Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states and Muslim institutions denounce Indian official’s insults against Prophet Muhammad

Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states and Muslim institutions denounce Indian official’s insults against Prophet Muhammad
Saudi Arabia denounced on Sunday statements made by the suspended spokeswoman of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party insulting the Prophet Muhammad. (File/Getty Images)
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Updated 06 June 2022

Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states and Muslim institutions denounce Indian official’s insults against Prophet Muhammad

Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states and Muslim institutions denounce Indian official’s insults against Prophet Muhammad
  • BJP suspends spokesperson Nupur Sharma, says she expressed  “views contrary to the party’s position”
  • Indian diplomats on damage control mode as the insult sparked calls for boycott of Indian goods in some Gulf states

RIYADH/DOHA: Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries and Muslim institutions on Sunday condemned the remarks against Prophet Muhammad by a top official in India’s ruling party, with some demanding concrete action to end such acts of Islamophobia.

The remarks by the spokesperson for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party last week were blamed for clashes in an Indian state and prompted demands for her arrest. Nupur Sharma made the inflammatory remarks during a TV debate about the Prophet Muhammad.

Riyadh described the spokeperson’s comments as “insulting” and called for “respect for beliefs and religions.” 

In denouncing Sharma's remarks, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it "reaffirms its permanent rejection of prejudice against the symbols of the Islamic religion and refuses to prejudice all religious figures and symbols."
The ministry also welcomed the action taken by the BJP to suspend the spokesperson from work. 

 

 

Sharma was suspended on Sunday as anger spread overseas to Muslim countries.

Apology demanded

Qatar demanded that India apologize for the “Islamophobic” comments, as India’s Vice President Venkaiah Naidu visited the wealthy Gulf state in a bid to bolster trade.

India’s ambassador in Doha, Deepak Mittal, was ordered to the foreign ministry on the second day of the high profile visit by Naidu and Indian business leaders.

The envoy was handed an official protest letter which said “Qatar is expecting a public apology and immediate condemnation of these remarks from the government of India,” according to a foreign ministry statement.

“Allowing such Islamophobic remarks to continue without punishment constitutes a grave danger to the protection of human rights” and “will create a cycle of violence and hate,” it added.

Kuwait had also summoned India’s ambassador amid widespread calls on social media for a boycott of Indian goods in the Gulf.

The Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said Sharma's remarks came in a “context of intensifying hatred and abuse toward Islam in India and systematic practices against Muslims.”

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) also issued a statement condemning Sharma's remarks. Secretary General Nayef Falah M. Al Hajraf "affirmed his categorical rejection of prejudicing all the prophets and apostles as well as personalities and religious symbols, stressing the position that rejects provocation, targeting or underestimating beliefs and religions." 

 

In Cairo, Egypt, Al-Azhar Al-Sharif denounced the BJP official's behavior as "a real terrorist action that helps to push the entire world to devastating crises and bloody wars." It called on the world community "to firmly ward off such threats."

Al-Azhar confirmed that the recent resort of some politicians to defame Islam to collect votes of extremists is a blatant call for extremism, spread of hatred and discord among followers of religions.

'Contrary to party position'

In suspending the spokesperson, India's ruling party said Sharma had expressed “views contrary to the party’s position.”

Modi’s party, which has frequently been accused of acting against the country’s Muslim minority, said it “respects all religions.”

Sharma said on Twitter that her comments had been in response to “insults” made against the Hindu god Shiva.

“If my words have caused discomfort or hurt religious feelings of anyone whatsoever, I hereby unconditionally withdraw my statement,” she said.

New Delhi has made no immediate comment but its embassy in Doha released a statement saying that “strong action” had been taken against “fringe elements” who had made derogatory comments. The embassy gave no further details.

