Saudi Arabia calls for greater tolerance as crimes against Muslims soar

Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN. (UN)
Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN. (UN)
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Updated 18 March 2021

Saudi Arabia calls for greater tolerance as crimes against Muslims soar

Saudi Arabia calls for greater tolerance as crimes against Muslims soar
  • ‘Social media, hate speech and disinformation’ are making it harder to tackle Islamophobia, envoy tells high-level meeting
  • UN report found anti-Muslim hate has reached “epidemic proportions;” trend is fueled by media and some leaders, says Guterres

NEW YORK: “Islamophobia is unfortunately pervasive everywhere,” Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, told a high-level international meeting on Wednesday.
It was organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to mark the first International Day to Combat Islamophobia. In response to an increase in attacks and other hate crimes targeting Muslims worldwide, the organization adopted a resolution in November last year calling for March 15 to be observed as a day to highlight and address the issue.
Fifty-seven countries, with a total population of 1.8 billion people, are members of the OIC. They include some, in West Africa and South America in particular, that are not Muslim-majority nations.
“Social media, hate speech and disinformation campaigns have made Islamophobia harder to address and eradicate,” said Al-Mouallimi, who stressed that any threat to the freedoms of one community based on the faith of its members is a threat to the religious freedoms of all.
Not only does the media perpetuate Muslim stereotypes through a “disproportionate” focus on the actions of individuals “perceived to be Muslims,” he said, it also plays an active role in spreading hatred. He called on the international community to come together to address this threat.
Speaking on behalf of Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the Kingdom’s foreign minister, Al-Mouallimi cited the words of the “Charter of Makkah,” which affirms that “religions and philosophies are exonerated from the sins committed by their adherents and claimants,” and that “true understanding of Islam requires an objective view that is devoid of stereotypical and prejudicial notions.”
The charter, adopted in the Holy City by the Muslim World League in May 2019, is a pan-Islamic set of principles that aim to counter extremism, advocate religious and cultural diversity, and support legislation against hate and violence. It was presented by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, approved by the Islamic leaders of 139 countries, and signed by more than 1,200 prominent Muslims.
Al-Mouallimi also raised concerns about an increase in individual attacks against Muslims, and reminded those at the meeting that “personal behaviors should not be attributed to any religion or nationality. We underscore that the dissemination of hate speech jeopardizes the peace of society and serves the agenda of individual extremists to nourish their notion of hatred.”
The Saudi envoy called for an end to all “disproportionate measures” that target Muslims, and activities that stir up “religious intolerance, discrimination and violence.”
He reiterated the principles enshrined in the establishment of the International Day to Combat Islamophobia: a recognition of the growing threat from rising intolerance and sectarian violence; the importance of breaking perceived links that connect terrorism with any particular religion; and the need to raise awareness of acts of violence based on religion and condemn them.
Al-Mouallimi also welcomed a recent report by the UN Human Rights Council that concluded “suspicion, discrimination, and outright hatred” toward Muslims has risen to “epidemic proportions.”
It highlighted the disproportionate restrictions placed on Muslims manifesting or practicing their faith, limits on their access to citizenship, the socioeconomic exclusions they face, and the pervasive stigmatization of Muslim communities. These forms of discrimination, in the private and public spheres, “often make it difficult for a Muslim to be a Muslim,” the UN’s special rapporteur said in the report.
Muslims are frequently targeted based on visible characteristics of their faith, according to the report, such as their names, skin color and religious attire, including headscarves. The study also highlighted “the triple levels of discrimination” that Muslim women face because of their “gender, ethnicity and faith.”
The report — titled Countering Islamophobia/Anti-Muslim Hatred to Eliminate Discrimination and Intolerance Based on Religion or Belief — also examines “how Islamophobia perpetuates a vicious circle whereby state policy validates private Islamophobic attitudes and actions, and the prevalence of such attitudes can propel state policies that penalize Muslims; with stark consequences for the enjoyment of human rights, including freedom of religion or belief.”
It concludes that “cumulatively, in some contexts, such actions may amount to the level of coercion as prohibited under international law.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the meeting: “Unfortunately, far too often stereotypes are further compounded by elements of the media and some in positions of power.
“Anti-Muslim bigotry is sadly in line with other distressing trends we are seeing globally: a resurgence in ethno-nationalism, neo-Nazism, stigma and hate speech targeting vulnerable populations including Muslims, Jews, some minority Christian communities, as well as others.”
Although acts of intolerance might not always be recorded in official statistics, they “degrade people’s dignity and our common humanity,” Guterres said.
“Discrimination diminishes us all,” he added. “As the Holy Qur’an reminds us: nations and tribes were created to know one another.”
Calling for social cohesion and an end to bigotry, the UN chief said that fighting discrimination, racism and xenophobia is a priority for the organization.
Other guests at the meeting included President of the UN General Assembly Volkan Bozkir, OIC Secretary-General Yousef Al-Othaimeen, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations Miguel Angel Moratinos, and the foreign ministers of Iran, Turkey and Pakistan.


