Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims

Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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Arab Strategy Forum session in Dubai on Monday chaired by Faisal J. Abbas and featuring Ed Husain, center, and Omar Saif Ghobash, right. (AN)
Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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Mohammad Al-Gergawi, President of the Arab Strategy Forum, gives his opening remarks. (WAM)
Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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Above, Sean Cleary of FutureWorld Foundation. (WAM)
Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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Nick Allan of Contol Risks, above, said the US and China are competing in the next decade in both technology, economy and hopefully not military. (AN)
Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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From left: Faisal Abbas, Editor-in-Chief of Arab News, Ed Husain, co-founder of UK’s counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam, and Omar Ghobash, Assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy. (AN)
Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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Ed Husain, a co-founder of UK’s counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam, stresses a point during a panel at Arab Strategy Forum. (WAM)
Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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Omar Ghobash, Assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy. (WAM)
Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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Above, Dr. Vikram Mansharamani, Harvard lecturer and author of “Boombustology: Spotting Financial Bubbles Before They Burst” at Arab Strategy Forum. (AN)
Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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From left: Zeina Soufan of Dubai TV, Alain Bejjani of the International Advisory Board of the Atlantic Council, Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Hamidy of the Arab Monetary Fund, Dr. Abdulmonem Said of The Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies, and international oil economist Dr. Mamdouh Salameh. (AN)
Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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From left: Becky Anderson of CNN, Karim Sadjadpour, Chief Iran Expert and Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Dr. Elena Suponina, Advisor at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, Dr. Abdulaziz Bin Sager, Founder and Chairman of the Gulf Research Center, and Huseyin Bagci, Deputy Director of Foreign Policy Institute in Ankara. (WAM)
Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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From left: Emad El Din Adeeb, Dr. Marwan Muasher, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Jordan, and Fouad Siniora, former Prime Minister of Lebanon. (AN)
Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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From left: Former US vice president Dick Cheney, Sean Cleary, and former foreign minister of China Li Zhaoxing. (AN)
Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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From left: Former US vice president Dick Cheney, former foreign minister of China Li Zhaoxing, and the Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. (WAM)
Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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From left: Mohammad Al-Gergawi, President of the Arab Strategy Forum, and the Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. (WAM)
Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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Huseyin Bagci, Professor and Chair of International Relations Department at M.E.T.U and Deputy Director of Foreign Policy Institute in Ankara (WAM)
Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
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Above, attendees at the Arab Strategy Forum in Dubai. (WAM)
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Updated 10 December 2019

Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims

Arab Strategy Forum: Saudi reforms positive for 1.8 billion Muslims
  • Author Ed Husain says Kingdom's reforms are not just about Saudi Arabia but the whole Islamic world
  • UAE Minister Omar Saif Ghobash says Arab states would be better off if they separated economic problems from religious ones

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia came in for high praise at the Arab Strategy Forum, an annual event in Dubai attended by prominent scholars, diplomats, strategists and media professionals with the aim to forecast the events and trends for the next 10 years.

Taking part in a panel discussion on Monday with the theme “Future of Islamism in the Next Decade,” Ed Husain, a co-founder of UK’s counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam, drew attention to the ongoing reforms in the Kingdom.

Describing the changes as positive yet “unanticipated,” he praised the Kingdom’s efforts.

“These reforms are not just about Saudi Arabia, they affect the whole region: 1.8 billion Muslims look in that direction several times a day,” he said.

“We are looking to the future of Saudi Arabia as it affects all Muslims around the world,” he said, adding that with these changes, “Muslims and the rest of the world are better for it.”

Since the announcement of the Vision 2030 reform plans in 2016, Saudi Arabia has witnessed steady progress in women’s empowerment.

The most prominent examples are the lifting of the driving ban on women and the removal of a guardianship system that now enables Saudi women to travel or obtain a passport without male consent.

Other advances include the enactment of an anti-harassment law and changes to laws regarding custody and alimony. Women have been allowed to enter new fields such as aviation, state security, economy, entrepreneurship, tourism and entertainment.

Besides praising Saudi Arabia, Husain described the UAE as a country with “an almost ideal model,” where people are “privately pious and realise it is the state and not the mosque that is responsible for solving your social and economic issues.”




Ed Husain, center, co-founder of UK’s counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam, discusses a point during the panel ‘Future of Islamism in the Next Decade.’ (AN)

In his comments on “mosque and state,” Omar Saif Ghobash, assistant minister for cultural affairs at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said there is a need to redefine what it means to be a Muslim Arab today.

Ghobash, who served as UAE’s ambassador to France and Russia and is the author of “Letters to a Young Muslim,” said the definition is needed because it is no longer exceptional in the region to be creative, progressive and economically driven.