(With Reuters)


Socrates Cafe founder stresses power of philosophy at Riyadh conference

Socrates Cafe founder Christopher Phillips. (Supplied)
Socrates Cafe founder Christopher Phillips. (Supplied)
Updated 02 December 2022

Socrates Cafe founder stresses power of philosophy at Riyadh conference

Socrates Cafe founder Christopher Phillips. (Supplied)
  • During an interview with Arab News, Phillips discussed the power of philosophical thinking as well as the importance of listening to other people’s thoughts and beliefs

RIYADH: The Riyadh Philosophy Conference on Thursday featured a powerful discussion on the power of philosophy to transform humanity by Socrates Cafe founder Christopher Phillips.

Socrates Cafe is an international gathering concept that encourages individuals to come together and explore timeless and timely questions as well as share their viewpoints on different topics. It can be held in any place, from cafes to meeting areas or any space that invites thinkers to share their thoughts.

“There is a beautiful window here (Saudi Arabia) of flourishing desire, almost a hunger for the discovering, cultivating the art of sort of questioning, to look at what speaks for and against a wide variety of views,” Phillips told Arab News.

“At a time when so many places around the world are building walls, not just literal walls, physical walls — walls between one another, existential walls — there are so many people in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East who truly want to build bridges. They want to be less impatient. And they understand that this form of philosophical inquiry is one way to hear somebody out,” he added.

The Saudi Literature, Publishing & Translation Commission is hosting the second edition of the three-day philosophy conference from Dec. 1-3 at the King Fahd National Library.

The second edition of the Riyadh Philosophy Conference has welcomed a wide variety of speakers and experts from around the world to hold lectures, discussions, seminars and workshops focused on philosophy as well as issues affecting humanity.

Speakers include scientists, writers, historians, professors and philosophers from around the world.

Phillips spoke during the first Riyadh Philosophy Conference and has returned for the second edition to host an in-person Socrates Cafe event that give people the opportunity to interact and explore ideas as well as different perspectives in a relaxed setting.

The Philosophers Cafe will explore questions surrounding the conference’s theme of “Knowledge and Exploration: Space, Time and Humanity.”

Phillips said: “It celebrates the right to inquire, the right to frame your own questions, and that’s a tradition of philosophy.

“What’s interesting is that lots of the discussions right now seem to be from a dark place — questions about whether are you born evil or is this something that you can become or is it something that’s innate. On the other hand, they are also asking ‘can I be the change that I want to see in the world?’”

During an interview with Arab News, Phillips discussed the power of philosophical thinking as well as the importance of listening to other people’s thoughts and beliefs.

The Socrates Cafe founder said that he has seen a growing will to ​​proselytize in countries around the world. However, in the Kingdom, Phillips described the trend in thinking as “very much a breath of fresh air right now compared to so many other parts of the world where that tradition of careful listening, of inquiring together, of framing thoughtful questions has gone by the wayside.”

He added: “If you take that time to understand where another human being is coming from and why their story is different from yours, it’s something much more often than not to celebrate.”

Phillips said that many people no longer celebrate the idea of having differing opinions or viewpoints.

He added: “If somebody has a point of view that differs from our own, a person might just be ready to jump down from that other person. So why?”

Rather than pointing fingers and siloing ourselves and viewpoints, Phillips said “we can look at ourselves and say, well, what modest talent might I contribute to be more part of the solution than the problem.

“It’s about cultivating the art of listening at a time when people are screaming at one another, at a time when there’s too much holier than thou to cultivate the Socratic virtues of humility, the sense that ‘I may be wrong.’”

Phillips said he is unsurprised that people in the Kingdom are so willing to hold philosophical discussions and actively listen to opinions that differ from their own.

“I’m not surprised, and I will tell you why, because the Socratic tradition, the tradition originated by Socrates, it’s right on the cusp of the East and the West, the Middle East and the Western world. I think Socrates himself was influenced by Middle Eastern thinkers, and that this is something that comes naturally,” he said.

