Coronation puts close bonds between King Charles III and the Arab and Muslim world in the limelight

Coronation puts close bonds between King Charles III and the Arab and Muslim world in the limelight
Throughout his life King Charles has represented the UK during visits across the Middle East.
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Updated 06 May 2023
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Coronation puts close bonds between King Charles III and the Arab and Muslim world in the limelight

Coronation puts close bonds between King Charles III and the Arab and Muslim world in the limelight
  • While still the Prince of Wales, Charles made dozens of official visits to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Egypt, and Jordan
  • Charles has a track record of empowering Muslim communities both in Britain and around the world

DUBAI: As the UK prepares for the coronation of King Charles III on May 6, royals from around the world are readying to attend the ceremonial swearing in of Britain’s new monarch.

Following tradition, the coronation will take place at Westminster Abbey where Charles will be anointed with holy oil and crowned with the 17th century St Edward’s Crown, molded to fit his head.

Thousands are expected to gather at the abbey and its surrounding streets in London to witness the historic event, its glorious pageantry, and to swear allegiance to their new king.

Among them will be a who’s who of Arab royalty; ruling families who have shared close bonds with the House of Windsor over seven decades during the reign of the late Queen Elizabeth II and whose members the new British king knows well.

Charles’ affinity for the Arab world, and the Middle East more broadly, has created a bond with the region. So too has his curiousness for Islam, a fact that has led him to study the faith in depth and embrace many of its tenets.

Islamic art adorns many of Britain’s royal palaces. Charles has been an enthusiastic participant in interfaith dialogue between leaders of the monotheistic faiths and he handed an OBE honor to Saudi citizen Mohammed Abdul Latif Jamil, who curated the Islamic Art exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Such is his enthusiasm for the Middle East, that Charles has told friends among Gulf royalty that some of his most profound experiences in life have been spent in the deserts of the Hijaz where prophets once roamed and where the history of the region and its great faith was forged.

The coronation will be attended by national an d international heads of state, royal families, and their representatives from around the world including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait.

Echoing the relationship his late mother Queen Elizabeth forged with the Middle East, King Charles is expected to continue the close bond during his reign, one he is renowned for.

For example, he considered Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah a personal friend, and following his death in January 2015, Charles flew to Riyadh to express his condolences in person to his successor, King Salman, and to pay his final respects to his friend.

Charles last visited the region with his wife, the Queen Consort Camilla, in November 2021 where he went to Egypt and Jordan to discuss and fortify inter-religious dialogue.

In Jordan, he also visited Syrian and Palestinian refugees who most rely on Saudi and British donations to make do.

In total, Charles has made 12 official visits to Saudi Arabia, seven to both the UAE and Kuwait, six to Qatar, and five to Jordan.

His admiration and love for the Middle East is even reflected in his watercolor paintings where he often draws inspiration from Wadi Arkam and Diriyah in Saudi Arabia as well as Aqaba in Jordan.

The then Prince of Wales, established many charitable foundations in the Middle East, notably The Prince’s Foundation, which is dedicated to “realizing the Prince of Wales’ vision of creating communities for a more sustainable world.”

The foundation is focused on education, the appreciation of heritage, and creating equal opportunities for youth in the UK and abroad. It runs satellite programs in more than 20 countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt where it has built centers.

In Jeddah’s old city, Al-Balad, it has established an arts and crafts center, allowing students to participate in the Ministry of Culture’s restoration projects there.

At the Tantora festival in AlUla held in winter from Jan. 10 to March 21, 2020, the foundation portrayed an exhibition titled “Cosmos, Color, and Craft: The Art of the Order of Nature in AlUla.” It also ran a series of hands-on workshops in cooperation with the Royal Commission for AlUla.

The new king, although not having executive powers, holds the title of defender of the faith and supreme governor of the Church of England. For many, his interest and warm views on Islam are a hopeful sign.

After the 9/11 attacks on the US, Charles, who long immersed himself in Islam, studying the religion’s textiles, gardens, and architecture, doubled down on his views opposing Islamophobia.

Quoting the Holy Qur’an during his visit to Pakistan in 2006, he said: “Only they pay attention who have hearts; only they believe or see signs who have hearts.”