If one looks at history, the religious class carried a great deal of authority in how cities operated, he  said. But with advances in knowledge and the creation of various specializations, “the clerical class” can no longer claim to have the ability to answer all questions that may fall under topics such as transport policies, logistics and demographic challenges.

According to Ghobash, “the new generation fortunately does not have a deep understanding of their own history, and maybe that’s a way for them to be more positive of the future — unburdened by their forefather’s baggage.”

The findings of a poll developed by Arab News as part of an ongoing collaboration with the ASF, “Mosque and state: How Arabs see the next 10 years,” were revealed during the panel discussion.

Moderating the session, Faisal J. Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News, cited YouGov poll data suggesting that the Arab world remains religious despite reforms and changes in different fields.

The survey suggests that 51 percent of Arabs are in favor of places of worship for other religions but fear a secular state model.

Husain ascribed the stigma connected with secularism in the region to the absence of a native, authentic and relevant definition that Arabs could identity with.

Under the circumstance, “the failure to articulate a strong Arab identity will create a vacuum for extreme Islamism,” said Husain, whose 2007 book “The Islamist: Why I Joined Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw Inside and Why I Left” has been described as “as much a memoir of personal struggle and inner growth as it is a report on a new type of extremism.”

Criticizing political parties and organizations with an extremist agenda, he asked: “What has Hamas done for Gaza? What has Hezbollah done for Lebanon? What has the Muslim Brotherhood done for the Egyptians? The uprisings led to instability.”

He suggested “progress” as the best model for Arab states to adopt, pointing out that a desire to overthrow the government — as seen in the Arab Spring revolts since 2011— does not result in a “utopian” system.

“We are still suffering from the revolutions since 2011 but what we have seen is a strong response to them ... and that the overthrowing of a governments didn’t work, doesn’t work and will not work.”

Echoing Husain’s views, Ghobash said the sheer scale of social and economic problems across the Arab world is a result of power being used to drive an extremist agenda.

In his view, Arab states would be better off it they correctly identified and separated economic problems from religious ones.


Expo shines light on Arabic script, calligraphy in Riyadh

Expo shines light on Arabic script, calligraphy in Riyadh
The exhibition will be divided into five sections: Origins of the Arabic script, development of calligraphy, master calligraphers, calligraphy and contemporary art, and calligraphy, artificial intelligence. (AN photos/Basheer Saleh)
Updated 16 June 2021

Expo shines light on Arabic script, calligraphy in Riyadh

Expo shines light on Arabic script, calligraphy in Riyadh
  • Event devoted to the art form opens on Wednesday at the National Museum of Riyadh

RIYADH: Artists have been sharing their thoughts about the “mesmerizing and elegant” beauty and spirituality of Arabic calligraphy, and the importance of the art form, ahead of the opening on Wednesday of an exhibition in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi conceptual artist Othman Al-Khuzaim believes that global interest in the art of Arabic calligraphy has grown in recent years, and this can be attributed to increased awareness of its beauty.
“The general interest of people in calligraphy has led them to show appreciation for Arabic calligraphy, with all its mesmerizing and elegant shapes and forms,” he said.
“Arabic calligraphy stands witness to beauty, which is depicted by Arabic calligraphists on walls inside the Two Holy Mosques to add more spirituality to the holy places.”
Describing Arabic calligraphy as one of the most prominent forms of visual art, Al-Khuzaim said he often recommends it to people and encourages them to enjoy and appreciate it even if they cannot read the language or understand the meaning of the words.
Script and Calligraphy: A Timeless Journey, which opens on Wednesday at the National Museum of Riyadh and runs until Aug. 21, is a good place for newcomers to the art form to start, or for those who are already familiar with it to learn more about its history, from its origins right up the present day.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Organized by the Culture Ministry, the exhibition runs until Aug. 21.

• The 1,500-square-meter exhibition highlights the development of the Arabic script from its very beginnings.

• It includes one of the oldest surviving pages of the Holy Qur’an, dating back to the second century AH/8th century AD.

Organized by the Ministry of Culture to showcase the history of Arabic calligraphy, the 1,500-square-meter exhibition highlights the development of the Arabic script from its very beginnings, along with the relationship between calligraphy, contemporary art and artificial intelligence (AI).
This exceptional journey through history features input from Saudi and international master calligraphers, contemporary artists and designers. It begins with the advent of written communication on the Arabian Peninsula nearly 1,700 years ago and traces the development of scripts engraved on stone and included in linear paintings, manuscripts and other objects across the Islamic world.
The exhibition brings the story right up to date by considering the most modern applications of Arabic calligraphy, for example in fashion, design and even AI. Alongside the classic artworks on display, visitors will find an AI machine, developed by Egyptian artist and designer Haytham Nawar, that allows them to produce a new pictographic language on a video screen.
At the other end of the timeline of Arabic calligraphy, the exhibition includes one of the oldest surviving pages of the Holy Qur’an, dating back to the second century AH/8th century AD. There is also a selection of Qur’an manuscripts, including the renowned Blue Qur’an and Mushaf Al-Madinah, and a specially designed manuscript presented by Obvious, a collective of French AI researchers and artists.