“There’s the receptivity here in Saudi Arabia that there was when I first started Socrates Cafe in 1996 in the US, and it’s no accident that there’s the spontaneous flourishing of Socrates Cafes and so many diverse types of communities, cities and groups all throughout Saudi Arabia,” Phillips added.

Through holding philosophical discussions and sparking curiosity, people can not only learn from other’s experiences and knowledge, but can also discover a lot within themselves.

“It’s about listening, truly asking why, especially when someone has a view that’s alien to your own, to want to know their story as a way of becoming more connected. It’s transformative when you really give someone that gift of listening to them, you’re going to be changed,” Phillips said.

The Socrates Cafe founder stressed that a lot can be learned from the way children philosophize. “I believe in breaking down categories of learning and knowledge — disciplines of thinking in colors like kids do.”

Phillips has a series of 10 children’s philosophy books. One of them, “Worlds of Difference,” has been translated into Arabic.

“It’s written by the kids. They are not yet cubbyholes; we haven’t yet tainted them so much with our adult-made very unimaginative categories. So they help me. They help me think more fully and deeply, and colorfully,” he said.

“And believe it or not, even though they’re fidgeting around, they really listen to one another until they’ve unlearned it from older folks,” he added.

Phillips is set to travel around the Kingdom, holding Socrates Cafes events throughout the week. He said that there are now 10 Socrates Cafe locations in Saudi Arabia, including in Jubai and Dammam. On Dec. 6 he is set to hold a Socrates Cafe event in Riyadh.

“I feel like this is almost a second home to have been back three times now, and not as a tourist, but as somebody who feels like these are fellow kindred spirits who want to engage in this beautiful thing called Socrates Cafe,” he said.

“It’s such an honor for me to be part of that and to know that there are still places on Spaceship Earth that celebrate the art and science of careful listening, and thinking and inquiry. We all are inquirers, but it tends to get shunted off as we get older.”


Space may be ‘home’ sooner than we think, Riyadh forum told

Space may be ‘home’ sooner than we think, Riyadh forum told
Updated 02 December 2022

Space may be ‘home’ sooner than we think, Riyadh forum told

Space may be ‘home’ sooner than we think, Riyadh forum told
  • With participation from over 19 countries, the global platform targets a wide audience from various academic and professional backgrounds
  • This year’s conference is building off the success of last year’s event, which discussed unpredictability

RIYADH: The second edition of the Riyadh Philosophy Conference launched on Thursday as international and local specialists gathered to discuss topics under the theme “Knowledge and Exploration: Space, Time and Humanity.”
Organized by Saudi Arabia’s Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission, the three-day event kicked off with welcome remarks by Saudi critic, thinker and translator Saad bin Abdulrahman Albazie, who was introduced by the CEO of the commission, Mohammed Alwan.
With participation from over 19 countries, the global platform targets a wide audience from various academic and professional backgrounds.
“We are heading toward endless informational and explorational horizons, toward space, time and humanity, and settling into our human fate, moral values and scientific criteria of the universe,” Albazie said.
“We will create a philosophical space out of our physical space, and propose new concepts in an undiscovered field in the spirit of entrepreneurial research that has been touched upon by this conference’s esteemed guests.”
While taking a trip to space is, undoubtedly, a dream for many, it may well be a place we call “home” much sooner than we think.
A keynote speech by Mishaal Ashemimry, moderated by Prof. Nicolas de Warren of Penn State University, examined the futuristic concept of humanity becoming an interplanetary species.
Discussing humanity’s options if Earth is no longer accommodating or habitable, Ashemimry, special adviser to the CEO at the Saudi Space Commission, said: “We must prepare for our future because no one knows. Yes, we can monitor all these items that are orbiting Earth, but there are so many that we don’t know about.
“I’m not suggesting that this is the only way. I am suggesting that we need to hedge our bets, invest in all the technologies necessary and all the possible solutions to prevent this existential problem — whether it’s going to Mars or preparing to go to Mars, or whether it’s intercepting that asteroid, and having mechanisms to detect it sooner and enable us to have enough time.”
The conversation around space continued with Abdullah Al-Ghathami, professor of criticism and theory at King Saud University, delivering a keynote speech under the title “Humanity in Space: Glory or Power.”
Leading thinkers took part in panel discussions, including “Inquiry Techniques in the Classroom” by General Manager of the Baseera Institute Dalia Toonsi, and “Chaos and Logos” with physicist Reem Taibah and Saudi Space Commission adviser Haithem Al-Twaijry.
This year’s conference is building off the success of last year’s event, which discussed unpredictability.
The forum aims to open up the once-taboo study of philosophy in the region by involving contemporary philosophers, scientists, writers and intellectuals from all over the world.
Discussions in the coming days will focus on the status of contemporary science, the complexities of space diplomacy and climate change, justice and ethics in exploration, and the dilemmas of artificial intelligence.
 


