Monday, October 27, 2003

Saudization of Technical Jobs: Expats Doubtful of Success

Saudi Arabia - Crock of gold or bag of shite? Depends on who you are.

RIYADH, 27 October 2003 — Expatriate workers from the subcontinent in the Hayyel Wuzarat district here say Saudization of technical jobs will succeed in numbers but not in substance.

Popularly known as Hara, the area is dominated by largely working class Bangladeshis, Indians and Pakistanis. Saudis by and large avoid the area and Saudi women rarely shop here, partly because it is a favorite haunt of expatriate bargain hunters.

The large number of expatriates in front of tea shops and restaurants or sitting on the parapet along the road discourages women from coming to the area.

Recently the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs said it will Saudize 25 job categories — from the sale of clothes, toys, abayas and perfume to cellular phones and car spares.

Under the new regulations, the salesman in stores with a single employee must be Saudi, while in shops with two employees, at least one should be a Saudi. In the second year, 50 percent of the work force in such businesses should be Saudis, reaching 75 percent in the third year.

But Masood Ahmad, a Bangladeshi worker, says Saudization of the lower rungs of the ladder is not feasible. He told Arab News that technical jobs available with private firms pay so little that Saudis will not accept them. Even if they do, he asked, are they willing to take orders from a supervisor who is invariably an expatriate?

“We work anything from eight to 10 hours or more depending on the situation.”

He said the only case where Saudization has apparently succeeded is when Saudi companies have been subcontracted by a government organization and the contract stipulates that the Saudi firm will increase its Saudi work force regularly by five percent every year.

Muneer, a Pakistani, came here on an open visa after paying the equivalent of SR8,000. After a one-year search, he finally landed the job of an electrician.

“It has been more than eight years and still I haven’t been home. My passport is with my sponsor, and he won’t give it to me. I am not getting my salary regularly. This has forced me to borrow from my friends and acquaintances. Given all that, how do you expect my Saudi sponsor to hire a Saudi and pay him SR1,500 instead of the SR800 that is supposed to be my salary,” he said.

Alam, a Bangladeshi, says that before he came to Saudi Arabia 14 years ago, he worked as an electrician in Greece and earlier in Malaysia and Singapore.

“I had to leave jobs in all three countries when my employers ran out of new contracts. But I never had any problem with them so long as I was in their service. I got my salary and all other promised benefits without having to remind them. Here, the situation is horrible. I have not been home for the last 14 years, because I have no work, no money, and no passport. My Iqama lapsed long ago and I am now illegal.” He earns his livelihood by cleaning cars.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Protest Thwarted

Doesn't look much like a journalist's copy!

Protest Thwarted
Saudi Press Agency —

RIYADH, 24 October 2003 — A number of people rallied yesterday afternoon in Jeddah, Hail and Dammam drawing a number of other people who came out of curiosity or because they knew of what was going to happen. The security forces handled the gathering in a manner that would safeguard public order. Those who participated in the rally are being interrogated to refer them to the Shariah court to look into their case.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Mobile Phones During Prayer

Mobile Phones During Prayer
Edited by Adil Salahi —

Q. Nowadays many people carry their mobile or cell phones wherever they go. When they come into a mosque most people switch off their mobiles, or put them on the silent mode. Inevitably, however, some may forget, particularly if they come late and the congregation has already started. If there is a call and the phone rings the person concerned is embarrassed. Some people suggest that he should reach the phone and switch it off without holding it. Is this permissible?

M. Ishaq

A. The worry seems to me to be connected with the movement involved, or perhaps with the distraction that this causes. But then we have to understand that Islam deals with human situations and takes into account human failings. It does not put people into embarrassing or difficult situations and then requires them to act as if there is no embarrassment or no difficulty. On the contrary, God has given us so many concessions in order to make things easy for us. Whenever offered a choice between two alternatives, the Prophet always chose the easier one, unless it involved something forbidden.

