UK Muslim podcast to shine light on ‘unspoken’ mental health issues

Supporting Humanity will release an episode every month tackling different issues. (Shutterstock)
Supporting Humanity will release an episode every month tackling different issues. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 25 February 2022

UK Muslim podcast to shine light on ‘unspoken’ mental health issues

UK Muslim podcast to shine light on ‘unspoken’ mental health issues
  • It is hosted by three Muslim mothers who specialize in mental health and emotional support
  • The podcast will advise listeners on how to get help, and offer practical tips by combining mental health and spiritual advice

LONDON: A new podcast that aims to destigmatize the subject of mental health in the UK’s Muslim community will explore topics that are rarely talked about and often overlooked, its hosts say.
The podcast, launching this week, will be released by UK-based mental health and bereavement charity Supporting Humanity on the 25th of every month.
It is hosted by three Muslim mothers who specialize in mental health and emotional support.
“There’s plenty of podcasts out there, but I think there’s a lack of podcasts that are quite focused on the Muslim community, and in particular, focusing on things that are not really spoken about,” Tahreem Noor, a host and head of operations and communications at Supporting Humanity, told Arab News.
The podcast, entitled the “Unspoken Truths about Mental Health,” will feature a range of guests, including people who have experienced mental health issues, as well as emotional support volunteers, imams, counselors and therapists.
The hosts and guests will advise listeners on how to get help, and offer practical tips by combining mental health and spiritual advice.
Noor, 37, said that a lot of existing podcasts only touch on “safe topics” — something that the three hosts hope to avoid.
“What we really want to do with the Supporting Humanity podcast is talk about the truths that are not spoken about, because we’re too scared of opening up that can of worms as we don’t really know where it’s going to take us,” Noor said.
The launch episode, which releases on Friday, will introduce the three hosts and the charity, which was set up at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. From there, the trio will discuss what listeners can expect in the coming episodes, including issues Supporting Humanity has noticed in the past two years that are important to the UK Muslim community.
Noor, a mother of two originally from Pakistan, said that she had experienced mental health issues herself, and had been “very ignorant” and “neglectful” of the subject due to her upbringing in an Asian Muslim household and community.
“Growing up, I always referred to myself as emotionally strong and I think that was wrong, because I conditioned myself to believe that I was emotionally strong. The fact was, I was just hiding my emotions and not talking about them,” she said.
Initially, the three hosts will complete a series on bereavement aimed at those who have lost family members and friends due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supporting Humanity will release episodes highlighting strategies on dealing with the loss of loved ones, and how to deal with grief as an individual within a marriage and in a family.
An episode to be released before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan will provide people with a platform to talk about the difficulties they have experienced with loss and how the fasting month used to be marked.
British Bangladeshi mother-of-two Rebecca Kibria, the lead podcaster, said the main message she is trying to get out is that mental health issues exist and people “do not need to suffer in silence.”
Kibria and Nour are joined by 34-year-old mother-of-two Tayiba Syed, a British Pakistani.
Kibria said the trio will also address the issue of domestic abuse, moving beyond a focus on physical violence.
Other episodes will explore different types of addictions, from alcohol, drugs, gambling and sex, and the effect they have on children or marriages, she added.
Kibria, 27, a psychology graduate, said that Supporting Humanity wants to make the podcast as “diverse and wide ranging as possible. 
“We want to talk about all the different topics. For example, when it’s Black History Month, we want to bring on a Black Muslim who could talk about the struggles they’ve had, because they’ve experienced racism as well, from within the community,” Kibria added.
“The things we want to talk about might make people uncomfortable. But the only way we’re going to destigmatize them is by talking about it.”

Faith in democracy on the decline among noteworthy findings in major BBC MENA survey

Faith in democracy on the decline among noteworthy findings in major BBC MENA survey
Updated 14 sec ago

Faith in democracy on the decline among noteworthy findings in major BBC MENA survey

Faith in democracy on the decline among noteworthy findings in major BBC MENA survey
  • 23k people were interviewed across Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and Palestinian
  • Majority of those surveyed believe economic conditions are worsening in the region

LONDON: BBC News Arabic revealed on Wednesday the findings of a major survey conducted in the Middle East and North Africa region between 2021-2022. 

Approximately 23,000 people were interviewed across Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and Palestinian on a wide range of topics, including democracy, women’s rights, the economy and race. 

Conducted between October 2021 and April 2022, the survey was commissioned by BBC News Arabic in partnership with Arab Barometer, a research network based at Princeton University.

Sam Farah, head of BBC News Arabic, said: “The Arab World Survey 2021/2022 is vital in helping us to understand what people living in the Middle East and North Africa think about the pressing issues affecting their lives.”

One of the most noteworthy findings is that faith in democracy is in rapid decline in the countries surveyed.

