Controversial columnist Abdel Bari Atwan defies UK government ban, expresses sympathy for Hamas

Atwan, who is originally Palestinian and came to UK on asylum, said he doesn’t care if his sympathy led him to jail and appeared to making hidden threats to the British government. (Screenshot)
Atwan, who is originally Palestinian and came to UK on asylum, said he doesn’t care if his sympathy led him to jail and appeared to making hidden threats to the British government. (Screenshot)
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Updated 20 November 2021

Controversial columnist Abdel Bari Atwan defies UK government ban, expresses sympathy for Hamas

Atwan, who is originally Palestinian and came to UK on asylum, said he doesn’t care if his sympathy led him to jail and appeared to making hidden threats to the British government. (Screenshot)
  • Once a UK asylum seeker, now Atwan blames Britain for plight of Palestinians, justifies terror acts

LONDON: Defiant British columnist Abdel Bari Atwan appeared blatantly in contempt of a new British ruling which designated Hamas as an outlawed Palestinian terror group. 

Atwan, who is originally Palestinian and came to UK on asylum, said he doesn’t care if his sympathy led him to jail and appeared to making hidden threats to the British government.

“You are fueling our misery, you are fueling our anger. Shame on you, as Brits you created the Palestinian crisis, the Palestinian cause. You are the ones who expelled us from our land. You are the one who issued the Balfour Declaration,” Atwan said in his video response to the law.

“Welcome to terrorism,” he added.

The law was passed yesterday by Home Secretary Priti Patel who said “Hamas has significant terrorist capability, including access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry, as well as terrorist training facilities.”

The organisation would be banned under the Terrorism Act and anyone expressing support for Hamas, flying its flag or arranging meetings for the organisation would be in breach of the law, the interior ministry confirmed. Patel is expected to present the change to parliament next week.

“I swear I wrote my will, I swear I am ready for this and know I am going to end up in prison,” the British-Palestinian editor wrote.

Known for his editorship of the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper, Atwan is now owner and publisher of the Rai Al Yawm website, which mainly revolves around his own controversial views regularly shared on YouTube. 

A long time resident of London, he is well known within Arab media circles. Having made his name working for the leading, moderate Saudi-owned Asharq Al Awsat before leaving to work at Al Quds. He is a regular commentator on Arab affairs on several British television and radio programs, and is often a guest on both main English language and Arabic services of BBC. 

While it is true that he is respected and idolized by some, Atwan’s views also made him many critics — particularly when comparing what he says in English versus what he argues in Arabic. 

Indeed, many observers criticized what they called the “Abdel Bari Atwan Syndrome” in the post 9/11 era. This was to indicate that he used to make anti-Al-Qaeda statements in English language media, but refer to the late terrorist leader Osama bin Laden as a “Sheikh” and a a resistance fighter during his repeated appearances on channels such as Al Jazeera Arabic. 

He once told Egypt’s ONtv TV channel in 2013 that bin Laden was “half a terrorist,” since his organization’s attacks against US forces in Saudi Arabia could not be considered terrorism.

“If you support the Palestinian resistance, you do not consider [Bin Laden’s attacks] terrorism. But if you are with America, Europe, and Israel, you do consider it terrorism,” Atwan said, adding that “It depends on your definition of terrorism.”

On another occasion Atwan said on Lebanese TV that if Iran attacked Israel he would “go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight.”

More recently Atwan told Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated news channel Al-Mayadeen that “They [Israel] know very well that what happened in Kabul Airport will repeat itself at Ben Gurion Airport,” before adding that they “should listen to the advice of [Hezbollah Secretary General] Hassan Nasrallah and start learning how to swim, because their only option will be Cyprus, their only option will be the Mediterranean Sea.”

Atwan wasn’t immediately available to comment, however, one former colleague of his at Asharq Al Awsat said “it was always a shame to see such a rare editorial talent being wasted in voicing support to terror groups.” 

“There is nothing wrong with calling for resisting occupation or the liberation of occupied Palestinian lands, but to endorse a designated terror group that deliberately fires missiles at innocent women and children is neither resistance nor journalism. Someone of his fine calibre should know better,” the former colleague concluded.


Protect role of ethics in AI future, UAE minister tells Davos

Protect role of ethics in AI future, UAE minister tells Davos
Updated 25 May 2022

Protect role of ethics in AI future, UAE minister tells Davos

Protect role of ethics in AI future, UAE minister tells Davos
  • As a leading country in artificial intelligence, the UAE is working on integrating AI in all sectors of the economy and society

LONDON: The future of the artificial intelligence sector could be threatened by ignorance in decision-making processes, the UAE minister for AI, digital economy and remote work applications has said.

