No Extremism In Saudi Society: Haia Chief
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RIYADH – The Hai’a(moral command commission) chief has said that those who want to boycott the Riyadh Book Fair are free to do so as it is up to them whether they attend it o ot. “Extremism does not exist in Saudi society,” said Sheikh Dr. Abdullatif Bin Abdulaziz Aal Al-Sheikh, chief of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the Hai’a) while visiting the Book Fair Wednesday.
Aal Al-Sheikh said those who give advice at the fair are driven by religious enthusiasm and fear, which makes them act in a way that does not befit the situation, Al-Iqtasadiyah reported Thursday.
“Every person has his own way of advising people,” he said. He also pointed out that the Hai’a now has a clear mission and the Hai’a staff are responsible for performing their duties and achieving justice.
The Hai’a and the Ministry of Culture and Information are coordinating to make the Book Fair a success, he said, adding that the ministry has satisfied all the demands of the Hai’a.
Dr. Aal Al-Sheikh lauded the efforts of Hai’a members during the Book Fair and said that they performed their role perfectly during the event.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Jasser, Deputy Minister of Culture and information, also said the ministry cooperated with all concerned authorities including the Hai’a to make the international fair a success. – SG __

Letting the ice break
. A Western man shared with me his first impressions shortly after he arrived in the Kingdom: “Seeing the high concrete walls built around the Saudi houses made me feel that Saudis do not tend to open up to outsiders.” That is partially true, I responded, but I added that this seemingly unwelcoming sign is true too even among Saudis themselves, members of these families tend to form alliances with other families that share common interests and lifestyles, and individuals tend to socialize only within the circle of these family alliances. This explains why Saudi social life does little to furnish a fertile ground for building relationships between Saudis and expatriate societies, much less paving the way to easier access to the Saudi social sphere. In this respect, a friend of mine on the night of his final departure from Saudi Arabia told me: “One sad thing that I take with me as leave this country is the fact that, after spending many years in Saudi Arabia, I could not make close enough contact with the Saudi people”
One has to admit that this social phenomenon is not an admirable characteristic of Saudi society. However, the situation is not entirely as hopeless as one might think. True enough, it does take time and effort to gain better access to the people of Saudi Arabia. Once they get to know a person better, however, Saudis will welcome that individual and strive to develop further ties with him or her and the rest of his or her family, whether that family is in the Kingdom or back home. My contention is based on the fact that Saudi society values the display of generosity, hospitality, friendliness, and warmth, emotions that often translate into welcoming others to establish constructive relationships with them. The Western man I mentioned earlier said: “After living for a while in Saudi Arabia, I have changed my first impression that I shared with you shortly after arriving in this country.” He further added: “When both my family and I came to know some Saudi families, we invited them occasionally to have dinner with us. They, in return, would invite us to wonderful desert picnics. These acquaintances were a chance for us to know closely the social side of Saudi people. I assure you, however, that no one rushed up with invitations when we first got here.
Women graduates’ achievements highlighted
Saudi women technical graduates were seen attending computer hardware maintenance training course in Riyadh. (AN photo)
RIYADH: On behalf of Princess Hessa bint Turad Al-Shaalan, wife of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, Princess Sarah bint Abdullah patronized the first exhibition conducted by the graduates of the higher technical institutes for girls in the Kingdom.
Nearly 300 prominent women, including academics, businesswomen, and relatives of women graduates attended the function, Al-Eqtisadiah business daily reported.
Speaking on the occasion, Princess Sarah lauded the tremendous achievements being made by Saudi women in different spheres of life. “Achievements of Saudi women technical graduates are amazing. They are gaining high success and recording excellent performance results,” she said while noting that Saudi women have been instrumental in bringing about far-reaching changes in the typical outlook, which had prevailed for decades in society, toward them.
Princess Sarah rejected the notion that Saudi women are unqualified and unfit to take up challenging careers in the Kingdom’s employment market. “At every gathering and fair where Saudi women’s products and innovations were on display, I have witnessed their marvelous designs as well as their contributions to different fields that enabled them to reach leading positions at local and international levels,” she said.
Princess Sarah urged the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) to set up a permanent market to showcase innovative products of Saudi women and graduates of technical institutes in order to make it a marketing outlet for their innovative projects and products.
In a gesture to motivate the graduates, the princess wore an abaya designed by the graduates and presented to her as a gift.