Charles, who also serves as the patron of the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, learned Arabic for six months prior to his Gulf tour in 2016.

In 2020, he visited the Palestinian territories for the first time and wished Palestinians “freedom, justice, and equality” while repeatedly urging the British government to do more to better the conditions and living standards of Palestinians.

While his ascension to the throne means he will no longer be able to freely express his views, he has made his opinion on the Middle East and Islam clear.

With more than 3 million Muslims in the UK, Islam is the second-largest religion in the country, and its new monarch’s views on it are well known.

Following the news of Queen Elizabeth’s death on Sept. 8, prayers and sermons were held throughout the country in her honor. A Friday sermon was held in Cambridge’s Central Mosque where Islamic scholar Abdul Hakim Murad reiterated and read some lines from one of Charles’ speeches. He said: “Whether we are monarchist or not monarchist, or care about this or not, it does matter that in a time of mounting Islamophobia, there are some people who wish to stand with us.”

Charles was once quoted as saying, “Islam can teach us today a way of understanding and living in the world which Christianity itself is the poorer for having lost. At the heart of Islam is its preservation of an integral view of the universe.”

In 2006, at Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the leading university for Islamic teachings, the then Prince of Wales said: “We in the West are in debt to the scholars of Islam, for it was thanks to them that during the Dark Ages in Europe the treasurers of classical learning were kept alive.”

In 2010, during a speech at the University of Oxford, Charles said: “The Islamic world is the custodian of one of the greatest treasuries of accumulated wisdom and spiritual knowledge available to humanity.”

At a time when Islamophobia and xenophobia are on the rise throughout the West, the new British monarch is empowering Muslim communities, his stance unparalleled in any other Western political figure.

Charles was one of the handful who publicly opposed the European ban on the burqas and condemned the Danish cartoon insulting the Prophet Muhammad. 

King Charles III: Official trips to the Arab world 

  • 1

    Prince of Wales embarks on first GCC tour visiting Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia

  • 2

    Saudi Arabia: Prince Charles meets with British forces deployed for the Gulf War

    Timeline Image December 21-23, 1990

  • 3

    GCC: Prince Charles meets with royal families of UAE, Sultan Qaboos of Oman and Saudi Arabia’s King Fahad and Crown Prince Abdullah. 

    Timeline Image November 17-23, 1999

  • 4

    Saudi Arabia: Visited with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and received a white Arabian stallion and a pair of swords as a gift. 

    Timeline Image March 24-26, 2006

  • 5

    Kuwait: Participated in the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Kuwait’s independence.

    Timeline Image October 30-31, 2011

  • 6

    Saudi Arabia: Attended the Janadriyah festival, wore traditional Saudi clothes and participated in the Ardah dance, attracting global attention

    Timeline Image February 17-19, 2014

  • 7

    Qatar: Visited the Museum of Islamic Art, the National Heritage Library, and the Anglican Centre at the Religious Complex

  • 8

    UAE: Met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, then-Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi

  • 9

    Bahrain: Met with King Hamad at Bustan Palace in Manama

  • 10

    Jordan: Visited Za’atari Refugee Camp

  • 11

    Saudi Arabia: Toured AlUla and the historical Hejaz Railway

    Timeline Image Febraury 10-12, 2015

  • 12

    UAE: Visited Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

    Timeline Image November 7-9, 2016

  • 13

    Palestine: Visited Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus

  • 14

    Jordan: Visited Al-Maghtas, where Jesus was baptized, and collected water from the Jordan River

    Timeline Image November 16-17, 2021

  • 15

    Egypt: Toured the Giza pyramid complex, Al-Azhar Mosque, and the Bibliotheca Alexandria

    Timeline Image November 18-19, 2021

  • 16

    Prince Charles visits the National Library in Doha, Qatar

    Timeline Image February 20, 2014

  • 17

    Saudi Arabia: King Salman welcomed Prince Charles on a two-day private visit to the Kingdom

    Timeline Image February 10, 2015

 


More than 100 dead, scores more injured in Iraq wedding inferno

More than 100 dead, scores more injured in Iraq wedding inferno
Updated 36 min 20 sec ago
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More than 100 dead, scores more injured in Iraq wedding inferno

More than 100 dead, scores more injured in Iraq wedding inferno
  • The fire ripped through a large event hall after fireworks were lit during the celebration
  • civil defense authorities say prefabricated panels inside hall were 'highly flammable'

QARAQOSH: At least 100 people were killed and more than 150 injured when a fire broke out during a wedding at an event hall in the northern Iraqi town of Qaraqosh, officials said early Wednesday.