Speaking at a panel session titled “Responsible AI for Societal Gains” at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, Omar Sultan Al-Olama said: “We (in the UAE) have signed a strategic agreement with the University of Oxford to send government officials, CTOs and directors to school for an eight-month course to understand what the ethics of AI are, understand good uses of AI and the value of AI.”

He added: “People who are going to be pressing the button on whether to deploy AI or not are people who usually have no idea what ethics mean, what the repercussions are and what the long term implications of these technologies are.”

The session was moderated by Kriss Deiglmeier, chief social impact officer at Splunk.

As a leading country in artificial intelligence, the UAE is working on integrating AI in all sectors of the economy and society.

Al-Olama gave the example of the UAE’s successful vaccine rollout to show how the proper use of AI could produce positive results.

He said that in order to develop AI solutions to problems and improve quality of life, technology should be deployed more often in government “to tailor the government service and make it more proactive rather than reactive.”

Al-Olama stressed the need to form an incentive alignment between all governments to solve problems. “Let’s align the incentives. If we do that, we’re going to have people looking at actual AI solutions that change the world for everyone.”

The panel also featured global AI experts, including Stuart Russell, professor of computer science in UC Berkeley; Joanna Shields, CEO of BenevolentAI; and Vilas Dhar, president and trustee of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation.


WEF panel discusses what the metaverse is and how it can be regulated

WEF panel discusses what the metaverse is and how it can be regulated
Updated 25 May 2022

WEF panel discusses what the metaverse is and how it can be regulated

WEF panel discusses what the metaverse is and how it can be regulated
  • Three-dimensional, borderless world holds as many opportunities as challenges, Davos forum hears
  • For Meta’s chief product officer Chris Cox, the metaverse is the “next chapter, the next evolution of the internet except it’s the part where it gets less flat”

DAVOS: The metaverse is the new buzzword, but what is it?

Experts at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos convened in a panel titled “Shaping a Shared Future: Making the Metaverse” to discuss what the metaverse is, how to build it and, most importantly, how to regulate it.

For Meta’s chief product officer Chris Cox, the metaverse is the “next chapter, the next evolution of the internet except it’s the part where it gets less flat.” It is a way of describing the internet’s transition into a three-dimensional environment, he said.

On the other hand, “For me, the metaverse was this idea of a place that was somehow simulated on computers that were connected by the internet,” said Philip Rosedale co-founder of High Fidelity and founder of Second Life, a metaverse that allows people to create avatars of themselves and lead a “second life” in the virtual world.

Much of the metaverse’s perception seems to be centered around virtual reality. But, truly, the metaverse is “a seamless integration of your digital and physical worlds,” said Peggy Johnson, CEO of Magic Leap.

That sentiment was echoed by Omar Sultan Al-Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, Office of the Prime Minister of the UAE.

“We can (now) imagine a new paradigm between the virtual and the physical, which is augmented reality and create a bridge that we could never have imagined in the past,” he said.

The metaverse’s ambition to be a borderless, unifying space for people around the world makes it particularly challenging to regulate, given that every country has its own rules.

“There are different types of risks that we need to pay attention to,” said Al-Olama.

Some of the risks relate to financial transactions or scams that exist between the physical and virtual worlds, while others are more extreme, such as violence in the metaverse, which can be even more terrifying than violent content that currently exists in the digital space.

Al-Olama added that there needs to be a nongovernmental body, such as the UN, that sets standards.

Cox agreed, saying: “We’re already managing, as are most internet companies, the reality that you want companies to have their own community standards, but (we) also recognize that that exists in tension with national laws and in some cases, as we’re beginning to see, state laws.”

With most things in life, be it work or university, people receive some sort of orientation. However, that has never been the case with the internet, Al-Olama said.

“There needs to be a way for us to orient people” on how to use the internet, and this should be part of a child’s basic education in every school in the world, he said.

“Certain business models made sense for the internet and social media. For the metaverse, we need to actually take them to the next level.”


MBC Group, BitOasis partner to launch crypto education across MENA

MBC Group, BitOasis partner to launch crypto education across MENA
Updated 25 May 2022

MBC Group, BitOasis partner to launch crypto education across MENA

MBC Group, BitOasis partner to launch crypto education across MENA
  • UAE-based BitOasis has become the region’s largest crypto trading platform, recording over $4 billion in trading volume to date
  • As part of the partnership, BitOasis will launch region-wide crypto education initiatives that will be featured across MBC Group’s portfolio of TV channels and digital platforms

DUBAI: MBC Group has signed a strategic partnership with crypto-asset trading platform and virtual asset service provider BitOasis to drive customer awareness and adoption.