Such events are important because they enhance the communication between professional Arab calligraphists and enthusiasts.
Abdelrahman El-Shahed Calligrapher

Abdelrahman El-Shahed, a calligrapher and contemporary artist involved in the exhibition, said such events are important because they enhance the communication between professional Arab calligraphists and enthusiasts, who view the preservation of the art form as an important way to show pride in their religion and nations. They also help bring calligraphists together to continue to develop an ancient art, he added.
“We are glad that the Mohammed bin Salman Global Center for Arabic Calligraphy has been launched,” said El-Shahed. “It will definitely help in promoting and preserving Arabic calligraphy around the world, and giving it the appreciation it deserves.”
Saudi authorities announced in April last year that the Dar Al-Qalam Center in Madinah would be developed to become a global platform for calligraphers from all over the world and was renamed in honor of the crown prince. Arabic calligraphy in the region also receives great support from the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, who last year launched the Year of Arabic Calligraphy initiative to raise awareness and interest in the art form.


Red Sea Film Festival announces $10 million fund to support Arab, African cinema

Red Sea Film Festival announces $10 million fund to support Arab, African cinema
Saudi nationals will be able to apply to the Red Sea Fund to support short films. (Supplied)
Updated 49 min 51 sec ago

Red Sea Film Festival announces $10 million fund to support Arab, African cinema

Red Sea Film Festival announces $10 million fund to support Arab, African cinema
  • The Red Sea Souk project market will take place from Nov. 12-15 at the RSFF as projects will compete for the Red Sea Development and Production Awards in the amount of $25,000 and $100,000

JEDDAH: The Red Sea Film Festival Foundation has announced its SR37.5 million ($10 million) fund, which will support projects with directors from the Arab World and Africa, launching a new generation of filmmakers and supporting established auteurs as they bring their work from script to screen.
The Red Sea Fund will back more than 100 projects in its first year, creating a game-changing boost for filmmakers by supporting fiction, documentary, and animation feature films, as well as episodic content.
Additionally, Saudi nationals will be able to apply to the Red Sea Fund to support short films in development and production.
“Helping African and Arab cinema grow — that is a very exciting responsibility,” said Edouard Waintrop, the artistic director of the Red Sea International Film Festival (RSFF).
“That is what the Red Sea Fund will do at every stage of the making of the chosen movies and episodic content. In providing more than 100 grants of up to $10 million to help the development, production, and post-production of movies across the Arab World and Africa, the Red Sea Fund will help cinema that is in full metamorphosis.”
The Red Sea Fund is part of the foundation’s commitment to the regional screen sector, which also includes launching the inaugural RSFF from Nov. 11-20 in Al-Balad, Jeddah’s historic downtown.
The festival will see the launch of the Red Sea Souk, its marketplace and industry hub for the region. Red Sea Souk will include a project market, with pitching sessions of more than 20 projects from the Arab World and Africa, as well as a films-in-progress workshop.
All projects that apply to the Red Sea Fund will automatically be eligible for the Red Sea Souk.
The Red Sea Souk project market will take place from Nov. 12-15 at the RSFF as projects will compete for the Red Sea Development and Production Awards in the amount of $25,000 and $100,000.

FASTFACTS

• Fund will back more than 100 projects in its first year as grants will be awarded for development, production, and post-production.

• Inaugural Red Sea Film Festival will be held Nov. 11-20 in Al-Balad, Jeddah’s historic downtown.

The Red Sea Souk films-in-progress workshop will be held Nov. 12-15 at the RSFF as each selected project will compete for the Red Sea Post-Production Awards worth $30,000.
“Over the past two decades, we have seen the Arab and African film industry grow and flourish,” RSFF Managing Director Shivani Pandya said.
“The fund and the Red Sea Souk will provide more tools to support the Arab and African film business to make even more of an impact on the international marketplace with the launch of its project market and films in-progress workshop this November.”
The Red Sea Souk will also include panels, networking events, workshops, and booths connecting the international film community to the exciting new Saudi market.
Applications are welcome from around the world to support projects by African or Arab directors, as the Red Sea Fund is open through July 21.
The Red Sea Fund will be split across three main categories. The first is development, which aims to support bold and creative directors in developing live-action, emerging media, and animation projects from treatments to production-ready screenplays and concepts. The Fund will develop projects from Arab, African and Saudi directors that have a director and producer attached.