At the main hospital in the predominantly Christian town east of Mosul, an AFP photographer saw ambulances arriving with sirens blaring and dozens of people gathering in the courtyard to donate blood.

Others could be seen gathering in front of the open doors of a refrigerated truck loaded with black body bags.

Citing a “preliminary tally,” Iraq’s official INA news agency reported that health authorities in Nineveh province had “counted 100 dead and more than 150 injured in the fire at a marriage hall in Hamdaniyah,” as the town is also known.

The casualty toll was confirmed to AFP by health ministry spokesman Saif Al-Badr.

Badr said most of the injured were being treated for burns or oxygen deprivation, adding that there had also been crowd crushes at the scene.

In a statement, civil defense authorities reported the presence of prefabricated panels inside the event hall that were “highly flammable and contravened safety standards.”

The danger was compounded by the “release of toxic gases linked to the combustion of the panels,” which contained plastic.

“The fire caused some parts of the ceiling to fall due to the use of highly flammable, low-cost construction materials,” the statement said, with “preliminary information” suggesting fireworks were to blame for the blaze.

Wedding guest Rania Waad, who sustained a burn to her hand, said that as the bride and groom “were slow dancing, the fireworks started to climb to the ceiling (and) the whole hall went up in flames.”

“We couldn’t see anything,” the 17-year-old said, choking back sobs. “We were suffocating, we didn’t know how to get out.”

Emergency crews were seen sifting through the charred remains of the event hall early Wednesday, inspecting the scene by flashlight.

In a brief statement, Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani called on the health and interior ministers to “mobilize all rescue efforts” to help the victims of the fire.

The health ministry said “medical aid trucks” had been dispatched to the area from Baghdad and other provinces, adding that its teams in Nineveh had been mobilized to care for the injured.

Safety standards in Iraq’s construction sector are often disregarded, and the country, whose infrastructure is in disrepair after decades of conflict, is often the scene of fatal fires and accidents.

In July 2021, a fire in the Covid unit of a hospital in southern Iraq killed more than 60 people.

And in April of the same year, exploding oxygen tanks triggered a fire at a hospital in Baghdad — also dedicated to Covid patients — that killed more than 80 people.

Like many Christian towns in the Nineveh Plains, northeast of Mosul, Qaraqosh was ransacked by jihadists of the Daesh group after they entered the town in 2014.

Qaraqosh and its churches were slowly rebuilt after the group’s ouster in 2017, and Pope Francis visited the town in March 2021.


US to admit Israel into visa waiver program

US to admit Israel into visa waiver program
Updated 27 September 2023
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US to admit Israel into visa waiver program

US to admit Israel into visa waiver program

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration is set to announce on Wednesday that it will admit Israel into the United States Visa Waiver Program (VWP), allowing visa-free entry by Israeli citizens from Nov. 30, officials said.
The decision, which Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday was expected, is a win for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist government, whose relations with Washington have been strained over its judiciary overhaul plan and its policies toward the Palestinians.
For admission to the program that allows visitors to stay for up to 90 days without a visa, Washington requires countries to meet requirements on issues such as counterterrorism, law enforcement, immigration enforcement, document security, and border management.
Countries must also treat all US travelers equally, regardless of other passports they hold.
In Israel’s case, that means free passage for Palestinian Americans at its airports and on journeys with the occupied Palestinian territories.
Some Palestinians have protested against Israel’s entry into the VWP, citing what they say are decades of discriminatory treatment of Arab Americans and harassment at Israel’s borders.
In a pilot period since July 20, Israel has eased access for Palestinian Americans through its borders and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Between 45,000 and 60,000 Palestinian Americans live in the West Bank, a US official estimated. An Israeli official put the figure lower, saying that of 70,000 to 90,000 Palestinian Americans worldwide, 15,000 to 20,000 are West Bank residents.
There are 40 countries in the VWP, with nations added infrequently, Croatia being the most recent in 2021.
A group of 15 US senators wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sept. 8, voicing serious concerns that Israel was not in compliance with requirements for reciprocal treatment of all US citizens.
On Tuesday, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee on Tuesday filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security, seeking to block Israel's entry to the programme.
A US judge in Detroit denied an emergency motion on procedural grounds, saying the department had not been provided proper notice of the lawsuit.
In Aug. 2021, the White House had said it was working with Israel towards its inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program.