“We’re witnessing the fast speed at which our region is embracing and adopting the blockchain and Web 3 technologies. Seeing as how cryptocurrencies are essential to this ecosystem, we see this partnership as a natural progression as we usher in this new era,” said Fadel Zahreddine, group director of emerging media at MBC Group.

UAE-based BitOasis has become the region’s largest crypto trading platform, recording over $4 billion in trading volume to date. As part of the partnership, BitOasis will launch region-wide crypto education initiatives that will be featured across MBC Group’s portfolio of TV channels and digital platforms.

The MENAT region’s cryptocurrency market grew by 1500 percent between July 2020 and June 2021, according to The Chainalysis 2021 Geography of Cryptocurrency Report. 

“In countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, crypto assets are steadily going mainstream due to early adoption by tech-savvy Millennial and Gen Z retail investors, but a massive majority across the region still do not have a good understanding of this emerging asset class,” explained Ola Doudin, CEO and co-founder of BitOasis.

For example, 18 percent of Saudi residents are currently trading in crypto while 21 percent in the UAE intend to invest in it in the next year, according to a YouGov survey.

Doudin said that the company has an “obligation” to address the gap by ramping up efforts “to ensure consumers are aware and educated about investing in crypto across our region whilst offering the simplest and most accessible way to invest.”

“Our goal is to bridge the crypto knowledge gap, and our partnership with MBC will help us realize this goal,” said Srinu Chowhan, vice president of marketing and growth at BitOasis.

He added: “BitOasis’s crypto awareness initiatives will help demystify blockchain and crypto assets, and MBC’s media platforms will play a key role in ensuring this educational content reaches across the region.”  


TikTok partners with INJAZ for its Future Jobs Initiative

TikTok partners with INJAZ for its Future Jobs Initiative
Updated 25 May 2022

TikTok partners with INJAZ for its Future Jobs Initiative

TikTok partners with INJAZ for its Future Jobs Initiative
  • Program aims to prepare young people for jobs in emerging industries

DUBAI: TikTok has partnered with INJAZ, the non-profit organization for education and training in workforce readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship across the Arab world.

The partnership, which was launched today, aims to raise awareness of the Future Jobs Initiative program. The collaboration will see TikTok leverage its community to empower the region’s youth by preparing them for future jobs in the fields of artificial intelligence, product development, green economy, and people and culture, among others.

“At TikTok, we aim to help communities thrive and inspire the new generation of entrepreneurs and changemakers to be active and pursue their dreams,” said Talal Al-Fayez, head of public policy, TikTok, Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

“Through our partnership with INJAZ, we are able to do so in a tangible way by bringing more awareness to the jobs of the future, encouraging youth to explore these growing and lucrative fields,” he added.

The short-form video platform has brought together experts from companies such as Microsoft, McKinsey and MetLife to create a series of informative and easily digestible videos that will be available on TikTok.

These experts will share their personal journeys and insights, aiming to inspire young people to pursue future jobs that are currently growing in demand.

Fifty-one percent of MENA youth feel that they lack the work experience necessary to find employment. Yet, by 2040, an estimated 127 million young Arabs are expected to join the MENA workforce, according to a recent study conducted in collaboration with Oliver Wyman, said Akef Al-Aqrabawi, president and CEO, INJAZ Al-Arab.

The non-profit is “committed to enabling the next generation of entrepreneurs,” and the partnership with TikTok will enable INJAZ “to connect directly with today’s youth, providing them with the knowledge needed to navigate their futures,” he added.


BBC News channel apologizes after calling Manchester United ‘rubbish’

BBC News channel apologizes after calling Manchester United ‘rubbish’
Updated 25 May 2022

BBC News channel apologizes after calling Manchester United ‘rubbish’

BBC News channel apologizes after calling Manchester United ‘rubbish’

DUBAI: The BBC has issued an apology after a message appeared on the news channel’s ticker that read “Manchester United are rubbish.”

The text appeared at the bottom of the screen during a tennis update on Tuesday morning. Later the same day, BBC News presenter Annita McVeigh apologized for the error.

“I hope that Manchester United fans weren’t offended by it,” McVeigh said. She explained that the error occurred because someone behind the scenes was learning how to use the ticker.

“They were just writing random things, not in earnest,” she added.

That does appear to be the case as the ticker also featured the text “Weather rain everywhere.”

The incident and the apology have gone viral on social media, with many users commenting on how the BBC only apologized to the fans and not to the club itself.