The second category is Red Sea Fund – Production, which targets projects going into production and is aimed at supporting any aspect of the shoot. Open to viable projects at the production stage, with a script, committed director and producer attached, as well as potential cast and confirmed timeline. The team can be emerging or established, but with proven experience in filmmaking.

The last category is Red Sea Fund – Post-Production, which supports all aspects of post-production on feature-length projects. Once a rough cut is ready, these grants will support filmmakers to complete their films and get them ready for distribution and exhibition. The team can be emerging or established, but with proven experience in filmmaking.


Al-Qasabi stresses joint media strategy to fight pandemic

Al-Qasabi stresses joint media strategy to fight pandemic
Acting Minister of Media Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi. (SPA)
Updated 16 June 2021

Al-Qasabi stresses joint media strategy to fight pandemic

Al-Qasabi stresses joint media strategy to fight pandemic
  • Al-Qasabi: The continuation of the pandemic and the emergence of new variants requires us to increase precautionary measures to prevent outbreaks

JEDDAH: Arab countries should work together to address the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic through a new joint media strategy, acting Minister of Media Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi has said.
The strategy should also include executive projects in the Arab world to raise awareness about coronavirus vaccines and refute false information about the pandemic, he added.
His comments came during a speech at the 13th session of the Executive Office of the Council of Arab Information Ministers, where he proposed the formation of a group under the supervision of the Media and Communication Sector of the Arab League General Secretariat.
Al-Qasabi said: “The continuation of the pandemic and the emergence of new variants requires us to increase precautionary measures to prevent outbreaks.
“From this point of view came the Kingdom’s decision to limit pilgrimage this year to a limited number of residents in the Kingdom to ensure that the virus does not spread, and to ensure the health and safety of pilgrims.”

HIGHLIGHTS

Saudi Arabia recorded 1,269 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday.

With 16 new virus-related fatalities, the death toll has risen to 7,606.

He added that the Kingdom had submitted a working paper that includes the proposed objectives of the strategy, as well as its main tracks and topics.
Meanwhile, the Saudi Health Ministry repeated its warning to expatriates and citizens to avoid public gatherings, which have led to recent spikes in coronavirus cases.
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday reported 16 new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the death toll to 7,606.
There were 1,269 new coronavirus cases, meaning that 468,175 people in the Kingdom have now contracted the disease. A total of 10,314 cases remain active, of which 1,569 are in critical condition.
The ministry said that 1,014 patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 450,255.
As the Kingdom continues its vaccine rollout campaign, 16,050,143 people in the Kingdom have so far received a coronavirus vaccination.


Saudi Arabia, China discuss ways to boost trade ties

Saudi Arabia, China discuss ways to boost trade ties
Saudi-Chinese Business Council met virtually to discuss ways to boost bilateral trade. (SPA)
Updated 16 June 2021

Saudi Arabia, China discuss ways to boost trade ties

Saudi Arabia, China discuss ways to boost trade ties
  • The Chinese investment in Saudi Arabia totaled $39.9 billion between 2005 and 2021

RIYADH: The Saudi-Chinese Business Council on Tuesday met online to discuss ways to boost bilateral trade.
Mohammed Al-Ajlan, chairman of the Saudi side of the council, said the Kingdom has implemented several reforms to facilitate foreign investors.
He called on his Chinese counterparts to explore the great opportunities that the Kingdom has to offer in different economic sectors.
Lin Yi, vice president of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, said Saudi Arabia is the most important partner for China in the Middle East and Beijing gives Riyadh priority in its foreign investment plans.
Saad Al-Kridis, vice chairman of the council, said the trade volume between the two countries has witnessed a surge. The Chinese investment in Saudi Arabia totaled $39.9 billion between 2005 and 2021.

 


Nigeria seeks to bolster cooperation with Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition

Nigeria seeks to bolster cooperation with Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition
Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Yahaya Lawal received by IMCTC Secretary-General Maj. Gen. Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Moghedi in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 16 June 2021

Nigeria seeks to bolster cooperation with Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition

Nigeria seeks to bolster cooperation with Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition
  • The IMCTC chief said the coalition aims to enhance cooperation and coordination among member states

RIYADH: Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Yahaya Lawal visited the headquarters of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) in Riyadh on Tuesday.
IMCTC Secretary-General Maj. Gen. Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Moghedi received the top diplomat and the accompanying delegation.
The Nigerian ambassador and Al-Moghedi discussed ways to enhance cooperation to combat terrorism in all its forms.
Al-Moghedi briefed the visiting dignitaries about the coalition’s goals, achievements and the initiatives it has taken to fight terrorism in different forms.
He said the coalition represents an integrated system of intellectual and media initiatives and also aims to fight terror financing to effectively root out this menace. The IMCTC chief said the coalition aims to enhance cooperation and coordination among member states.