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.
#Statement | The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses its condemnation and denunciation of the statements made by the spokeswoman of the #Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (#BJP), insulting the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. pic.twitter.com/VLQwdXuPuq
Sharma was suspended on Sunday as anger spread overseas to Muslim countries.
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.
DUBAI: Nearly 675 mines planted by the Houthi militia in Yemen have been dismantled in the Fifth week of 2023 by King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief)’s Masam project.
The mine-clearing team removed a total of 384,980 mines planted by the militia across Yemen since Masam project started, Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.
Overseen by the KSRelief, special teams destroyed hundreds of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, unexploded ordinances and other explosive devices.
The KSRelief project, also known as Masam, is one of several initiatives undertaken by Saudi Arabia on the orders of King Salman to help the Yemeni people.
More than 1.2 million mines have been planted by the Houthi militia, claiming the lives of hundreds of civilians.
The Saudi project trains local demining engineers and provides them with modern equipment. It also provides support to Yemenis injured by the devices.
KSRelief continue its efforts to aid people in need
Updated 07 February 2023
RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center’s (KSRelief ) humanitarian efforts in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria continue with securing food parcels for people in need.
In Afghanistan the center distributed 650 food packages to families affected by the floods. And in Pakistan another 600 food parcels were distributed.
The agency has also extended its help to the Syrian people displaced in Jordan, in support to the education of Syrian refugees it distributed 3,262 school bags to students in Amman.
Saudi king, crown prince offer condolences to Erdogan after Turkiye quake
Prince Mohammed also offered his condolences to the families of victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery
Major earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, killing more than 2,600 people on Monday
Updated 07 February 2023
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offered their condolences to Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and people after an earthquake rocked the country on Monday.
“We send to you, the families of the victims, and the Turkish people our sincere condolences and sympathy,” King Salman said. “We reiterate our stand with you in this painful event.” He wished the injured a speedy recovery and the missing a safe return.
The major earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, killing more than 2,600 people and flattening thousands of buildings as rescuers dug frantically for survivors.
Prince Mohammed also offered his condolences to the families of victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
He added that the Kingdom stands with and supports Turkiye in the face of the natural disaster.
Erdogan thanked the crown prince and said he appreciates the Kingdom’s support in these difficult circumstances.
Multi-storey apartment buildings full of residents were among the 3,400 structures reduced to rubble in Turkey, while Syria announced dozens of collapses, as well as damage to archaeological sites in Aleppo.
How tech solutions are shaping Saudi Arabia’s clean energy transition
Adopting sustainable approaches to energy will be critical to achieving net zero, experts tell Arab News at LEAP23
Kingdom can maintain its energy leadership through development, sustainability and innovation, says Saudi official
Updated 07 February 2023
RIYADH: Technology could provide the sustainable solutions required to combat climate change and drive forward an inclusive clean energy transition, experts said on the sidelines of the LEAP23 Conference in Riyadh on Monday.
Governments and businesses worldwide are responding to rising global temperatures by pledging to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. However, many experts believe these commitments can only be realized through the adoption of new technologies.
At the second edition of LEAP, a four-day annual tech convention, climate scientists rubbed shoulders with industry leaders to explore how technology can help mitigate, or even reverse, the effects of climate change.
Dr. Gasem Fallatah, deputy program director of the Oil Sustainability Program at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy, believes an equitable energy transition can be achieved through inclusiveness with collaborative approaches between governments and industry.
“The key word [for energy transition] is inclusiveness,” Fallatah told Arab News on the sidelines of LEAP23.
“We need to consider that when we are moving towards that transition and allowing every nation, geography, and economy to go for what is best suited for them, yet deliver on what you are supposed to deliver.
“In Saudi Arabia, inclusiveness is vital because we cater for all sources of energy: We are not tilted to one form or another. We are very much balanced when it comes to providing energy within the energy mix that we have got, but very much, also, committed to where the transition is and delivering on it.
“And this is why working with an Oil Sustainability Program allows us to find ways and means to continue to utilize our resources in a sustainable way that will enable us to make sure that we are taking advantage of our resources. Yet, we are also meeting our commitments to an energy transition that the world is morphing towards.”
• The Saudi and Middle East Green Initiatives integrate environmental protection, energy transition and innovative sustainability programs to achieve a green future.
• Under the umbrella of the two initiatives, Saudi Arabia aims to leverage its expertise, champion scientific innovation, and share best practices with the world.
