Why Saudi reforms are bad news for the world’s terrorists

Why Saudi reforms are bad news for the world’s terrorists
Illustration by Luis Grañena
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Updated 12 December 2019

Why Saudi reforms are bad news for the world’s terrorists

Why Saudi reforms are bad news for the world’s terrorists
  • Norman T. Roule, CEO of Pharos Strategic Consulting LLC, spoke to Arab News on the sidelines of SALT Conference in Abu Dhabi
  • Roule expressed confidence that terrorism, extremism and radicalism will decline as long as Saudi Arabia succeeds

DUBAI: Terrorism, extremism and radicalism will decline as long as Saudi Arabia’s drive toward reform succeeds. If it does not, the West will suffer.

Who says so? Norman T. Roule says so — and he should know.

A 34-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency, Roule is now one of the world’s most respected analysts of Middle East affairs.

“It’s in our interest (for the Kingdom to succeed) because of terrorism and extremism, but not just because of that,” he said.

“There are millions in the region, in the states of Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, who require assistance and a better life. This is something the region has to lead with Western support.

“It’s not America’s job to come over and rebuild these countries. It’s the region’s job, with American and international support, andthe Saudi and Emirati leadership, working with friends in Kuwait, for example, or Bahrain. This is the path forward.

“The consequences of not doing that would be terrible for the people who live in these countries, and who so desperately need a better future.”

Roule, chief executive of Pharos Strategic Consulting LLC, which focuses on the Arab Gulf states and Iran, thinks the significance of the changes he has witnessed in Saudi Arabia in the course of his many visits to the region cannot be overstated.

“I see the same strong hearts and good aspirations that I’ve seen for 35 years — the family environment within the Kingdom and the desire to have a better future,” he told Arab News on the sidelines of this week’s SALT conference in Abu Dhabi.

Saudi Arabia has a generation with access to social media, and an engagement with the world that makes all things possible.

“What’s different now is that you have such a large young population, and the population is eager to transform the country to make it more effective in a very new world,” he said.

“It’s the same new world Americans will be facing in the coming decades. It’s no different for a 30-year-old in Ohio than it is for a 30-year-old in Riyadh or Abha.”

Talking about the opportunities that he thinks young Saudis, especially women, sense in their home country, he said: “I find that not only very heart- ening, but it underscores my point: What we need most from the Middle East is not oil and not a market for weapons. We need its people’s ideas, friend- ship and assistance in developing new technologies, and there’s no reason we can’t build a better world together.”

He added: “When you talk to the people on the streets in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the region, you see this is possible. And our entrepreneurs, our academics and the growing tourist population who come to the Kingdom are all seeing this underway.”

He attributed these developments to the decisions taken by the Saudi leadership. Although the king and crown prince are the country’s decision-makers, Roule described the Cabinet they are assisted by as extraordinarily able.

“This is probably one of the finest, most experienced and best educated cabinets any country could aspire to,” he said.

“The Saudi people also have a generation (that has) access to social media, and an engagement with the world that makes all these things possible. Many components are making this work.”

During his latest visit to the Kingdom for the Formula E Championship, he attended the much-acclaimed Riyadh Season, where he came across the coffee shop Toqa, owned by a Saudi entrepreneur.

“This entrepreneur, who has relations with the West, has had discussions with American and European businessmen. She has a product to offer that’s enjoyable, it’s fascinating, and it shows Saudi culture,” Roule said.

“Because of Saudi Arabia’s special role in Islam, and because of its geographic position, they have a historic responsibility to lead the region in a new direction.” 

“It’s exactly the type of thing that symbolizes what Saudi Arabia can bring to the West: Culture, enjoyment, people and business.”

He said over the years, publicity regarding Saudi Arabia in the US has been dominated by the 9/11 attacks and the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Yet, Roule added, every American he knows who has been to the Kingdom recently has witnessed the many “unknown” parts that had not been opened (to the public) until recently.

These include the governorate of AlUla, one of Saudi Arabia’s archaeological gems that is home to Madain Saleh, the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage site.

“AlUla is an amazing place. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it, and the world should come to AlUla,” Roule said, adding that the governorate is a testament to the extraordinary work done by the Ministry of Culture.