Lebanese army says it exchanged smoke-bomb fire with Israel

Lebanese army says it exchanged smoke-bomb fire with Israel
Updated 27 September 2023
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Lebanese army says it exchanged smoke-bomb fire with Israel

Lebanese army says it exchanged smoke-bomb fire with Israel
  • Tensions have flared along the frontier this summer, with rockets fired at Israel during flare-ups of Israeli-Palestinian violence

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s army said on Wednesday it had exchanged smoke bombs with Israeli troops at the border, the second such incident in a week.
The Lebanese army, in an online statement, said Israeli troops had fired smoke bombs at a Lebanese patrol that was accompanying workers removing “infringements” that the army said had been set up by the Israelis north of the Blue Line.
Tensions have flared along the frontier this summer, with rockets fired at Israel during flare-ups of Israeli-Palestinian violence, and members of the heavily armed Lebanese group Hezbollah or its supporters facing off with Israeli forces.
Neither the Israeli military nor the United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon immediately responded to Reuters requests for comment.
The current demarcation line between the two countries is known as the Blue Line, a frontier mapped by the United Nations that marks the line to which Israeli forces withdrew when they left south Lebanon in 2000.
Lebanese army troops “responded by firing smoke bombs toward enemy troops,” the statement said.
It was the second such incident in a week after the troops exchanged tear gas and smoke bombs over a similar dispute at the Blue Line.


Third Bahraini soldier dies after Houthi drone attack close to Saudi border

Third Bahraini soldier dies after Houthi drone attack close to Saudi border
Updated 27 September 2023
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Third Bahraini soldier dies after Houthi drone attack close to Saudi border

Third Bahraini soldier dies after Houthi drone attack close to Saudi border

DUBAI: A third Bahraini serviceman died on Wednesday following a Houthi drone attack on Monday against forces of the Saudi-led coalition in Saudi Arabia near the border with Yemen, Bahrain’s state news agency said.
Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement has battled the Saudi-led coalition since 2015 in a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and left 80 percent of the population dependent on aid.
The drone attack represents a major escalation after more than a year of relative calm in Yemen as peace efforts gain momentum. It could jeopardize talks between Saudi and Houthi officials who have just held another round of negotiations on a potential agreement toward ending the conflict.


Iran says it puts imaging satellite sucessfully into orbit amid tensions with West

Iran says it puts imaging satellite sucessfully into orbit amid tensions with West
Updated 27 September 2023
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Iran says it puts imaging satellite sucessfully into orbit amid tensions with West

Iran says it puts imaging satellite sucessfully into orbit amid tensions with West
  • here was no immediate acknowledgment from Western officials of the launch

DUBAI: Iran claimed on Wednesday that it has successfully put an imaging satellite into space.
The state-run IRNA news agency, quoting the country’s Communication Minister Isa Zarepour, said the Noor-3 satellite had been put in an orbit 450 kilometers (280 miles) above the Earth’s surface.
There was no immediate acknowledgment from Western officials of the launch or of the satellite being put into orbit. Iran has had a series of failed launches in recent years.
Zarepour said the aerospace arm of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard launched the satellite carrier, which has had success in launching satellites from its previously secret launch program. Authorities did not immediately release images of the launch.
The United States has alleged that Iran’s satellite launches defy a UN Security Council resolution and has called on Tehran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. The US intelligence community’s 2022 threat assessment claims such a satellite launch vehicle “shortens the timeline” to an intercontinental ballistic missile for Iran as it uses “similar technologies.”
Iran, which has long said it does not seek nuclear weapons, previously maintained that its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component. US intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency say Iran abandoned an organized military nuclear program in 2003. Iran has maintained its program is for peaceful purposes.