Sign language to benefit 20 million deaf visitors of the Two Holy Mosques

Sign language to benefit 20 million deaf visitors of the Two Holy Mosques
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Saudi Arabia has ensured the rights of persons with disabilities and provided them with all kinds of care and support. A sign language translator interprets a sermon for those with hearing disability at the Prophet’s Mosque. (Supplied)
Sign language to benefit 20 million deaf visitors of the Two Holy Mosques
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(Supplied)
Sign language to benefit 20 million deaf visitors of the Two Holy Mosques
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(Supplied)
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Updated 22 April 2022

Sign language to benefit 20 million deaf visitors of the Two Holy Mosques

Sign language to benefit 20 million deaf visitors of the Two Holy Mosques
  • Sign language has developed and flourished through the Saudi deaf community over generations

MAKKAH: 

In line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, the Directorate General of Services for Persons with Disability at the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Prophet’s Mosque continues its work and efforts in serving people with disabilities at the mosque during Ramadan.

The directorate allocated a special room to serve people with disabilities in the mosque, which can accommodate around 100 people. Staff trained in sign language interpret the Friday sermons and lectures to people with hearing impairments.

During an interview with Arab News, Dr. Khalid bin Sulaiman Al-Thukair, a sign language translator at the Prophet’s Mosque, stated that the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques was one of the first to translate Friday sermons to a group of deaf people live in the Islamic world through a specialized room on the roof of the Prophet’s Mosque.

Later, a live broadcast of the sessions was done on Channel 2 and the Prophet’s Sunna channel.

“Nearly 20 million Arab Muslim deaf people around the world benefit from the Friday sermon,” said Al-Thukair, adding that previously, hearing-impaired people used to benefit only from Friday prayers and did not benefit from the sermons of the Two Holy Mosques.

He stressed that the biggest achievement for the interpreter is seeing the effect of his translation on hearing-impaired people.

“The translator succeeds in conveying 70 to 90 percent of the content to the deaf, most of whom are keen to attend the Friday prayer,” said Al-Thukair.

“The translator analyzes the information and simplifies it … for the deaf in a fraction of a second. The Arabic language has approximately 12 million words, while sign language does not exceed 20,000 words.”

He said sign translators are the ears of the deaf and that the reactions from the Arab and Islamic worlds are impressive and remarkable. “Saudi signs are the nucleus of religious sign language in the world. One hundred and fifty deaf people from all over the world usually meet in the last 10 days of Ramadan in a place dedicated and equipped for them at the roof of the Prophet’s Mosque from the southern side through gate No. 5 to enjoy the translation and knowledge.”

FASTFACTS

  • The Arabic language has approximately 12 million words, while sign language does not exceed 20,000 words.
  • The biggest achievement for the interpreter is seeing the effect of his translation on hearing-impaired people.

Maram Al-Juaid, a linguist specialized in sign language, told Arab News that “sign language is not just random movements with hands, but a linguistic system consisting of symbols that represent words, concepts, or ideas of language.

“It is done by (moving) one hand or both hands to give meaning to things and people. Its unique linguistic characteristics are characterized by expressions of face, body organs and language signs such as hand shape, movement, place and direction of the palm. It is a language linked to the environment and the customs and traditions surrounding it. Like spoken language, sign language varies from to region to region and reflects the history, culture and social norms of the deaf community.”

Al-Juaid noted that Saudi sign language is a stand-alone language and not a translation of the spoken Arabic language. “It has a specific system that distinguishes it from spoken languages. Like other human languages, it has developed and flourished through the Saudi deaf community. It is (a) language rich in vocabulary and forms the main component of deaf culture in the Kingdom, where deaf people were keen to pass it on through generations to be the main language in all educational, cultural and social aspects of life.”

She added that Saudi Arabia has ensured the rights of persons with disabilities and provided them with all kinds of care and support in the Kingdom, including deaf and hearing-impaired people.

“The Kingdom accorded (a) great deal of importance to facilitating the learning of Saudi sign language and promoting the linguistic and cultural identity of the deaf. It has also provided human assistance to this precious segment of the society, including Saudi sign language translators.”

Al-Juaid highlighted the attention and care that the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques accords to the deaf and hearing-impaired people.

“It (has) allocated to them a special prayer room with a sign language translator to interpret speeches, lessons and fatwas. It has also provided them with dedicated places where they can learn to memorize and recite the Holy Qur’an in Saudi sign language.

“Other services include guidance symbols within the Holy Mosque to guide them to the various locations and facilities inside the mosque through drawn and abbreviated symbols. The Fatwa Robot is another great technical leap in providing pilgrims with a great service. It is the most popular among pilgrims as it provides them with legitimate answers to their questions about the rituals they perform and other religious issues,” explained Al-Juaid.