The program’s focus on three domains — development, sustainability, and innovation — places the Kingdom in a position to move quickly in its energy transition process.
In terms of innovation, the program has been very active in driving new technologies, either by improving the technology readiness level of these applications or scaling it when it is ready for application.
Fallatah added: “We are very active in understanding trends governing or driving the energy ecosystem as we are adamant about not letting go and finding every opportunity to help sustain oil, but also to keep that leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia when it comes to that transition.
“We have the legacy of a number of years and we would like to maintain that leadership by contributing to that transition. How do we do it? We do it through development, working on sustainability, but also working on innovation.”
Saudi Arabia has pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060. The country has undertaken $1 billion in climate change initiatives as part of the Saudi Green Initiative, which seeks to establish a regional carbon capture and storage center, an early storm warning center, and cloud-seeding programs as part of its efforts to create a greener future.
The Saudi Green Initiative includes plans to plant 450 million trees and rehabilitate 8 million hectares of degraded lands by 2030, reducing 200 million tons of carbon emissions with additional initiatives to be announced in the years to come.
Saudi Arabia has launched and built several major renewable energy projects, taking advantage of its natural potential in solar and wind. It aims to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030, with the remaining 50 percent coming from natural gas.
The Kingdom also aims to become a world leader in hydrogen power and is investing in nuclear energy.
Although achieving a net-zero economy within 30 to 40 years may sound daunting, dozens of renewable energy breakthroughs are on the horizon, with many now making their way onto the market, as firms make their own net-zero pledges and invest in clean energy technologies.
For the transition to remain technically and economically feasible and beneficial, policy initiatives must steer the global energy transition toward a sustainable energy system.
Sustainable transition strategies typically consist of three significant technological changes: Energy savings on the demand side, generation efficiency at the production level, and fossil fuel substitution by various renewable energy sources and low-carbon nuclear.
Large-scale renewable energy adoption includes measures to improve the efficiency of existing non-renewable sources, which still have a substantial cost-reduction and stabilization role.
Experts warn that failure to act on emissions and the energy transition would be catastrophic.
“There will be no jobs on a dead planet. If we want prosperity for our people, we need to ensure prosperity in a land that thrives,” Dr. Paul Toyne, Grimshaw SD practice leader and expert adviser on environmental and sustainability goals, told Arab News at LEAP23.
“We do know that climate change is one of the largest or biggest threats to our planet and to our livelihoods, but we also know that if we solve climate change, we don’t necessarily solve the other issues that happened. So once we have a climate crisis, we also have a biodiversity crisis.”
Although governments are looking into ways of transitioning from oil and gas to renewables, Toyne stresses that the process will take some time, even with the right planning and investment.
He said: “We need to make our cities resilient to climate change and recognize that it will get worse, and adapt to create resilience.
“If we tackle the climate change solution with technologies and we flip over to renewables very quickly and restore the equilibrium in terms of carbon pollution, how do we restore the other ecosystems that we need?
“All of these economies and sectors need to go through a self-correction, which needs to be driven by the right policies and governance and financing of regenerative sectors.
“This takes us into a space of the unknown, but as a society we have more tools at our disposal, digital tools and breakthroughs in science, to provide solutions.”
Putting the world on a path to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050-60 requires a substantial increase in capital-intensive clean energy assets.
Some believe this could hamper the energy transition process due to cost, but climate finance professionals such as Gerhard Mulder, CEO and co-founder of Climate Risk Services, believe this is not necessarily the case.
“There are upfront costs to a transition to a low-carbon economy, and numbers that are being thrown around in the trillions and, yes, in that sense it is very costly,” he told Arab News.
“However, if you look at electricity, for example, in more than half of the world, solar and wind are already more cost efficient than most fossil fuel-powered forms of generation.”
At a time when many countries face macroeconomic crises, due in part to the disruptions caused by the conflict in Ukraine, Mulder believes innovations will help stabilize energy, even in times of volatility. Indeed, by transitioning to low-carbon economies, “we’ll have more stable societies,” he said.
“The key word is building resilience and that means you are preparing yourself for an unstable future, preparing for unpredictable events, so that you can manage multiple scenarios,” he added.
Although the climate challenge at times feels insurmountable, Mulder claims he has never felt as optimistic about humanity’s response as he does today.
