Oct 062017

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz is on a four-day state visit to Russia along with his entourage of 1,500 people, a golden escalator and his own carpets, a person familiar with the matter said. On Wednesday, the 81-year-old king of the kingdom exited his plane out onto his golden escalator which malfunctioned halfway down and forced him to walk down rest of the way where his cavalcade of cars waited for him along with Russian police escorts. This is the first visit to Russia by a Saudi monarch and both the countries have already struck a deal on weapons’ sale and how to stabilise the oil market. Saudi Arabia lifts ban on internet phone calls Around 800 kilogrammes of food has been flown in by a Saudi plane that is travelling daily between Riyadh and Moscow to transport supplies, according to the person. “Members of the royal entourage also replaced some of the hotel staff with their own personnel, who know exactly how they like their coffee made,” he further added. King Salman even brought his own furniture along to the luxury hotels booked by the Saudi government for the visit. Other guests were asked to cancel their reservations and people who lived there permanently even moved out. Embassy statement: Saudis rejects ‘poor Haj arrangements’ claim “The entire hotel is booked through October 8 and isn’t open to the public,” said a doorman dressed in red livery. Even US presidents travel with large entourages that include a bullet proof limousine and [Read More…]

Oct 042017
Iran-Funded Center a Lifeline for Jakarta’s Marginalized Shia Minority

JAKARTA, INDONESIA The first month of the Islamic calendar, Muharram, is not a very big deal for most Indonesians, outside of New Year’s Day. But every night of Muharram since it started on Sept. 21, hundreds of Shia Muslims have come together at a tile-clad building in South Jakarta to ceremonially mourn the death of the prophet Muhammad’s grandson.They listen to a live or streaming sermon in Bahasa Indonesia or Farsi and pray, often tearfully.The mourning rites of Muharram are an important Shia tradition, but as Indonesia’s Shia minorities face growing intolerance, they have steadily lowered their profile. So this month’s nightly gatherings at the Islamic Cultural Center (ICC), which was built in 2002 with funding from Iran, are among the largest sites of Shia activity in the whole country.Over 99 percent of Indonesian Muslims belong to the Sunni denomination, but that belies Shia cultural influence in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country. (Sunni and Shia are the two major Muslim denominations, which diverged early in Islamic history over a debate on the rightful successors to the prophet.)Shia Islam may have been the first strain to reach Indonesia, through Arab traders who reached Aceh around the 12th century, and Shia traditions like veneration of the dead and visiting shrines are still observed in pockets across Indonesia, even by Sunnis.But most of Indonesia’s roughly one million Shia are concentrated in the Jakarta metro area, and the ICC is a nexus of their community.Iranian Outpost in IndonesiaICC, clad in blue and white ceramic [Read More…]

Sep 282017

RIYADH: Saudi women will be allowed to drive from the age of 18, a government spokesman said on Thursday, partially allaying speculation they could still face tighter controls than men when finally allowed behind the wheel. In a royal decree issued on Tuesday, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud ordered an end by next year of the ban on women drivers, a tradition that has limited women’s mobility and been seen by rights activists as an emblem of their suppression. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving. In historic move: Saudi Arabia allows women to drive The decree stipulated that the move must “apply and adhere to the necessary sharia standards”, but did not elaborate, sparking speculation that restrictions might include a higher minimum age or limited hours of the day. The king ordered a ministerial committee to report within 30 days on how to implement the new policy by June 24, 2018. Asked on al Arabiya TV about the minimum age for Saudi women, Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al Turki said: “Eighteen years is the age at which a person can obtain a driver’s licence and drive a car in the kingdom.” ‘Doubts’ over Saudi order said to ease control on women United Nations human rights experts praised the ban’s removal as a major step towards women’s autonomy and independence, but urged the kingdom to do more to ensure gender equality. “We now encourage the government to repeal all remaining discriminatory laws,” two experts [Read More…]

Sep 222017

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia scrambled on Friday to withdraw a school textbook that accidentally included a doctored photograph of a former ruler sitting next to a Star Wars character, prompting ridicule on social media. The black-and-white image shows King Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s third monarch, signing the United Nations Charter in 1945, with the diminutive Jedi master Yoda perched next to him. The image was created by 26-year-old Saudi artist Abdullah al Shehri, who has gained renown for mixing pop culture icons into historic photographs. “The Ministry of Education regrets the inadvertent error,” Saudi Education Minister Ahmed al Eissa said on Twitter. Saudi cleric suspended over ‘quarter-brain’ women drivers quip He said the ministry had begun recalling the textbook and printing a corrected version, adding that a legal committee would be formed to determine the source of the error. Al Sheri told The New York Times that he was surprised to see the photograph end up in the school textbook. He said he paired the king and Yoda as they were both intelligent and because Yoda’s green skin and light saber matched the green of the Saudi flag. Saudi to allow women into stadium for national day He stressed he had meant no offence to the king, seen widely as the architect of Saudi Arabia’s modernisation. But the error prompted light-hearted banter on social media. One Saudi schoolteacher jested that this error symbolised “payback” after the education ministry introduced an extra hour of classes in schools earlier this year. The post Textbook recalled [Read More…]

Sep 212017
Saudi Arabia to join CPEC soon: envoy

ISLAMABAD: Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Pakistan Nawaf Saeed Ahmed Al-Malkiy has said that his country will soon join the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and make investment at Gwadar Port… [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]] Click for detailed story

Sep 202017

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has invited women to a sports stadium for the first time to attend annual national day celebrations with their families, state media said Wednesday, opening up a previously male-only venue. Families will be allowed into the King Fahd stadium in Riyadh, used mostly for football matches, and seated separately from single men to mark the kingdom’s 87th National Day this weekend. “The stadium is ready to receive about 40,000 people divided between individuals and families to be seated separately,” the official Saudi Press Agency said in a statement, citing the general authority of entertainment. Saudi appoints princess to oversee women’s sports This marks a shift from previous celebrations in the kingdom where women are effectively barred from sports arenas by strict rules on segregation of the sexes in public. Saudi Arabia has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women and is the only country where they are not allowed to drive. Under the country’s guardianship system, a male family member — normally the father, husband or brother — must grant permission for a woman’s study, travel and other activities. But the kingdom appears to be relaxing some norms as part of its “Vision 2030” plan for economic and social reforms. In July, rights campaigners welcomed an “overdue” reform by the education ministry to allow girls to take part in sports at state schools. The post Saudi to allow women into stadium for national day appeared first on The Express Tribune. Click for detailed story

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