What a person whose mobile rings when he is in prayer should do is to switch it off. If this means reaching into his pocket and taking it out, looking at it so that one presses the right button, then so be it. He should do it straightaway, so that he does not prolong the disturbance. This does not affect the validity of his prayer. It remains valid, and no harm is done.

Consider the alternative: The mobile will still be ringing, and some mobiles are set so that the second and third rings are louder. Some have a musical tone, and some are set with popular music pieces. So, if the mobile is allowed to ring on while the congregational prayer is in progress, the disturbance is really bad. Moreover, when it is not answered, the caller may think that he dialled wrongly, and may call again after a short interval. Where does this leave us, particularly if two or three mobiles ring in succession?

Taken from the practical point of view, this situation prompts a ruling that anyone whose mobile rings in prayer should switch it off straightaway without interrupting his prayer. If this means an extended movement, as in the case of the mobile being in an inner pocket of his clothes, there is no harm in that.

Yet all this argument would have been discarded if there were any Hadith or ruling by the Prophet that such an action will invalidate prayers. Hence, we need to verify it against the Prophet’s statements and actions. What we should look for is the type of movement the Prophet and his companions made while praying. Abu Qatadah reports: “The Prophet prayed while carrying Umamah bint Zaynab, his daughter, on his neck. When he bowed (i.e. did his ruku’), he put her on floor, and when he rose from his prostration, he put her back on his neck.” Ibn Jurayj, a leading Hadith scholar of the second century, says that he learned that this was in Fajr prayer. (Related by Ahmad and Al-Nassaie). Here we see the Prophet carrying his granddaughter over his shoulder in an obligatory prayer, when he was leading the congregation in the mosque. This requires more careful attention than we need to take for switching off a mobile phone.

Aishah reports: “The Prophet was praying at home, with the door closed. I came and knocked. He walked to the door and opened for me before returning to his praying position.” (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Al-Nassaie and Al-Tirmidhi). She clarifies that the door was in the same direction as the qiblah. On the basis of this Hadith, scholars rule that walking a couple of steps during prayer, for a valid reason, is permissible and does not affect the validity of prayer. However, all scholars agree that a long walk invalidates prayer. Moreover, the walk should not involve turning away from the direction of the qiblah.

There are situations where greater movement is done, but these apply in special situations. I have chosen situations which have no emergency factor. The child could have been put on the floor before the start of prayer, but the Prophet carried her throughout, in every rak’ah. The person at the door could have waited or turned back, but the Prophet walked a couple of steps to open, and a couple more to return.


A Good Read

The return of Arabophobia
Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are only the latest in a long line of Arab bogeymen

Neil Clark
Monday October 20, 2003
The Guardian

First, they tried to dismiss Iraqi resistance as the work of "Saddam loyalists". Then they sought to blame "outside forces". Now, as it becomes clear that Iraqis of all sects oppose the occupation, a third explanation has arisen. Terrorism, anarchy and criminality are prevalent in Iraq because ... er ... terrorism, anarchy and criminality are what Iraqis do.

Arabophobia has been part of western culture since the Crusades, with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden only the latest in a long line of Arab bogeymen. For centuries the Arab has played the role of villain, seducer of our women, hustler and thief - the barbarian lurking at the gates of civilisation.

In the 20th century new images emerged: the fanatical terrorist, the stone-thrower, the suicide bomber. Now, as the Project for a New American Century suffers its first major setback in the back streets of Baghdad and Basra, Arabophobia has been given a new lease of life. "I read TE Lawrence before I came here," a British officer was quoted in the Mail on Sunday. "A century ago he recognised dishonesty was inherent in Arab society. Today is the same. They do nothing for love and nothing at all if they can help it."

The attitudes of the officer, shocking though they are, only mirror those of the people who sent him to war. Scratch a neo-con and you find an Arabophobe. Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, has berated Arabs on the "need to change their behaviour". Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defence for policy, has talked of Israel's "moral superiority" over its neighbours. And the veteran foreign policy hawk Richard Perle, when asked about the fears Egyptians had of the Iraq war provoking an Arab backlash, replied: "Egyptians can barely govern their own country, we don't need advice on how to govern ours."