Saudi authorities seize millions of Captagon pills at Jeddah, Empty Quarter ports

Saudi authorities seize millions of Captagon pills at Jeddah, Empty Quarter ports
Updated 02 December 2022

Saudi authorities seize millions of Captagon pills at Jeddah, Empty Quarter ports

Saudi authorities seize millions of Captagon pills at Jeddah, Empty Quarter ports
  • The pills had combined street value of between $24 million and $60 million

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority foiled two attempts to smuggle more than 2.4 million Captagon pills into the Kingdom.

The pills were found hidden in consignments received at Jeddah Islamic Port and the Empty Quarter Port.

Authorities at the Empty Quarter Port seized 1,213,378 Captagon pills.

In the second attempt at Jeddah Islamic Port, authorities seized 1,215,353 pills hidden in a cement shipment.

The pills had a combined street value of between $24 million and $60 million based on figures published in the International Addiction Review journal.

The authority said that after confiscating the drugs, coordination with the General Directorate of Narcotics Control led to the swift arrest of six drug smugglers.

It stressed that it is continuing to tighten customs controls around the Kingdom’s imports and exports, and is conducting round-the-clock operations to prevent drug smuggling in order to continue to enhance the security of the community — and the Kingdom — by reducing the entry of contraband into Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this week, Saudi authorities in Riyadh thwarted a separate attempt to smuggle millions of amphetamine tablets.

General Directorate of Narcotics Control Spokesman Maj. Mohammed Al-Nujaidi said that during a security follow-up operation targeting drug smuggling and distribution networks, officials seized 2,035,200 amphetamine pills hidden inside a shipment of kitchen wood planks.

Four people found in possession of drugs were arrested in Riyadh and were referred to the Public Prosecution.

The authority called on members of the public with any information about past, current or future smuggling attempts to come forward. The number allocated for reporting drug-related offenses is 1910 locally or 00966114208417 internationally.

Members of the public can also report suspicious activities by visiting zatca.gov.sa.

A cash reward will be handed out to anyone who alerts authorities to proven smuggling attempts.


Thousands of visitors attend opening day of SOUNDSTORM 2022 

Thousands of visitors attend opening day of SOUNDSTORM 2022 
Updated 02 December 2022

Thousands of visitors attend opening day of SOUNDSTORM 2022 

Thousands of visitors attend opening day of SOUNDSTORM 2022 

RIYADH: Music fans flocked in their thousands to Banban, Riyadh, for the Middle East’s biggest music festival on Thursday.

MDLBEAST SOUNDSTORM 2022 is expected to welcome more than 100,000 people over its three days, Dec. 1-3 - with acts running on the first day from 4 p.m. to 3:30 a.m..

More than 260 hours of live music are promised in Banban, and SOUNDSTORM this year brings a variety of music genres, including electronic dance music, hip hop, R&B, and indie music.

Some 200 artists will appear on seven stages at the event: Big Beast, Down Beast, Dance Beast, and four underground stages.