Over 50 percent of participants in Tunisia, Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, and Palestine believe that their country’s economy is weak under a democratic system, with Iraq having the highest number of people who appear to have lost faith in democracy (72 percent).

That said, the majority of people in all countries surveyed believe that while democracy may have problems, it is still better than other political systems. 

In Mauritania, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and the Palestinian territories, more than half of those surveyed agreed with the statement that their country needs a leader who can bend the rules if necessary to get things done.

Another notable finding is that people believe economic conditions are worsening. 

Lebanon is ranked lowest out of all the countries in the survey, with less than 1 percent of Lebanese surveyed saying that the current economic situation is good. 

Overall, most people surveyed do not expect that the economic situation in their country will improve in the next few years. Some optimism exists, nevertheless. In six countries, over a third of surveyed citizens say the situation will be better or somewhat better in the coming two to three years.

Of those surveyed, many have experienced food insecurity and scarcity and say that often or sometimes they did not have money to buy more food. The struggle to keep food on the table was most acutely witnessed in Egypt and Mauritania, where around two in three people said this happened sometimes or often.

In general, attitudes toward the role of women in the region are slowly becoming more progressive, apart from Morocco where 49 percent of Moroccans said men are better at political leadership than women. 

While attitudes regarding the role of women were improving, the majority of participants believe that violence toward women has increased, with 61 percent of participants in Tunisia agreeing with this statement. 

The survey also suggests that people appear to be finding their faith again, particularly young people. However, trust in religious leaders is decreasing, with 47 percent of Lebanese and 31 percent of Sudanese surveyed saying they do not have any trust in religious leaders.

In terms of attitudes toward world leaders, US President Joe Biden’s MENA policies are viewed as being not much better than those of Trump, but the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is widely supported in surveyed countries.

Meanwhile, the policies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remain popular in the countries surveyed. 

Finally, more than a third of people in all countries surveyed except Egypt agree that racial discrimination is a problem, with Tunisia having the highest number of people agreeing with this (80 percent).

However, 82 percent of Egyptians say that there is no racial discrimination at all against black people.

Netflix launches free TV-themed walking tours in European cities

Netflix launches free TV-themed walking tours in European cities
Updated 06 July 2022

Netflix launches free TV-themed walking tours in European cities

Netflix launches free TV-themed walking tours in European cities
  • Covers iconic filming locations for popular titles in the Arab world, including ‘The Crown,’ ‘Bridgerton,’ ‘La Casa de Papel’ and ‘Emily in Paris’
  • Arab fans can sign up for the guided walks in London, Paris and Madrid

LONDON: Netflix launched a series of free guided walking tours in London, Paris and Madrid inspired by popular Netflix shows, including popular titles across the Middle East such as “The Crown,” “Bridgerton,” “La Casa de Papel,” “Emily in Paris” and many more.

Taking place for one week between July 11-17, the guided walking tours will take participants to the filming locations of their favorite Netflix shows while recounting historical facts and cultural trivia about the European cities.

Highly popular in the Middle East, the Netflix titles are likely to entice fans from Saudi Arabia and the Arab region to take part in the walking tours and see their much-loved shows come to life.

A recurring theme in 'Bridgerton', Pall Mall is the name of one of Londond's most popular streets, home to several Gentlemen's clubs. (Supplied)

According to Netflix statistics, shows created and filmed in London have proved tremendously popular in the Arab World, with “Bridgerton” featured in Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Netflix series for several weeks in a row.

In partnership with SANDEMANs NEW Europe Tours, the Netflix tour in London sets off in St. James’s Park across from Buckingham Palace, around which titles like “The Crown” and “Bridgerton” were set.

While guides explain the significance of royal palaces and houses around St. James’s Park, the Changing of the Guard ceremony can be heard in the background, adequately setting the scene for the beginning of the tour.

Equally fluent in history and Netflix shows, tour guides will blend together reality and fiction, directing attention to scenes, locations and details that fans might have missed.

Guides will hand out still images from the shows that outline where key scenes in the Netflix titles took place.

Still image of King George VI statue from 'The Crown' at the King Goerge VI & Queen Elizabeth Memorial in
in St. James's Park in London. (Supplied)
Still image from 'Bridgerton' against the backdrop where it was filmed in The Traveller’s Club, one of Londond's many Gentelmen clubs. (Supplied)

While rich with behind-the-scenes information and historical trivia, the two-hour long excursion does not involve trips inside buildings and other shooting locations.

That said, numerous historical landmarks are dotted across London’s city center, allowing participants to still access a significant amount of historical trivia through the walking tours.

The London tour ends with suggestions for further excursions around London and the UK, where other Netflix titles were filmed, including “After Life,” “Anatomy of a Scandal” and “Enola Holmes.”