For the first time, we have an American administration that talks of "de-Arabising" the Middle East - the ultimate Perleian dream of Arab nations governed by clones of Ahmed Chalabi, their bazaars buried under shopping malls and Arab hospitality (not good for business) replaced by western corporate ethics.

It is not hard to find evidence of the increased pervasiveness of neo-con-induced Arabophobia in our media, whether intentional or not. Contrast Jeremy Paxman's handling of Ruth Wedgewood, an American neo-conservative, and Imad Moustapha, Syria's deputy ambassador to the US, on Newsnight recently. Professor Wedgewood was treated with a deference you would expect Paxman to reserve for his great aunt, Dr Moustapha with a withering contempt and studied condescension (why should we believe you, "old chap"?). But with respect, Jeremy, why should we not believe Dr Moustapha? Wedgewood was speaking for a nation that launched an illegal war of aggression on grounds which have proved to be false. Moustapha was the representative of a country which is in no breach of international law and has called for the removal of all WMD from the Middle East.

Issues of mendacity have, of course, been a major theme in international events this year. The British public had to decide who was telling the truth: Tony Blair, with his claim that Iraq posed "a very real threat to Britain", or Saddam, with his repeated denials. The neo-cons knew that their case for war was painfully thin. But they banked on Arabophobia - stoked by their allies in the media - to do the rest: Tony, the white, middle-class churchgoer, or Saddam, the swarthy Arab? For many, there was no contest. Of course, Saddam couldn't possibly be telling the truth about not possessing WMD. He's an Arab. Arabs lie. We know this from TE Lawrence.

Critical to the neo-con plan to obtain control of the resources of the Middle East is a need to portray Arabs not just as mendacious, but also as "barely capable" of running their own countries without benign outside interference. The neo-con notion that Arabs need "civilising" and "assistance" in shaping their future differs very little from the attitudes of the first British imperialists in Africa more than a century ago. The British and American officers who now talk of Iraqi "dishonesty", and seek to portray Iraq as a backward and savage land, would rather we forget that up until the imposition of sanctions by Britain and the US, independent Ba'athist Iraq, although a dictatorship, had the most developed infrastructure, the best healthcare and the best universities of any country in the Middle East.

"Iraqis are the world's best dodgers and thieves - they are descended from a direct line of Ali Babas," says Corporal Kevin Harnley of the Royal Engineers, bemoaning the black market in British-issue police uniforms. The irony, that he himself has been an accomplice to one of the most audacious smash-and-grab enterprises in the history of thievery, seems to have been lost on him.

· Neil Clark is a writer and journalist specialising in Middle Eastern and Balkan affairs

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

A First in Saudi Arabia: Hundreds Demonstrate for Freedom

A First in Saudi Arabia: Hundreds Demonstrate for Freedom

Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2003
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Hundreds of Saudis took to the streets Tuesday demanding reforms, witnesses said, the first large-scale protest in this kingdom, where demonstrations are illegal.
Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters and arrested some, witnesses said.

The protests appeared to be in response to repeated calls by the London-based Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia for Saudis to gather in central Riyadh to ask for political, economic and administrative reforms.

Witnesses said hundreds of people, mostly youths, demonstrated in front of Al-Mamlaka shopping mall and blocking traffic before police moved in. Some of the protesters chanted religious phrases such as, "God is great," but no anti-regime chants were heard, witnesses said.

Police officials were not immediately available for comment.

The Saudi royal family is under pressure to bring democratic reform to the country, especially since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States and increasing terrorist violence at home. On Monday, the government announced it would hold the kingdom's first-ever elections, a vote to select members of 14 municipal councils.

Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia, one of the better-known dissident groups, brings together a number of Saudi intellectuals. Its faxes and e-mails are widely circulated in pro-reform circles inside and outside the kingdom. Founded in 1996, the group, which opposes the policies of the Saudi royal family, champions an open, moderate system of government and has never been linked to violence.

