spiritual power” of King Salman hosting Muslim leaders in Makkah during the final days of the recent month of Ramadan.

“Any organization would definitely perish if it felt satisfied with what it had achieved. We, in the OIC, are looking forward to achieving more and more.”

Al-Othaimeen pointed out that the OIC regarded the issues of Muslim minorities, extremism and fighting terrorism as key areas for its focus.

“Also, we are highly concerned about the human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims, who were ethnically cleansed and displaced from their country.

“These issues are of great importance, to be worked on in collaboration not only with governments, but also with people and non-profit organizations, to prove to everyone that Islam is the voice of mercy, moderation and coexistence with Muslims and non-Muslims,” he added.


Saudi streamers seek gaming glory during COVID-19 crisis

Twitch’s top channels during April included Saudi Arabia’s ixxYjYxxi, which recorded 210,257 views in 44 hours of streaming during the month. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 2 min 6 sec ago

Saudi streamers seek gaming glory during COVID-19 crisis

  • Saudi streamers in particular have also enjoyed great success on Twitch

RIYADH: As the Arab world emerges from lockdown, the data obtained from the period of forced confinement shows what the region’s gaming community has been up to, most notably on one streaming website that has gamers in the region “doing the Twitch.”
The coronavirus lockdown in the Middle East sparked a significant increase in the platform’s Arabic-language content, with Arabic streams more than doubling during March and April.
Twitch allows users to broadcast their gameplay live to fans around the world, and the website announced a total of 62,582 active streams as countries across the region followed strict social distancing rules.
Saudi streamers in particular have also enjoyed great success on Twitch. The platform’s top channels during April included Saudi Arabia’s ixxYjYxxi, which recorded 210,257 views in 44 hours of streaming during the month, and RakanooLive, with more than 561,000 hours of watch time.
Whether it is for attention, to show off their skills or even as a way to make money, Saudi streamers spoke to Arab News about why they choose to broadcast their gameplay, and why viewers find it appealing.
Fahad Alshiha, a member of Saudi gaming news website TrueGaming, also streams on an independent Twitch channel where he has garnered over 16,000 views.
He has been streaming for over 5 years as a way to share his gaming skills while being able to interact with his viewers.
“Streaming is popular because viewers find it entertaining,” he told Arab News. “It’s like watching a famous TV show, where people tune in to see the new episode. It’s popular with the streamers themselves because they get attention, and sometimes even money. But I think the majority are doing it to just have fun.”
Erum Alnafjan, a financial collector, said that she enjoyed watching streamers for a variety of reasons, playing games she was familiar with and games she was not.
“Some games I wouldn’t play myself, but I’m interested enough to see what they’re about,” she told Arab News. “Some streamers make it entertaining. And sometimes I watch games I’ve already played just to see how they would go about it.”
Ahmad   Suliman, a  senior   manager and a “father of three gamers,” enjoyed watching streams, but had specific criteria regarding what sort of streams he would or would not watch.

It’s like watching a famous TV show, where people tune in to see the new episode.

Fahd Alshiha

“The only two values I watch streams for are the funny reactions, such as rage or trash talking, or information about the gaming world and industry. If they don’t engage me in the first 10 to 15 minutes, it’ll be a hard pass,” he told Arab News.
However, the surge in streamer popularity is unlikely to remain sustainable, as people begin to move forward post-lockdown and many beginner streamers realize that streaming is not quite for them.
Fajr Bantan, a former gaming streamer, said that he stopped streaming partly due to real-life reasons and also because it was not what he thought it would be.
“To be honest, I thought it was just about gaming and showing my skills, but it appears it is more than that,” he told Arab News. “You have to engage with your audience and entertain them, whether it’s by chatting, doing their challenges, responding to their requests, and so on.”
It is undeniable that Arabic-language streams have made a mark on the Twitch ecosystem, and official statistics from Twitch back that up. According to Twitch, the number of streams in Arabic increased by 95.3 percent in March — compared to numbers from the previous year using a year-over-year analysis — and 109.9 percent in April.
The figures also pinpoint the surge’s hotspots as the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
The MENA region has the world’s most active gaming community and, at 25 percent year-on-year growth, the fastest growing online gaming population in the world.
A recent white paper from internet company Tencent, creators of one of the region’s most popular mobile games PUBG Mobile, the MENA gaming market will be worth some $6 billion by 2021, up from $4.8 billion in 2019.
But, as the demand for Arabic content on Twitch grows, Arab streamers hope that the platform will be just as willing to accommodate their feedback as they did their language.
Alshiha said there was a huge Arabic Twitch community, but Twitch needed to work on meeting their needs in order to keep them engaged, such as easing some of the restrictions on their Twitch Partner program, which allows streamers to monetize their content, among other benefits.
“They need to relax some of their criteria in order to make their ‘partner’ program more accessible. We would also love if Twitch opened dedicated servers in the region to accommodate the influx of streamers,” he said.