Visitors “come away saying, ‘this is a lovely place that I wish I could come back to more often’,” he said.

“The potential for tourism and the potential to become a source of regional entertainment is vast.”

Looking at the bigger Middle East picture, Roule said Saudi Arabia and the UAE have a crucial role to play due to the size of their economies, and their interest and experience in working to improve regional stability.

“Because of Saudi Arabia’s special role in Islam, and because of its geographic position, they have a historic responsibility to lead the region in a new direction,” he added.

“I believe success in Saudi Arabia, by promoting a moderate Islam, can not only push back extremism but also improve dialogue between different civilizations of the world,” he said.

“I’ve met, on a number of occasions, with Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa of the Muslim World League. He’s an extraordinary man, and his vision of Islam and of interfaith dialogue is something that can not only transform the region, but also have an impact on global society.”

But will the West change its stance vis-a-vis the Kingdom in the near future? Roule is optimistic about business people and tourists, saying social media will propel some of this change, while governments move slowly.

On the subject of Yemen, Roule cited the Masam demining program to point out the billions of dollars that the Saudis, Emiratis and Kuwaitis have spent in that country, something that is “rarely seen or talked about” in the West.

“It tells a lot about the Saudi people and the Emiratis that they’re participating in this program as well as the Yemenis,” he said.

“But the international community should be behind the demining program, to rebuild Yemen once the conflict ends,” he added.

“So I encourage greater international partnership with the Kingdom and the UAE to solve the region’s problems, because it’s in the global interest to do so.”

A new era for the Middle East could be in the works due to such changes and transformations, Roule said.

“The speed with which it will achieve all of its goals is something I can’t predict, and I’m not sure anyone else can,” he added.

“But I do know that the intent of the Saudi and Emirati leaderships is honorable, and it’s something that benefits the international community. It will make the world safer, more prosperous and more interesting.”


Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese Kanji captures beauty of both worlds

Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese Kanji captures beauty of both worlds
Noha Raheem says when she was younger, she discovered the three famous Japanese written scripts — including Kanji, Katakana and Hiragana — and she was awestruck. (Supplied)
Updated 23 June 2021

Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese Kanji captures beauty of both worlds

Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese Kanji captures beauty of both worlds
  • My enthusiasm for Kanji script started six years ago, says Saudi designer and calligrapher Noha Raheem

JEDDAH: Saudi artist, designer and calligrapher Noha Raheem ventured into the world of calligraphy in an unconventional way, fusing her interest in Kanji — the logographic Chinese characters used in the Japanese writing system — with Arabic calligraphy.

The result has been a portfolio of unique and eye-catching works that capture the beauty of both worlds
“I’m fond of Arabic calligraphy and graphics in general. My enthusiasm for Kanji script started six years ago,” Raheem told Arab News.
“Any calligraphic font has its roles and system. When I was younger, I discovered the three famous Japanese written scripts — including Kanji, Katakana and Hiragana — and I was awestruck. The impressive vertical letters, the way they are formed and their meaningful symbols were like a secret code.”

FASTFACT

In Arabic calligraphy, writing proceeds from right to left and forms a horizontal line. Artists rarely confine themselves to convention, though.

In Arabic calligraphy, writing proceeds from right to left and forms a horizontal line. Artists rarely confine themselves to convention, though.
“For Kufic calligraphy and freestyle in Arabic, I was driven by passion. I was inspired by Hajji Noor Deen in my beginnings, and later on, I created Arabic calligraphy in the Kanji style to show the beauty and flexibility of this complex yet innovative mix,” Raheem said.


The self-taught calligrapher discovered the roles and philosophy behind the beauty of Kanji script. “It is said that the only rule for Japanese and Chinese calligraphy is that it is beautiful, no matter what is written. What matters is how it is written. That’s why I believe the Kanji style can be merged and fitted with our Arabic letters to create a masterpiece for both eye and mind,” she said.
She explained that Arabic letters are equally malleable. “They can be shaped in any way, and still keep their form and meaning. Today I wrote my letters in the Kanji style. Later, I might do it in Urdu just to show the world how flexible and beautiful Arabic letters are.”
Raheem’s artworks, including famous sayings and poetry in Arabic, are written freestyle — a tricky task.