Saad al-Fagih, MIRA's director, said the protesters called on authorities to free reform activists allegedly in Saudi custody.

"It was a totally peaceful sit-in, but Saudi police handled it in a very violent manner that it turned into chaos," al-Fagih told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from London.

He said police detained nearly 300 protesters. He said one of the detained women, calling herself Um Saud, called MIRA's radio station through a cellular phone to report she was taken on a bus with other protesters to jail. He said confrontations were continuing between protesters and police.

Saudi Minister of Interior Prince Nayef had said in comments published by SPA Monday that MIRA's call for protests was "useless barking" as protests were illegal in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom never sees large-scale street protests. During the buildup of Western troops in Saudi Arabia, a group of women drove their cars through Riyadh in November 1990 to protest laws banning women from driving. About 50 women were detained for the protest and lost their jobs and passports for two years.

Saudis cannot hold public gatherings to discuss political or social issues, and press freedoms are limited. But the fear of domestic terrorism, which was brought home for Saudis after May 12 bombings in Riyadh, has initiated an unprecedented public debate, and some of the kingdom's rulers have discussed opening the society. Critics say a lack of freedoms has made the kingdom a breeding ground for extremists. Last month, some 300 Saudi men and women signed a petition, the third this year, urging Saudi rulers to speed promised reforms to ward off the influence of extremist Islam in the kingdom.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Two Asians, One Saudi Die in Bid to Clean Alrashid Mall Sewer

Monday, October 13, 2003

Dieting and Exercise Catch On Among Saudis, Expatriates

Waddle while you walk!

RIYADH, 13 October 2003 — With obesity in the Kingdom reaching alarming proportions, and the proportions of obese Saudis more alarming than those of any other nationality, dieting and exercise are becoming increasingly fashionable.

Walking in particular, a gentle and inexpensive form of exercise, is becoming more widespread in the car-crazy and home-bound Kingdom, perhaps aided by the dramatic fall in per capita income in recent years.

“Walking seems to appeal to people of all ages now, and in the evenings you can see a lot of people out getting some exercise,” Amjad Rana, a health and hygiene expert, told Arab News.

But Dr. Rana said that there were other reasons for the exercise and dieting fad. Medical experts believe that behind the boom is a social pathology caused by the rising number of obese people, in part a response to the dire warnings about obesity widely publicized in the media.

Many of the health-conscious interviewed by Arab News said exercise was essential for the health of people of every age.

“Physical fitness is important for me,” said Danilo Lojada, 41, a Filipino jogger. “There is no pressure on me from my family or peers to jog and reduce my weight. But jogging is essential in Saudi Arabia, where we have a lot of fat and carbohydrates in our diet. We’ve got to find a way to burn it all off,” he added.

“In Saudi Arabia there is an emerging trend for families to look for slim brides, and there seems to be a growing dislike for obese girls and boys,” said Ahmad Al-Kudairy, who regularly exercises at his local gym.

“People are becoming obese earlier and earlier,” he said. “It’s a shame seeing Saudis as young as that unable to pray properly in the mosques because of all the extra flesh on their bodies.”

Unofficial statistics indicate that one out of every four or five primary and secondary school students in Saudi schools is obese.

The children of long-term expatriates are not spared, exposed as they are to the sedentary lifestyle and vast proportions of food consumed in the Kingdom.

“My wife and I and one of my kids are currently on diet and are cutting down on fatty foods,” said Jarraf Arabaj, an Egyptian. He said that he did not join a health club because they are expensive but instead goes walking at a brisk pace for 45 minutes every evening near the King Fahd Medical City.

A study reveals that 36.6 percent of subjects had normal weight while 34.8 percent were overweight and 26.9 percent moderately obese. According to the study by three Saudi experts — Dr. Sulaiman Al-Shammari, Tawfik A. Khoja and Muhammad A. Maatouq — a large number of Saudis are unaware of the problems associated with obesity.