Addressing the gathering, Muneera bint Suleiman Al-Aloula, deputy governor for girls training at TVTC, said that more than SR2 billion was earmarked for implementing infrastructure projects of new technical institutes for girls in various regions as well as for enabling them to take up jobs and create job opportunities in both public and private sectors. Al-Aloula also unveiled plans to open three technical institutes in Dawadmi, Hafar Al-Batin and Abu Arish. She noted that there has been tremendous response and enthusiasm from Saudi women prisoners to join training courses conducted by TVTC.
Some 288 women prisoners are currently attending courses of various higher technical institutes.
The exhibition showcased several innovative programs and products made by Saudi women graduates of technical institutes.
The graduates displayed computer programs developed by them as well as their proficiency in computer maintenance and repair works.
More than 30 girl students from Riyadh Technical Institute made the largest nationwide display of various designs of dresses, as well as designs from various countries such as India, China and Scotland. Their products also included special garments for kids, uniforms for cadets as well as sportswear, wedding dresses and the like.
Kingdom ranks 41st in UN e-govt index
Saudi Arabia is ranked 41st globally in the UN e-Government Readiness Index 2012 and has improved to third spot among Arab countries, according to Al-Riyadh daily.
The Kingdom’s rank improved by 17 places compared to UN e-government index in 2010.
The GCC countries achieved good positions in this report that dealt with some 193 world countries based on the readiness of e-government in those countries.
The United Arab Emirates jumped to 28 globally in the application of e-government compared to 49 in 2010 whereas the rank of Bahrain fell to 36 in 2012 compared to 13 in the 2010 index.
On the other hand, Kuwait ranked 63 in 2012 compared to 50 in 2010 but Oman progressed to 64 compared to 82 in the year 2010.
Rare copy of Qur’an on display
LONDON: The British Museum here witnessed on Thursday the installation of one of the oldest known copies of the Holy Qur’an from the 8th century as an exhibit for a major Islamic exhibition.
The British Library has lent the copy of the Holy Qur’an to the British Museum for the exhibition: Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam, which is set to open to the public on Jan. 26.
The Ma’il Qur’an is the oldest object to go on public display as part of the British Museum’s major exhibition dedicated to the Haj, the pilgrimage to Makkah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
This manuscript is from Arabia, probably copied in Makkah or Madinah and dates from the 8th century, one of the earliest in existence. The script is known as Ma’il, meaning sloping, on account of the pronounced slant to the right, and it is one of a number of scripts developed in the early Islamic period of the copying of the Qur’an.
In this copy of the Qur’an, as in other ancient fragments, there are no vowel signs or other aids to pronunciation, and the end of each verse is indicated by six small dashes in two stacks of three.
David Jacobs, a senior conservator at the British Library, told Arab News: “The copy of the Ma’il Qur’an has been owned by the British Museum since the 19th century.
The Qur’an is integral to Islamic faith. That’s why it’s (the copy of the Ma’il Qur’an) so significant and it’s in this exhibition. It mentions the pilgrimage (Haj) and it’s one of the first manuscripts that does so.”
With regards to how the British Library preserves this historical copy of the Qur’an, he added:
“The material is on parchment development so the actual substrate needs to be stable. The problem with that particular manuscript is pigments that are quite friable and flaky, so obviously it needs care and attention and constant monitoring of its condition. So it’s not on display continuously.”
The exhibition will examine the significance of Haj as one of the five pillars of Islam, exploring its importance for Muslims and looking at how this spiritual journey has evolved throughout history.
It will bring together a wealth of objects from a number of different collections including important historic pieces as well as new contemporary art works which reveal the enduring impact of Haj across the globe and across the centuries. This exhibition concludes the British Museum’s series of three exhibitions focused on spiritual journeys.
This exhibition has been organized in partnership with the King Abdulaziz Public Library in Riyadh and will examine three key strands: The pilgrim’s journey with an emphasis on the major routes used across time (from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East). HSBC Amanah has supported the exhibition’s international reach outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The British Museum said in a press release: “A wide variety of objects will be lent to the exhibition. Loans include significant material from Saudi Arabia including a seetanah that covers the door of the Kaaba as well as other historic and contemporary artifacts from key museums in the Kingdom.
Other objects have come from public and private collections in the UK and around the world, among them the British Library and the Khalili Family Trust. They include archaeological material, manuscripts, textiles, historic photographs and contemporary art.”

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