She also writes Qur’anic verses in Kanji: “I love to write words that anyone can relate to, including poetry and short verses with iconic and universal messages. I can apply this art to any word, as long as it makes sense to me.”
Raheem is faithful to the cultures she draws inspiration from, using traditional Sumi ink and off-white, antique-style background colors with black script, or vice versa, to mirror the essence of the Japanese style.
She also uses Japanese calligraphy brushes, Xuan rice paper, and Kakejiku, a Japanese hanging scroll used to display and exhibit paintings and calligraphic inscriptions and designs.
Her love for and dedication to Japanese art drove her to share her knowledge and display her works at art cafes, galleries, and sushi restaurants in Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
She encourages other Arab artists to explore the beauty and flexibility of the Arabic language and preserve it through art. Raheem can be found at her Instagram account @noha_raheem.


Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia

Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia
Health authorities urged the public to continue to follow all precautionary measures. (SPA)
Updated 23 June 2021

Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia

Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia
  • Authorities urge compliance with health guidelines

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday recorded the highest single-day total of new COVID-19 cases since Aug. 13, 2020.
Authorities in the Kingdom reported an additional 1,479 infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 476,882. Of these, 11,131 remain active and 1,487 patients are in critical condition.
The Health Ministry also said there have been a further 12 virus-related deaths, raising the death toll in the country to 7,703.
Makkah region has the highest number of new infections, with 431, followed by the Eastern Province with 280 and Riyadh region with 256.
The ministry said that an additional 920 patients have recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 458,048. It added that about 16.8 million doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered, an average of 94,104 a day, which is a rate of 48.2 doses per hundred people.
Health authorities urged the public to continue to follow all precautionary measures and ministry guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. All ministries and other government bodies in the Kingdom are working together to ensure compliance with health guidelines.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Saudi Arabia reported 1,479 new cases on Tuesday.

• The Makkah region reported the highest number of infections.

• With 12 new fatalities, the death toll has risen to 7,703.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development carried out 448,126 inspections of commercial establishments in the private sector throughout the country in the first five months of this year. The aim is to ensure employers are following all rules and regulations relating to pandemic-related health protocols and to Saudization legislation. The teams recorded 45,421 violations and issued 51,005 warnings.
The ministry called on employers to adhere to its decisions and legislation relating to the labor market, improve the working environment and implement localization rules, as well as precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Unannounced inspections of the private sector institutions will continue throughout the Kingdom, it added


Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official

Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official
Saudi Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh held a meeting with UNESCO’s top official Stefania Giannini in Italy on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 23 June 2021

Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official

Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official
  • The UNESCO official said the Kingdom’s success in introducing distance learning in a short time has propelled it into a leadership role in this field

RIYADH: UNESCO’s assistant director general for education on Tuesday lauded Saudi Arabia for promptly switching over to online learning methods in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
During a meeting with Saudi Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh on the sidelines of the G20 education ministers’ meeting in Catania in Italy, Stefania Giannini said the Kingdom has achieved great success in e-learning and distance education during the pandemic.
She praised the swiftness of the Saudi authorities in switching over to online learning without compromising on the quality of education.
The UNESCO official said the Kingdom’s success in introducing distance learning in a short time has propelled it into a leadership role in this field. Giannini said the Madarasti online learning platform introduced by the Kingdom is among the top four global models.

FASTFACT

The Madarasti platform provides students with virtual classes, homework assignments, and delivery tools and is used in conjunction with the iEN YouTube channel and the iEN national education portal.

The fully interactive platform was developed as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down schools across the Kingdom. It is designed so that students can log in and attend their lessons digitally, interact with their teachers and track their progress.
It provides students with virtual classes, homework assignments, and delivery tools and is used in conjunction with the iEN YouTube channel and the iEN national education portal.
School leaders consistently monitor the educational process via Madrasati, prepare class schedules, communicate with absent students, and provide technical support for students and their parents.


Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks

Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks
Saudis will not be allowed to enter airports or board aircraft without showing their health status through the Tawakkalna app. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 23 June 2021

Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks

Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks
  • Countries are demanding travelers have travel insurance in order to lift the financial burden of medical bills in case of emergencies
  • A traveler is exposed to losses such as quarantine and treatment costs of COVID-19, cancellation of a flight or shortening its duration or missing flights, or loss of luggage or delay of luggage

RIYADH: With summer vacations underway and more countries easing restrictions on international travelers, health risks from COVID-19 remain a source of concern.
Citizens are being encouraged to follow health precautions before departure to ensure a safe trip, while health insurance is also an entry requirement for some countries.
Pre-flight tests are required and more countries are demanding travelers to their countries have travel insurance in order to lift the financial burden of medical bills in case of emergencies. Others require visitors to buy healthcare policies from their destination’s government.
For travelers under 18, health insurance that covers COVID-19 infection is mandatory. The 12 accredited health insurance service providers are following the guidelines.
In a joint press conference with the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation last month, Council of Cooperative Health Insurance (CCHI) spokesman Othman Al-Qasabi said that a new insurance policy in conjunction with the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) will include benefits that cover the risks of COVID-19 infection.
The policy is mandatory for those under 18 planning to travel.
Talal Albotty, regional director of the Central Region at Salama Insurance Co, told Arab News that the central bank initiative in collaboration with the CCHI aims to distribute risks and losses if these occur.
Comprehensive coverage is included for travelers on international flights against all risks related to travel outside Saudi Arabia, he said.
“A traveler is exposed to losses such as quarantine and treatment costs of COVID-19, cancellation of a flight or shortening its duration or missing flights, or loss of luggage or delay of luggage. The policy includes coverage of emergency medical expenses, personal accidents, or transportation of a deceased from or to Saudi Arabia and liability toward others as per the conditions and exceptions delineated in the unified insurance policy,” he said.
Albotty said the cost of an insurance policy does not exceed SR375 ($100) a month. However, if more services are added, these will be calculated proportionately as per the duration of the policy.

Saudis will not be allowed to enter airports or board aircraft without showing their health status through the Tawakkalna app. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)

The policy is for people vaccinated against COVID-19 and is required for anyone under 18 traveling outside Saudi Arabia since they are not required to take a vaccine under global protocols, he said.
Husain Quhal, a senior executive with a leading insurance company, told Arab News: “The Saudi Central Bank has launched a campaign to educate people on the importance of travel insurance covering COVID-19 risks as well as reducing costs of traveling abroad.”
Feroz Khan, vice president of sales in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for Webbeds, a leading accommodation supplier to the travel industry, told Arab News: “Resumption of flights in May, opening of borders, and relaxation in travel and quarantine protocols have all resulted in positive travel sentiments.”
Webbeds is in touch with its partner company in the Kingdom and will make this travel insurance available for travel agents to book online shortly, he said.
Saudis travelers will not be allowed to enter airports or board aircraft without showing their health status through the government-approved health app, Tawakkalna.
Travelers who have received two vaccine doses, those who have completed two weeks since receiving the first jab, those who are immune by recovery no more than six months since infection and children under the age of 18 who have travel insurance obtained in cooperation with the Saudi Central Bank will be the only groups allowed to cross international borders.


Saudi rights chief meets top Philippines official

Saudi rights chief meets top Philippines official
Saudi human rights chief meets top Philippines official in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 23 June 2021

Saudi rights chief meets top Philippines official

Saudi rights chief meets top Philippines official
  • Saudi Arabia hosts more than 800,000 Filipinos, the highest in any Gulf state, according to a 2020 government estimate

RIYADH: The president of Human Right Commission, Dr. Awwad Al-Awwad, held a meeting with Robert Eric Borje, chief of presidential protocol and presidential assistant on foreign affairs of the Philippines, in Riyadh on Tuesday.
They discussed ways to enhance cooperation in all field especially human rights.
Al-Awwad highlighted the Kingdom’s efforts in streamlining the local labor market and the steps Saudi Arabia has taken to ensure the safety of all in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Philippines and Saudi Arabia have agreed to increase cooperation on labor reforms and ensure the well-being of over 800,000 Filipino migrant workers in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia hosts more than 800,000 Filipinos, the highest in any Gulf state, according to a 2020 government estimate.