Day one featured local, regional and international artists from various genres, each giving exhilarating and electrifying performances as the loudest festival began with five musicians performing every hour.

Saudi female DJ Cosmicat, Brazilian DJ Shark, DJ Snake, Hardwell, Acraze, and locals Voidkid, Gehlen and Dish Dash started the journey for fans and, as the night grew louder, famous names Tiesto and Zedd took center stage to wow the audience.

American rapper Post Malone appeared on the Big Beast stage and performed some of his most famous songs.

British singer Michael Kiwanuka also featured, and provided a highlight while singing “Cold Little Heart.”

Abdulmohsen bin Hamid, 24, told Arab News: “I can’t believe that after years of listening to his music, I finally got to watch Post Malone perform for the first time in my beloved Kingdom.

“I remember his first song, ‘White Iverson,’ being my favorite.”

Bin Hamid, who was a VIP pass holder to the event, said that he found the organization and visitor experience to have been significantly improved.

SOUNDSTORM 2022 boasts more than 100 food and beverage vendors as it bids to enhance the festival experience for those attending.

Lovers of Arabic music also got the chance to hear their favorites on the first day, with Myriam Faris, Majid Al-Muhandis, Modi Al-Shamrani, and rapper Moayad Al-Nefaie all performing.

SOUNDSTORM has enjoyed a meteoric rise following its debut in 2019 and is now a fixture in the music calendar for fans and local and international stars.


KSRelief in Riyadh joins UN in humanitarian overview

KSRelief in Riyadh joins UN in humanitarian overview
Updated 02 December 2022

KSRelief in Riyadh joins UN in humanitarian overview

KSRelief in Riyadh joins UN in humanitarian overview
  • Kingdom has contributed more than $95bn over 20 years to support humanitarian and development projects in 164 countries

RIYADH: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs launched the Global Humanitarian Overview 2023 in Geneva on Thursday, with presentations in Addis Ababa with the African Union, and in Riyadh at King Saud University with the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.

Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of KSRelief, said the event was focused on global humanitarian action taking place next year.

It was highlighting the need to promote inclusive and holistic approaches to providing humanitarian assistance, while discussing ways to enhance the participation of crisis-affected people, local responders, and nongovernmental organization partners in global action.

He explained the challenges surrounding food supply, particularly the obstruction of aid in crisis areas.

Al-Rabeeah said: “Saudi Arabia has provided over the past two decades $95 billion to support humanitarian and development projects in 164 countries.

“We must encourage all countries able to do so, to step up their own funding levels urgently to help alleviate the catastrophic levels of suffering we are seeing today in so many parts of the world.”

He thanked King Saud University for hosting the GHO 2023 launch for the first time in the Middle East.

He added: “May we succeed in finding the solutions that are needed to save lives, and improve the outcome for the millions of people who so desperately need our help.

“By working together we can address the pressing issues facing the world today on a scale large enough to change the tide of suffering into the waves of hope.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his video message, said 2022 had been a year of many challenges, and the Ukraine conflict had exacerbated the global food and energy crisis.

Lives and economies had been torn apart around the world, he said, adding that the UN and its partners in the field of medicine had risen to the challenge to help support and protect 157 million people around the world.

Guterres added that the UN had provided more than $2 billion in cash assistance, while donations had provided nearly $24 billion.

The GHO 2023 calls for $51.5 billion to provide lifesaving support to the most vulnerable people, he said.

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji said the Kingdom was attempting to strengthen international cooperation to help eradicate poverty and deliver aid to those in need.

He added that the country has managed to lead at regional and international level, and helped to unify international efforts to meet humanitarian needs by providing aid that supports relief work.

Joyce Msuya, assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and deputy emergency relief coordinator at the OCHA, said that the world is living in the middle of the largest global food crisis in history, and added it is an issue driven by conflict, climatic shocks, and the looming threat of a global recession.