But a growing number of Saudis and expatriates, in part due to relentless media bombardment with images of slim singers and movie stars, are becoming weight-conscious. Low-fat and diet foods are flooding into Saudi Arabia as the number of weight watchers continues to explode. Skipping meals has become a fashion, especially among working women, who are now coming to the offices with nothing more than a thermos full of tea or coffee to sustain them through the day.

“You’re not going to lose weight quickly by just dieting,” said Ahsan Kamal, a Pakistani jogger, who has reduced his weight from 90 kg to 72 kg in 16 months. Kamal says his doctor recommended five or six hours of vigorous walking per week.

Doctors say that the cost of a healthy lifestyle and minimizing preventable risk factors such as high cholesterol levels, smoking, obesity and inactivity represents only a tiny fraction of the expense of treating established heart disease or recovering from a heart attack or stroke.

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | MoD chief in fraud cover-up row

Go to link for original letters

MoD chief in fraud cover-up row
Role of Sir Kevin Tebbit exposed in letters

David Leigh and Rob Evans
Monday October 13, 2003
The Guardian

The personal role of Sir Kevin Tebbit, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, in an alleged cover-up of major fraud and corruption is exposed in letters seen by the Guardian.

Sir Kevin, the MoD's top official, failed to follow up for two years allegations that the arms firm BAE Systems ran a slush fund designed to bribe Saudi officials.

"I have no wish to set damaging hares running," Sir Kevin wrote in a "personal and confidential" letter to the head of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), who had brought the allegations against BAE to his attention. They raised "sensitive issues", he said.

The MoD delayed for the past month in releasing to the Guardian two letters from Sir Kevin disclosable under the open government access code. Sir Kevin is revealed in the correspondence to have:

· Tipped off the chairman of BAE, Sir Richard Evans, about the contents of a confidential SFO letter

· Failed to fulfil a promise to the SFO to notify them of the outcome of his "detailed investigations".

Sir Kevin prevented the MoD's fraud squad from investigating the case, and also withheld the SFO's warnings from the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat industry spokesman, said last night that he was asking the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, to intervene.

"The fact that the MoD is taking refuge in assurances from BAE reinforces the widespread belief that the relationship between BAE and MoD is incestuous and unhealthily close," he said.

Once the Guardian revealed the existence of the slush fund allegations last month, Sir Kevin defended himself in a second private letter to the head of the SFO.

On September 12, he wrote to Robert Wardle, SFO director, saying his failure to follow up the matter, as promised, was "a bureaucratic hitch".

Sir Kevin maintained "somewhat to my embarrassment" that it had been forgotten about, due to "a move of office location and changeover of private secretaries at exactly that time".

He also tried to persuade Mr Wardle that the MoD had no responsibility for allegedly fraudulent BAE invoices submitted to the Saudi government under the Al-Yamamah government-to-government arms deals.

"The MoD only endorses invoices under the Al-Yamamah project which relate to specific goods and services provided to Saudi Arabia," he wrote. Sir Kevin said the suspect invoices "do not fit into this category and are entirely a matter for BAE".

Last night the original complainant, Edward Cunningham, a former employee of RLI, a front company involved, said this claim was false.

All the payments made through RLI were recharged by BAE to the Saudi government under the budget heading "visa services" he said. "The Saudis were defrauded and the MoD endorsed it."

The Saudi government pays the MoD a hefty annual fee to ensure that BAE meets its contractual arrangements under the arms deals. Last year they paid in the region of £30m. (The MoD does not release the exact figure.)

Mr Cable said he was referring the case to the attorney general because "Sir Kevin's letters raise as many questions as they answer"

"My understanding is that some of the key disclaimers about MoD responsibility are probably factually wrong and need to be more thoroughly investigated by a responsible body which has no direct interest in the matter," he added.

The most unexpected disclosure in the correspondence is that, although Sir Kevin was warned in confidence that Sir Richard had been accused of personal complicity, one of the first things he did was to tip him off.

The then head of the SFO, Rosalind Wright, had warned him in March 2001 that, according to the complainant alleging fraud, "Sir Richard Evans has been made aware of it but either is prepared to tolerate it or, conceivably, is in some way complicit".