First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques

First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques
Updated 15 sec ago

First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques

First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques
  • Worshippers return to holy cities as restrictions eased

MAKKAH: After more than a year and a half, Muslims worldwide were delighted to see Friday prayers at the Two Holy mosques return to full capacity.

Considered the two holiest sites in Islam, painful images of the mosques devoid of worshippers due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020 affected Muslims everywhere, but particularly citizens of Makkah and Madinah.

“It’s a blessing, to walk in the mosque’s pathways and you’re surrounded by people again,” said Abdullah Mahdi, a private-sector worker and longtime resident of the holy city. “Though masked still, it doesn’t really matter, the place is alive with movement and worshippers again.

“It’s truly a sight to behold and to see the Grand Mosque’s courtyard around the Kaaba filled with people on the first Friday after the easing of the restrictions is a sign that it’ll be alright, God-willing.”

Last Saturday, the Ministry of Interior announced the easing of restrictions across the Kingdom, including those affecting the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, which are returning to full operations and capacity.

Deputy Secretary-General for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque Dr. Saad bin Mohammed Al-Muhaimid told Arab News that the Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques had used all of their human and mechanical resources to implement the plan to return to full capacity.

FASTFACTS

• Last Saturday, the Ministry of Interior announced the easing of restrictions across the Kingdom, including those affecting the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, which are returning to full operations and capacity.

• Those working at the Two Holy Mosques had been asked to abide by and enforce the directives issued by the authorities concerned with fighting the coronavirus pandemic to ensure everyone’s safety.

“They did so through an integrated plan of capabilities and services that were harnessed to preserve the safety of the Grand Mosque’s visitors and facilitate the performance of their rites in a spiritual, safe and reassuring atmosphere,” he said.

“Based on the directives of the president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, Sheikh Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, we have accelerated the pace of work and raised the level of readiness in an effort to provide the Grand Mosque’s visitors with better services and means of comfort.

“We have also doubled our efforts since we started implementing the plan to return to full capacity while achieving the highest-quality standards.”

The deputy secretary-general said that those working at the Two Holy Mosques had been asked to abide by and enforce the directives issued by the authorities concerned with fighting the coronavirus pandemic to ensure everyone’s safety.

The ministry and authorities stressed the importance of visitors adhering to the directives included in the Interior Ministry’s statement by wearing face masks at all times inside the Grand Mosque and booking their Umrah and prayer appointments through the official applications (Eatmarna and Tawakkalna).


Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change

Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change
Updated 9 min 10 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change

Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change
  • Mangrove forests are vital for climate change, as highly productive and biodiversity-rich inter-tidal forests sequester carbon faster than terrestrial forests

JEDDAH: Plans to establish Saudi Arabia’s first national mangrove park are underway to enhance the Kingdom’s efforts in environmental protection and tourism development through vast green spaces.

The plans were announced by the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture. They are part of the ministry’s initiative to add more green spaces and national parks in the country, which currently has 27 national parks.

Mangroves are mainly found off the south-western waters in the Jizan region. They help to protect marine habitats, seagrass, coral reefs, and more from harmful runoffs from passing boats and human waste. 