The Lansbourough Hotel in London. (Supplied)

Another exciting option for tourists is to head to The Lanesborough hotel near Hyde Park Corner to enjoy a Bridgerton-themed afternoon tea featuring a selection of cakes, finger sandwiches and warm scones.

Racking up more than 650 million hours of viewing during the week of its Season Two debut, “Bridgerton” is considered one of Netflix’s most popular shows of all time.


Twitter challenges India order to block content

Updated 06 July 2022

Twitter challenges India order to block content

  • The company has removed content related to anti-government farmer protests and tweets criticizing the Modi administration’s handling of the pandemic

NEW DELHI: Twitter on Tuesday challenged the Indian government in court over its recent orders to take down some content on the social media platform, media outlets reported.
The lawsuit was filed in the Karnataka High Court in southern Bengaluru city and comes after the Indian government in February warned company executives of criminal action if they failed to comply with the takedown orders, the Press Trust of India and the Bar and Bench legal news site reported.
A Twitter spokesperson, Aditi Shorewal, declined to comment or specify what type of content the company was told to block. She did not confirm that Twitter had filed the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is part of a growing confrontation between Twitter and New Delhi after the Indian government last year passed a new set of sweeping regulations giving it more power to police online content.
The new rules require companies to erase or block content that authorities deem unlawful. Under the laws, employees of social media websites and technology companies can be held criminally liable for failing to comply with the government’s orders.
“It is everyone’s responsibility to abide by the laws passed by the country’s Parliament,” India’s IT minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw, told reporters Tuesday, when he was asked about the lawsuit.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has sought for years to control social media and has often directed Twitter to take down tweets or accounts that appear critical of his party and administration.
Twitter complied with most of those orders in the past but also resisted others and has called the new rules a “potential threat to freedom of expression.” The company has removed content related to anti-government farmer protests and tweets criticizing the Modi administration’s handling of the pandemic.
The Indian government has called the new rules necessary to tackle disinformation, hate speech and other troubles. Officials have warned Twitter that non-compliance with the rules could mean that the company would lose its liability protections as an intermediary, meaning Twitter could face lawsuits over content.
Relations between the Indian government and Twitter have been thorny since the laws were passed.
In May last year, police raided Twitter’s office after the company labelled a tweet by Modi’s party spokesman as “manipulated media.”
That same month, WhatsApp sued the Indian government to defend what it said was its users’ privacy and stop new rules that would require it to make messages “traceable” to external parties. That case is still pending in an Indian court.
Experts have criticized the new rules and said they amount to censorship. They have also accused the Modi government of silencing criticism on social media, particularly Twitter. Modi’s party denies the claim.
Police in New Delhi last week arrested a journalist over a tweet from 2018 that an anonymous Twitter user alleged was hurtful to sentiments of a “particular religion.”

VMLY&R consolidates three brands under one offering

Updated 05 July 2022

VMLY&R consolidates three brands under one offering

  • VMLY&R, VMLY&R Commerce, and GTB to merge under Nick Walsh’s leadership

DUBAI: Advertising group WPP is consolidating three brands — VMLY&R, VMLY&R Commerce, and GTB — under the VMLY&R umbrella to form one, connected brand.

Nick Walsh, CEO of VMLY&R Commerce will now become the CEO of VMLY&R MENA, working closely with chief creative officer Miguel Bemfica, who joined from McCann Worldgroup in January this year.

“The three agencies bring different expertise and capabilities to the table: Creativity, commerce, experience, data, technology and more; but more importantly, they all focus on culture,” Andrew Dimitriou, EMEA CEO of VMLY&R, told Arab News.

Andrew Dimitriou, EMEA CEO of VMLY&R

He called the merger “a natural next step” that “will allow better and simpler collaboration between our brilliant client teams and capability practices and open a new world of possibilities for our clients and anyone in the business.”

In 2018, WPP merged creative agency Y&R and digital agency VML to create VMLY&R, and in 2021, Geometry was merged into the group to form VMLY&R Commerce.

Since then, “integrating the agencies’ teams and capabilities has been an ongoing global effort,” Dimitriou said.

“A deeper level of integration has happened in markets across Europe, and offices such as New York and London, as we move closer as a network to accelerate growth and future-proof our clients’ businesses,” he added.

In the region, Dubai is the “principal office” serving the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and North Africa, and “we will expand our presence on-ground in line with upcoming client’s needs and opportunities,” Dimitriou said.

Since 2020, e-commerce has seen explosive growth as brands have had to adapt to a new hybrid reality. In the UAE, 55 percent of purchases happen online through websites, social media, games, communities etc. and e-commerce spending grew at double the rate of point of sale in Q1 this year compared to the same quarter last year, he said.