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  • There has been an increase in Zamzam water being distributed to pilgrims and worshipers

RIYADH: The Grand Mosque in Makkah is fully prepared to receive pilgrims and worshipers on Friday, the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has said.

This Friday will one of the busiest during the year as many pilgrims have already arrived in Makkah ahead of Hajj which will start on the 8th of Dhu Al-Hijjah (July 7).

The presidency has enlisted 400 employees to receive worshipers and pilgrims, direct them to the mataf and various other prayer spaces, and regulate entry and exit to and from the Grand Mosque.

Cleaning and sterilization operations have also been intensified and there has been an increase in Zamzam water being distributed to visitors.

Around 4,000 employees clean the Grand Mosque ten times a day using 13,000 liters of disinfectants.

There are 25,000 Zamzam containers dotted around the mosque, 20 smart carts holding 80 litres of water are in operation, and 516 drinking fountains are available.

600 employees have been enlisted at the doors of the mosque to receive visitors and direct them to the correct areas, organize entry and exit, and support security personnel in diverting and directing worshipers when prayer areas get filled up.

100 employees are on hand to help pilgrims perform tawaf and other rituals in accordance with the correct manner, the presidency added.


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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has announced a number of vital developmental projects in Yemen to bolster the economy, the Kingdom’s deputy defense minister said on Thursday.

“The initiatives include 17 development projects in 6 sectors, valued at $400 million, in addition to $200 million in oil derivatives for power stations,” Prince Khalid bin Salman tweeted.

The projects will be carried out by the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen and aim to help the Yemeni people.

Prince Khalid met with the President of the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council Dr. Rashad Al-Alimi and members of the council to convey the Kingdom’s support and appreciation for their efforts.

The deputy defense minister said Saudi Arabia is committed to alleviating the suffering in Yemen and achieving security, peace, stability, and economic development.


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RIYADH: The Heritage Commission on Thursday signed a cooperation agreement with Noon, an online shopping platform, to empower local businesses in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

A ceremony was held at the Commission's headquarters to commemorate this partnership, which was attended by Heritage Commission CEO Dr. Jasir Suleiman Alherbish and General Manager of Noon KSA, Ahmed Abdel Qader Gadouri.

Under this agreement, Saudi artisans will be able to sell craft products and cultural heritage content online, gaining access to a larger audience through Noon's Mahali program.

The program also aims to assist local entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized businesses improve their product quality.

Dr. Alherbish thanked Noon for its cooperation, emphasizing the significant benefits gained through the agreement.

He also made note of the Commission's numerous initiatives to develop the handicraft sector, such as training programs and providing a consumer audience through outlets, exhibitions, events, and festivals.

"Our collaboration with the Heritage Commission demonstrates our ongoing commitment to assisting entrepreneurs and small businesses. The Mahali program helps local talent grow their businesses by providing them with the tools and services they need to reach a larger segment of customers in the region." Gadouri said.

The Noon Mahali program exemplifies the company's founding goal of empowering local talent through the development of a strong e-commerce platform.

The agreement is part of the Heritage Commission's broader efforts to strengthen partnerships with the public and private sectors as part of the Kingdom's cultural sector development.


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  • Among the charter’s aims is the creation of memorable buildings and spaces that integrate cultural and national identity

RIYADH: An exhibition outlining Saudi Arabia’s future urbanization strategy may inspire a new community-focused approach to architecture following its debut at the 11th World Urban Forum in Katowice, Poland.

The Kingdom’s Architecture and Design Commission took part in the recent forum with a display featuring the King Salman Charter for Architecture and Urbanism, launched late last year to help develop the sector as part of Vision 2030.

King Salman’s architectural vision, developed during his five decades as governor of Riyadh region, was highlighted in the exhibition, which also showcased exemplary projects in the Kingdom.

Among the charter’s aims is the creation of memorable buildings and spaces that integrate cultural and national identity, as well as contemporary designs that meet the needs of local communities.

The commission hopes to increase awareness of the charter, and inspire architects and designers worldwide in line with the forum’s theme “Transforming Our Cities for a Better Urban Future.”

A panel discussion on the charter brought together CEO of the Saudi Architecture and Design Commission Sumayah Al-Solaiman, founder of Dabbagh Architects Sumaya Dabbagh, and Arup Group’s director of master planning and urban design Daniel Ringelstein.

Al-Solaiman said: “Our participation at WUF 2022 opens new horizons for applying the charter and presents an excellent opportunity to introduce the international public to its methodology. By showcasing the ways in which the charter has already improved the built environment, we highlighted the range of circumstances in which the charter can be applied to improve quality of life not only in Saudi Arabia, but also further afield.”

This is the exhibition’s first international appearance after touring through five cities in Saudi Arabia: Riyadh, Abha, Jeddah, Dhahran and Madinah.

The World Urban Forum was established in 2001 by the UN to examine the growing global issue of rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies and climate change.