Sir Kevin later disclosed however: "I did draw your letter personally to the attention of Sir Richard Evans."

He added: "The chairman told me this was an old story and reaffirmed BAE's commitment to operating within the law in all countries in which the company was involved. He said the allegations had been investigated previously without finding any evidence of fraud".

BAE internal files contradict this.

A BAE security report marked "commercial in secret" records "A number of documents... appear to support the allegations".

Subsequent minutes show that BAE executives planned to "square off" the original complainant, cut off access to funds by alleged fraudsters and bring the situation "under control".

Sir Kevin replied to the SFO on May 24 2001: "I have no wish to set damaging hares running, but given the sensitive issues raised in your letter, I have conducted a discreet initial exploration of the allegations' implications... am undertaking more detailed investigations to establish any implications for the depart ment, and I will let you know the outcome."

The SFO head was sufficiently reassured to write to the original complainants, promising: "Should the ministry uncover sufficient evidence which would justify... an investigation, I am confident they will refer the matter back to us." But the MoD remained silent thereafter.

Mr Cunningham, who went with his solicitor to the SFO with the original documents, said: "I believed a police investigation was taking place. But now I think I was simply lied to".

We put the specific allegations against Sir Kevin to the MoD last week. The ministry did not respond.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Asian Workers Complain of Harassment

DAMMAM, 12 October 2003 — Thousands of Asian workers in Saudi Arabia — mainly Bangladeshis, Indians and Sri Lankans — live in desperate conditions which they say amount to bonded labor. The exploitation of menial workers in the Kingdom is no secret, and reports about their circumstances have appeared in almost all Arabic dailies.

Recently a group of Asian workers visited Arab News Gulf Bureau seeking to highlight their problems. Most of the laborers were of Bangladeshi origin and were employed by a cleaning and maintenance company headquartered in Al-Ahsa.

The men and thousands like them are paid a salary of SR300 per month. They work long hours without overtime pay. Accommodation is provided by the company they work for, but there is no food allowance or other benefits. They are entitled to a vacation after two years, but many of them have not seen their country for several years.

Another concern is their legal status. In a recent swoop, the Passports Department arrested several Bangladeshis for not carrying their Iqama. However, each of them had a letter from their company saying that their Iqama had gone for processing to the Passports Department in Al-Ahsa. All the workers were released after a day or two when the company’s representative presented the documents to the relevant authorities.

But the workers told Arab News that the company deducted their salary for the days they were off work while in detention.

“Tell me: Was it our fault?” asked an Indian worker. He said in some instances the Passports Department imposed a fine on workers for not carrying their Iqama, and the company deducted the amount from the workers’ salary too.

Their sponsor, who is based in Al-Ahsa, however, denied the allegations and said the employees were arrested while their Iqamas were being processed at the Passports Department in Al-Ahsa. He added he was not aware of any salary deductions and said he would “look into the matter.”

But the workers say this was not the first time workers have been arrested and had their salaries deducted for the period they spent in detention. “Our supervisor and manager blame us for the arrests, saying that we must have gone to work elsewhere and got arrested in the process,” a worker said.

Recently Interior Minister Prince Naif made it clear that no authority can seize a worker’s ID and that expatriates must carry their ID with them at all times.

According to the workers, their management is flouting these regulations, ostensibly because in the past workers disappeared with their Iqama and took on jobs elsewhere.

Workers admit that they do take up odd jobs elsewhere.

“I work as a part-time house boy in a couple of households and clean half a dozen cars every day to supplement my income,” said one Bangladeshi worker.

“Can anyone really survive on SR300 per month, let alone send money back home for the family?” he asked.

He said that to get the job he had to pay nearly 100,000 Bangladeshi taka (about SR6,500) to a broker.