They are known to residents of the Farasan Islands and Jizan as shura trees, and the area is frequented by residents and visitors all year round.

To further protect mangrove forests, the ministry planted more than 875,000 mangrove trees in the southern regions of the Red Sea coast. 

The first is in a location dubbed Bahar1 and is near the cultural village south of Jizan city where 440,000 trees were planted. There were 435,000 mangrove trees planted in Bahar2 in the town of Al-Sawarmah.

Greenhouse gases drive climate change. 

Mangrove forests are vital for climate change, as highly productive and biodiversity-rich inter-tidal forests sequester carbon faster than terrestrial forests. The more CO2 the mangroves capture, the faster the greenhouse gases are removed from the atmosphere. The distinctive ecosystems also protect shores and can help prevent direct damage in case of storms.

More than a quarter of the world’s mangroves have been lost over the past decade due to artificial intrusions.

The Saudi Green Initiative starts on Oct. 23-24 and aims to assert the country’s work to achieve change domestically and regionally regarding climate change, to build a better future, and improve the quality of life. The country has made significant efforts to protect the environment and mitigate the effects of climate change. Reducing carbon emissions is crucial to slow the impact of climate change and restore environmental balance. 

Ten billion trees will be planted throughout the Kingdom to transform the desert into green land and rehabilitate 40 million hectares of land in the upcoming decades.


Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion

Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion
Updated 25 min 1 sec ago

Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion

Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion

Diriyah Gate Development Authority’s talented tour guides are working hard at the Saudi Pavilion during Expo 2020 Dubai to share the history of Diriyah, the birthplace of the Kingdom, the land of kings and heroes where it all began.

The DGDA is proud that seven of the guides from its talented team are currently in Dubai to support the Saudi Pavilion, help drive the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, and represent the spirit of Saudi youth.

The pavilion reflects the Kingdom’s past, present and shared future. It soars five stories high, covering an area the equivalent of two football fields, making it the second-largest at the event after the UAE pavilion.

Thanks to its dazzling design features that beam multicolored bursts of light over the surrounding areas, including 8,000 LED floor lights and the world’s largest digital mirror screen, visitors will enjoy a different experience each time they stop by. It is a design that honors four main themes: the Saudi people, the nation’s heritage, opportunity and nature.

The DGDA tour guides will be working in the pavilion for the duration of Expo 2020 Dubai, sharing with visitors the amazing history and culture of the Kingdom, and Diriyah in particular. Their duties include leading public tours of the entire pavilion, guiding school tours, looking after VIP guests and groups, and training the temporary staff and interns working at the pavilion.

Their extensive training in Diriyah has prepared them well for their participation in Expo 2020 Dubai, and their involvement is a unique recognition of their talent, knowledge and passion.

Rahaf Alharbi, one of DGDA’s rising stars and a passionate tour guide at the Saudi Pavilion, said: “It is a great honor for me to be here at Expo 2020 Dubai to represent Saudi Arabia and to tell the world about Diriyah’s rich history. I am looking forward to the whole world learning about the birthplace of the Kingdom, with its unique history and culture. I am proud to be part of this team and truly enjoy the new experiences we can make here.”

The DGDA is leading the transformation of Diriyah into Saudi Arabia’s foremost historical, cultural and lifestyle destination. The authority was established in July 2017 to preserve Diriyah’s history, celebrate its community, and develop the historic UNESCO World Heritage site of At-Turaif into one of the world’s greatest gathering places, at the heart of Saudi Arabian culture and heritage.

The protection and preservation of Saudi history and culture, including the stories of the nation’s forefathers and its physical heritage, is a key pillar of the work of the DGDA. It is running an extensive program to train specialist tour guides to share the rich history of the birthplace of Saudi Arabia. This training can last months or even years, during which trainees are taught about the Kingdom’s history, archaeology and hospitality.


Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command

Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command
Updated 29 min 16 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command

Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command

RIYADH: Air Chief Marshal Fayyadh bin Hamed Al Ruwaili, chief of the general staff of the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces, received Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of US Central Command, and the accompanying US delegation at King Salman Air Base.