Now, “the way we think about commerce is being transformed, and we’re witnessing the rise of creative commerce,” Dimitriou added.

“Creative commerce is laser-focused on generating a response, which results in conversion. And at its best, creativity turbocharges commerce, lifting a simple activation to an emotionally charged moment that drives both brand and demand.

“So, it is about inspiring conversion in the moment, regardless of channel, everywhere life intersects with commerce. It is an interaction; an experience that builds brand and demand.”

Brands not only need to stay connected with their audiences, but also remain relevant in an ever-evolving digital culture.

The hottest topic in today’s digital culture is the metaverse. By 2026, 25 percent of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education, social, or entertainment, according to Gartner.

“I expect more focus — and scrutiny — on this platform as clients explore how they could leverage this new space and monitor opportunities for brand interaction and creative commerce solutions,” Dimitriou said.

He added: “At VMLY&R, we will keep our eyes on the real prize: To create connected brands through positive experiences and emotional connections powered by creativity and technology to deliver growth.”

Emerging company XGUARD to educate local Saudi businesses on new tech

Emerging company XGUARD to educate local Saudi businesses on new tech
Updated 05 July 2022

Emerging company XGUARD to educate local Saudi businesses on new tech

Emerging company XGUARD to educate local Saudi businesses on new tech

RIYADH: Non-fungible tokens and blockchain technologies took the world by storm, dominating everything from the art space to advertising. Web3, a new blockchain-based version of the internet, and the metaverse are still fairly new concepts, but it seems like they are here to stay with more and more people — and businesses — experimenting with them.

XGUARD, for example, is an emerging company with offices in Riyadh, Dubai and Vienna, helping organizations and individuals navigate Web3 and the virtual space “one block at a time.”

In Riyadh, the company has been actively hosting informational sessions and workshops to help equip Saudis with the skills and tools needed to venture into Web3, open their own wallet, invest in or sell NFTs, grow their businesses and engage in virtual experiences. 

XGUARD first started as a sports promotion company in Dubai. After its founder Omar Aridi began venturing into these emerging technologies, his interest in them grew.

The industry in Saudi is still at a nascent stage, Aridi told Arab News.

He said: “I was planning on working in a very decentralized way. Saudi wasn’t just my focus, but then after reading the market and seeing how things are going, I think Saudi has the most appetite when it comes to [this space].” 

Just last month, the Saudi Tourism Ministry and Saudi Tourism Authority created NFT souvenirs that were presented to the heads of delegations participating in the 116th session of the UN World Tourism Organization executive council, held in Jeddah.

“Vision 2030 and the whole direction of digital transformation and blockchain technologies and artificial intelligence — this makes it the perfect platform for us,” Aridi said. “The only bottleneck that we had were the cryptocurrency regulations, which I know are on the way. I think it’s better to be the first movers from now and the first adopters. When things get regulated, we know we will be the go-to consulting company here.”

Since cryptocurrencies are the most commonly used mode of payment in the metaverse, their lack of regulation has resulted in businesses being wary of entering this space. 

“The lack of trust comes from the lack of regulation, not from the technology,” Aridi said. “You need to pay with cryptocurrency, and that is the element that has not yet been regulated.”

In the Gulf region, the UAE has been spearheading the regulation of NFTs and cryptocurrencies by issuing the first cryptocurrency law and establishing the Dubai Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority.

For businesses, enterprise NFT technologies themselves are key. “It brings a very well authenticated ownership documented on the blockchain. Nobody can erase it, and nobody can penetrate it,” Aridi said. 

In certain industries, having verified proof of ownership and secured data records can cut down on processing time, reduce fraud and error risks, provide immutable authenticity of products, manage critical data and ease the supply chain process.

Although the NFT, bitcoin and Ethereum markets are currently down as a result of cryptocurrencies crashing, Aridi is optimistic. “​​This is very good because the market has to [course] correct,” he said. “Hopefully, only the few proper solid value propositions will be sustained and XGUARD will be one of those because we are thinking of NFTs as a technology, not as a hype.” 

XGUARD provides companies with Web3 consulting, marketing, art and blockchain development, all under one roof. “In terms of competition, I don’t see anyone offering the value proposition that we provide, which is advisory, A-to-Z solutions. Nobody in Saudi Arabia is doing that yet,” said Aridi. 

For now, the company is adopting a predominantly educational approach. It has collaborated with local spaces and businesses, such as AlMashtal Creative Space in Riyadh and The Music Space in Jeddah, to build communities across the country. 

“We have a lot of artists, in Saudi Arabia specifically, that really want to be heard, that really want to improve their business,” Aridi said. “For entrepreneurs, if they have an idea, we sit with them, we scope it, we shape it, we come up with a strategy together and we help them launch it. The idea is to basically create success stories.”