“When I first started working [in the climate field] many denied the science,” he said. “Today, nobody can. Many said that it’s a future problem, but the problem is here already. We have a finite amount of time, which is the bad news, but this is the decade we need to do it.
“There’s plenty of money available and plenty of technology available to invest in disruptive technologies, and we can already do so much with existing technologies by creating new markets so we can scale up the process.”
Logitech survey unveiled at LEAP23 reveals hybrid working creates an uneven playing field
59 percent of those polled agreed their input would be valued more if they were physically attending a meeting
However, 52 percent of respondents said they would prefer a hybrid or fully remote work arrangement
Updated 07 February 2023
RIYADH: Logitech on Monday announced the results of its hybrid meeting survey at LEAP 2023.
The survey, polling more than 500 white-collar workers, examined the state of current working arrangements, the impacts of hybrid work on meetings, and the challenges that business leaders and employees face in this new way of working.
As employees returned to physical office spaces, the report revealed that 52 percent of respondents would prefer to work either in a hybrid or fully remote work arrangement.
“The Kingdom is placing great emphasis on digital transformation in line with Saudi Vision 2030 to unlock its vast economic potential. Furthermore, as companies prepare for the future of work, technology will be the game changer, closing the gap between traditional and hybrid workplaces and creating a smarter, more agile, and creative local workforce,” said Loubna Imenchal, head of enterprise business at Logitech, Africa, Middle East, Turkey and Central Asia.
The hybrid meeting survey revealed that 39 percent of respondents who have joined a hybrid meeting virtually felt that they had fewer opportunities to build rapport with other participants. Additionally, 59 percent agreed that their input would be valued more if they were attending the meeting physically instead of virtually, and 40 percent felt less included as compared to in-person meeting participants.
While 73 percent of respondents agree that hybrid meetings would be more productive if all participants had an equal chance to speak and contribute, 61 percent of those who participate in hybrid meetings in-person shared that they tend to engage more with participants that are in the same room.
Respondents said that technical issues are the most significant challenges with hybrid meetings, with connectivity issues (43 percent) and poor audio quality (40 percent) ranking amongst the top concerns.
In addition, 34 percent of respondents also shared that having to repeat themselves due to participants not being able to hear them clearly also was an issue they experienced during hybrid meetings.
Other common issues such as participants not paying attention (30 percent), poor video quality (29 percent), participants being late (33 percent) and getting talked over by other participants during meetings (29 percent) were also cited as challenges in hybrid meetings.
To improve on these issues, organizations in the Kingdom must ensure that employees have access to critical technology, including network connectivity and video conferencing devices. Video collaboration technology should be a part of organizations’ digitalization plans to be successful in the future of work.
In fact, the survey revealed the critical role of video conferencing technology in solving the meeting equity problem. More than 7 in 10 respondents (62 percent) agreed that hybrid meetings are more engaging when video conferencing systems with high-quality audio and video output are used.
Organizations should implement enterprise-grade tools and solutions to bridge the gap in hybrid meetings such as meeting room devices, personal collaboration devices such as headsets and webcams to ensure overall quality and experience of video meetings.
In today’s increasingly hybrid-based work environment, there are several key aspects companies must consider to enable seamless collaboration, foster engagement, and place virtual meeting participants on equal footing with their counterparts in the conference room:
Equip: Provide teams with enterprise-level equipment such as in-room video conferencing systems, webcams, microphones, and earbuds. This enables organizations to build a consistent, reliable experience that is natively integrated with its ecosystem of choice. Video conferencing systems also provide remote participants with a full view of everyone in the office meeting room through multiple cameras with different perspectives, placing them in the best seat in the room and help them feel more included, leading to more engaging, collaborative meetings.
Simplify: With employees constantly switching between in-office and home work environments, creating an easy employee experience by ensuring that the home office closely resembles their office set-up will emerge as a top priority for organizations. Companies will have to identify pain points for both in-office and virtual meeting participants when setting up internal hybrid meeting systems, considering factors such as usability and complexity of equipment and meeting set-ups.
Empower: Fostering meeting equity requires facilitators and organizers to take an active approach to empower and encourage engagement from virtual participants. They have to practice active facilitation, minimize visual and audio clutter, and minimize side conversations.
The mix of remote and in-person participants, especially in hybrid work arrangements, create unique challenges for companies wanting to run inclusive and participative meetings. Nevertheless, modern video conference technologies such as those from Logitech allow meeting organizers to make the world of work more equitable and productive.