During the meeting they discussed aspects of cooperation between the two countries, especially in the defense sector, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

They reviewed the importance of strengthening military cooperation and also discussed issues of common interest with regards to regional security and stability.

The meeting was also attended by a number of senior officers from both sides.


New era of afforestation takes flight in Saudi Arabia

New era of afforestation takes flight in Saudi Arabia
Updated 54 min 47 sec ago

New era of afforestation takes flight in Saudi Arabia

New era of afforestation takes flight in Saudi Arabia
  • Campaign to use drones for seed distribution over an area of 2 million square meters launched

RIYADH: Birds have always been a significant factor in the lifecycle of plants through their ability to transport seeds to new locations by unintentionally carrying them on their wings or claws.  

Today marks the beginning of a new era of afforestation as the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Natural Reserve in Saudi Arabia launched a new seed distribution project that will utilize drones instead of relying on birds. It is in line with the Kingdom’s Green Initiative announced earlier this year by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The campaign aims to meet the initiative’s goals and confirms that Saudi Arabia is serious about enriching the country’s natural environment.

“The afforestation campaign will use drones to spread seasonal seeds over an area of 2 million square meters, creating a qualitative leap in the path of afforestation used in the Kingdom,” the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Natural Reserve told Arab News in a statement on Friday. 

According to the reserve, the drones will distribute the seeds in substantial amounts over areas where rainwater accumulates to ensure that the seeds are watered naturally, seasonally, and annually.  

The reserve is working to keep up with the latest international technologies and innovations linked to irrigation and seed disposal processes while working to adopt factors that serve the environment and guarantee sustainability in plant cultivation and afforestation techniques.  

According to the reserve’s statement: “The use of drones, characterized by the presence of high-resolution cameras, contributes to monitoring the health of the plants and providing quick treatments to preserve them in case they are exposed to health risks. 

“It will also follow up on the health of the soil and the conditions of agricultural areas. The utilization of artificial intelligence techniques will, additionally, serve to study and analyze seasonal patterns of plants through the use of unique algorithms and software.”

HIGHLIGHT

Today marks the beginning of a new era of afforestation as the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Natural Reserve in Saudi Arabia launched a new seed distribution project that will utilize drones instead of relying on birds. It is in line with the Kingdom’s Green Initiative announced earlier this year by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Representatives from the local community, along with government agencies and volunteers also attended the launch, Eng. Mohammed Al Shaalan, the CEO of the Royal Natural Reserve, said.

“Today, the Kingdom is leading a global movement towards protecting the environment, promoting sustainability, and launching continuous initiatives towards afforestation and the establishment of a green environment,” Al Shaalan said.

“We will strive to keep up with this goal publicized by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and are working hard to defy the obstacle of time by applying the best standards and techniques in developing the reserve and assisting the environment.”

Manzer H. Siddiqui, an associate professor at the botany department at King Saud University, also praised the campaign. 

“This is a much-appreciated campaign towards afforestation and green initiative for environment protection,” he told Arab News.

Siddiqui said the citizens’ participation in preserving the environment is one of the most successful ways to reach green sustainability. 

The Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Natural Reserve, previously known as the Al Taysiyah Natural Reserve, was founded in 2018 by a royal order to provide an organized and systemic approach to preserving and maintaining the area.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the “Saudi Green” and the “Middle East Green” initiatives in April to help protect nature and overcome environmental challenges.

These Initiatives aim to chart a path for Saudi Arabia and the region in protecting the planet by clearly defining an ambitious road map that rallies the region and significantly contributes to achieving global targets in confronting climate change.

The Kingdom will work through the Saudi Green Initiative to raise vegetation cover, reduce carbon emissions, preserve marine life, while also combating pollution and land degradation. The ambitious initiative includes the planting of 10 billion trees within the Kingdom in the upcoming decades.

The Saudi Green Initiative also aims to reduce carbon emissions by more than 4 percent of global contributions through a renewable energy program that will generate 50 percent of the Kingdom’s energy from renewables by 2030.