“We sell our land and our wives’ jewelry and take out loans to get the job. We are told one salary in Bangladesh and quite another when we get here, and none of the benefits they promise us ever materialize. Here all we get is SR300, harassment and pain,” he said.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Saudi Asks Suitor for $270 for Peek at Daughter

RIYADH, 2 October 2003 — A Saudi father demanded a suitor pay SR1,000 just to have a look at his daughter before marrying her, a Saudi newspaper said yesterday. Al-Watan daily said the father also asked the prospective groom to pay SR5,000, apparently as down payment on a dowry, once his daughter — who is currently divorcing her first husband and father of her child — agreed to the marriage. The paper said the groom, a Saudi who is already married and has five children, paid both sums but called off the deal when he found that the bride had been married before. Islamic Shariah law as practised in Saudi Arabia allows a man to have up to four wives at a time. It also segregates men and women who are not related. Most marriages in the Kingdom are arranged by families and most grooms must pay a substantial dowry to the bride.

Angry Man Takes Revenge on His Goat

KHORMA, 2 October 2003 — A local man slaughtered his goat after it ate his day’s earnings, according to a report in the local press. Returning home with SR1,900 from the sale of goats in the market, the man placed the money in the stable and went to pray. On returning he found that a goat had eaten all but SR260 of the money. The man flew into a rage, slaughtered the goat and invited his friends to eat it.

Arab News

Do your homework!

Boy’s School Beating Angers Parents
Essam Al-Ghalib, Arab News Staff —

JEDDAH, 2 October 2003 — A fifth grade student at the King Khaled Air Base Elementary School in Khamis Mushayt required stitches to his head after being struck by a female teacher for not doing his homework.

The student, Sultan Muhammad Sarhan, 10, received a one-and-a-half centimeter gash to his head when the teacher struck him.

A report in Al-Watan newspaper said the subsequent investigation showed that Sarhan was hit with a blunt wooden instrument. Because of the bleeding, the injury required urgent medical attention at a nearby air force base hospital. However, after the assault the boy was coherent and tests at the hospital revealed no sign of internal injury.

The principal of the school, Muhammad Said Al-Qahtani, has said that a hearing into the events leading to the incident was held at the school comprising the student guidance counselor and other members of staff. The results of the hearing have been forwarded to the education section of the armed forces.

Arab News last night spoke with students who personally experienced corporal punishment at the hands of their educators. Seif Miteb Al-Mutairi, 20, was educated in Saudi Arabia’s government school system, where beatings are everyday occurrences.

“We would all get beaten. We were beaten with canes, wooden paddles, hands, even plastic tubing. Sometimes we were hit hard enough to leave bruises. And because it was done in front of everyone, it was humiliating. We got hit for not doing our homework, talking in class, just normal kid’s stuff,” he said.

Muhammad Sagr, 24, who was educated in both government and private schools, told Arab News: “Not everybody gets hit. It depends on who your father is. The more influential your father was, the safer you were.”

Although the practice is widespread, it is illegal to strike a child in schools in Saudi Arabia.

Tariq Al-Othmani, 31, has a 10-year-old daughter attending an international private school in Jeddah. “I am shocked at this incident. I would be furious if my child were subjected to such cruelty at anyone’s hands. School is a place where children are supposed to feel safe and to learn. It should not be a place where children are afraid,” he said.

A teacher in charge of discipline at a large private school said: “You cannot beat children unless you want to substitute the school for a stable, and the children for animals. We shouldn’t even hit animals. You must talk to a child and find out why he or she is the way they are and why they do the things they do. There could be a hundred different causes behind a child’s behavior. Besides, there are other disciplinary tools available such as detention or parental notification.”

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Well said - Saudi Women!

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Saudi women join reform call

Saudi women join reform call
A number of women in Saudi Arabia have signed a petition calling for radical reform to tackle growing extremist Islamic influence in the country.
The document, signed by more than 300 people including 51 women, was handed in to Crown Prince Abdullah.

Called "In Defence of the Nation", it highlights the absence of popular participation in decision-making.

Critics say this lack makes the kingdom a breeding ground for extremists.

'Outspoken attack'

The BBC's Middle East analyst, Roger Hardy, says it is unprecedented for such a petition to be signed by women, putting new pressure on both the religious conservatives, the ulama, and the ruling princes.

He says the pressure for wide-ranging reforms is becoming a groundswell.

The key question, our correspondent says, is whether Prince Abdullah can please the liberals without alienating the powerful ulama.

Saudi Arabia has come under increasing pressure to reform since the 11 September terror attacks, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi.

The petition is the third one handed in this year.

The latest document condemned acts of violence and urged the Crown Prince to recognise the need to start implementing radical comprehensive reform process.

"Expectations are high," said Fowziyah Abu-Khalid, a sociologist and writer and one of the women who signed the petition.

We want change to come from within, and from our own culture
Abu Khalid
Female signatory
Saudis are not allowed to hold public gatherings to discuss political or social issues, and press freedoms are limited.
Women are segregated in public places, cannot drive cars and must be covered from head to toe when in public.

Abu-Khalid, one of the female signatories, told AP news agency: "We want change to come from within, and from our own culture.

"And we both, men and women, are ready to shoulder the responsibility."

'Pace of change slow'

In January more than 100 Saudis signed a petition calling for wide-ranging reforms.

Our correspondent said Saudi liberals clearly feel that while there is a lot of talk of reform, the pace of change is painfully slow.

In May, suicide bombings in the capital Riyadh left 35 people dead.

The bomb attacks have acted as a catalyst - jolting many Saudis into seeing that Islamic extremism is a far more powerful internal threat than they had realised, he added.

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The Abyss of atheism

If there is an abyss - then I'm in it according to this.....

Islamic Attitude to the Theory of Evolution and Creation

Islamic Attitude to the Theory of Evolution and Creation

Q. Could you please explain the Islamic attitude to the theory of evolution in the light of the Qur’an.

A.Y. Bashoels, Jeddah

A. The theory of evolution was started in the 19th Century by Charles Darwin, a British biologist. Darwin was a Christian, married to a very religious lady. When he came out with his book on the Origin of Species, he did not think that he was putting up a theory that would undermine Christianity. He thought that his theory could be accepted in a Christian context. However, scientists who shared his scientific views, but not his religious background, carried the theory further and promoted it in an atheistic framework. Darwin himself modified his views and toward the end of his life, after his wife’s death, he acknowledged that his theory was incompatible with the views of the Church.

The theory itself is based on two main principles, namely, natural selection and the survival of the fittest. Natural selection means that species modify their abilities to suit the environment in which they live. This accounts for the fact that different animals have special abilities or tools that are most suitable for their environment. Not only so, but the same species may have different abilities in different environment.

If the theory of evolution remained confined to the realm of science, trying to account for the different characteristics and abilities of plants and animals, there would be no problem with it. However, to use this theory as a basis to deny God, creation and man’s special position on earth is basically wrong. The theory does not provide any solid alternative that can be proven.

In fact, Darwin was not the first to note the fine gradation of species in both plant and animal kingdoms. Muslim biologists noted this many centuries before the birth of Charles Darwin and his fellow scientists. They observed the great variety of plants and the fact that there is a clear hierarchy reaching up to a level that approaches, but does not reach, the animal level. Again, there is a graded hierarchy in the animal kingdom, going from one-celled creatures up to the chimpanzee. And then we have man. There is a huge gap between the highest animal and man, as also between the highest plant and the lowest animal.

Muslim scientists attributed this fine system to its originator, God the Creator of all. It is God who gave all these creatures their basic quality of adapting to their environment.

Thus, a plant or an animal develops over a period of time a new quality to adjust to the changes of its environment. Both natural selection and the survival of the fittest are part of God’s grand design of creation.

This means that when we look at the world around us and study its features, we should recognize God’s hand and will in all what we see.

When we do that, we feel stronger in our faith and we are rewarded by God for complying with His instructions to look and reflect. On the other hand, if we do like the atheist evolutionists, who deny God because they discovered certain aspects of His creation, we sink into the abyss of atheism like they have done.

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