Historic forum brings together Iraqi scholars in Makkah
The Forum of the Iraqi Religious Scholars was organized by the Muslim World League (MWL)
MWL secretary-general said the Iraqi government has made huge steps to strengthen its country’s identity
Updated 05 August 2021
MAKKAH: An international forum about valuing the role of Saudi Arabia in strengthening peaceful coexistence concluded on Wednesday by stressing unity and a unanimous position in rejecting the rhetoric of sectarianism, hatred, and clash.
Organized by the Muslim World League (MWL), the Forum of the Iraqi Religious Scholars in Makkah was held in the presence of senior Sunni and Shiite scholars.
The forum’s final statement stressed the need to activate the “Makkah Document” and open channels of constructive dialogue and positive communication among scholars so they can resolve issues and crises.
The final statement also recommended setting a body for cultural communication between sects that the Muslim societies consist of, in addition to a coordinating committee that brings together Iraqi religious scholars and MWL.
The forum stressed the need to confront religious extremism from all sources, in addition to strengthening means of rejecting the rhetoric of intellectual and cultural hatred in the Muslim world.
MWL secretary-general Sheikh Mohammed Al-Issa said that the Iraqi government has made huge steps to strengthen its country’s identity, adding that “in their meeting today, the Iraqi religious scholars have warned of the disease of sectarianism.”
In his inaugural speech, Al-Issa said: “Between Sunnis and Shiites, there is nothing but ideal fraternal understanding and coexistence, and cooperation and integration in the context of sincere compassion, while understanding the specificity of each sect within the same religion.”
Pshtiwan Sadiq Abdullah, minister of endowments and religious affairs in Kurdistan-Iraq, said his government did not spare any effort in building the new and progressive federal Iraq, and that it has contributed to drafting the constitution, which guaranteed the rights of all components.
He also said Kurdistan was — and still is — a safe haven as it enjoys peaceful coexistence and respect for all religions and sects.
Sheikh Ahmed Hassan Al-Taha, a chief scholar of the Iraqi Jurisprudence Council, praised the role of the Kingdom under the leadership of King Salman in strengthening regional and international peace while also thwarting extremism.
He cited the 2006 Makkah Document as the best evidence to stop the bloodshed in a wounded Iraq.
“Kurds were pioneers in seeking good despite the ethnic, religious and sectarian diversity, which made Kurdistan-Iraq a role model at all levels,” Sheikh Abdullah Said Waysi, the head of the Kurdistan Islamic Scholars Union, said.
He also said the efforts of the religious institutions in Kurdistan-Iraq revolve around strengthening the principle of communication and cooperation among all in Iraq, based on serving society and the interests of its citizens.
A delegation of senior Iraqi religious scholars arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday evening to participate in the forum.
Coronavirus booster dose ‘unnecessary,’ say Saudi experts
New recoveries reported amounted to 77, raising the total number to 535,450
Updated 19 September 2021
JEDDAH: A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is unnecessary, according to Saudi health experts.
“If the two doses of the vaccine prevent severe illness/staying in hospital/death, it does not make sense for the general population to receive a third dose,” said deputy health minister for preventive health, Dr. Abdullah Assiri.
Assiri, who is also an infectious diseases consultant, added: “At this stage of excellent vaccination coverage, we need to reconsider the rationale and method of laboratory testing for COVID-19, and judge the pandemic only from the perspective of the burden of disease on society.”
The comments came after news of proposed booster shots of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for the general public, and third jabs for people aged 65 and older and other vulnerable groups.
Meanwhile, infectious disease expert, Ahmed Al-Hakawi, said that accelerating demand for approval of a third (booster) dose for everyone was not supported by a study he cited.
The total number of coronavirus cases in KSA reached 546,479.
Titled “Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine through 6 Months,” the study, published on Sept. 15, was conducted on more than 45,000 participants in 152 sites in six countries.
The study concluded that “through 6 months of follow-up and despite a gradual decline in vaccine efficacy, BNT162b2 had a favorable safety profile and was highly efficacious in preventing COVID-19.”
“The vaccine still provides protection against severe disease even six months after the second dose,” said Al-Hakawi, who is also a hospital epidemiologist in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia recorded 68 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 546,479, the Ministry of Health said.
Of Saturday’s cases, 20 were in Makkah, 17 in the Riyadh region and seven in the Eastern Province. Hail and Najran were the regions with the lowest case count, posting just one each.
New recoveries reported amounted to 77, raising the total number to 535,450.
With the high recovery rate, the number of active cases has declined to 2,373, of which 361 are in critical care.
Five people have died in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of deaths to 8,656.
More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom at the rate of 201,505 a day.
At this rate, Saudi Arabia could have 70 percent of its population fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.
The Ministry of Health said that 587 centers across all regions of the Kingdom processed the inoculations. Those who have not yet received a vaccine were urged to get one.
The ministry renewed its call for citizens and residents to adhere to precautionary measures and to register with the Sehhaty app to receive vaccines.
Meanwhile, testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have helped millions of people since the pandemic outbreak.
Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual.
Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.
Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.
Who’s Who: Sultan Bader Al-Otaibi, CEO of Dur Hospitality
Updated 18 September 2021
Sultan Bader Al-Otaibi, CEO of Dur Hospitality, is an inspirational visionary and impactful leader within the Middle East’s hospitality industry, with a proven track record of excellence in finance and asset management.
With more than 20 years’ experience in various managerial and leadership roles at Dur Hospitality, Al-Otaibi has stood out for his numerous achievements. Having formerly held the position of vice president of property and assets, he demonstrated his far-sighted strategic planning and astute decision-making by maximizing the returns of the company’s real estate asset portfolio.
As general manager of Makarem Hospitality Group, Al-Otaibi oversaw the overall management of the group’s properties (hotels and resorts) to guarantee seamless operations, harnessing his organizational and team management skills to oversee world-class hospitality standards.
Recognized for his accomplishments in the industry, Al-Otaibi formerly ranked 25th on the Hotelier Middle East Magazine Power 50 list. He is also known for his active participation and contributions as a member of the tourism committee at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce.
Al-Otaibi has been distinguished as a successful and influential figure at Dur Hospitality for his outstanding capabilities and vast experience in the field, leading by example and steering the company to new heights to achieve the strategic objectives of the company in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.
Driven by his passion for the hospitality industry, Al-Otaibi enriched his background in the field by undertaking a master’s degree in international hospitality management from the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, after receiving a bachelor’s degree in accounting from King Saud University. In pursuit of higher education, he continued to study at Cornell University, an Ivy League research university in Ithaca, New York.
Czech Republic hopes to establish ‘strategic partnership’ with Saudi Arabia, Czech FM tells Arab News
Jakub Kulhanek says his country and KSA have much to offer each other in a number of fields
Czech companies see “great potential in delivering knowhow and technologies to” KSA mega-projects
Updated 18 September 2021
Last week, Jakub Kulhanek, foreign minister of the Czech Republic, paid his first official visit to Saudi Arabia to hold meetings with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Kulhanek spoke on the discussions the two sides held on bilateral relations and the means to enhance them, as well as regional and international issues, notably Afghanistan.
“My official visit to Saudi Arabia lasted just some 30 hours, and the only city I visited was Riyadh,” he told Arab News. “For me, there is an obligation to come back once again in the future and enjoy visiting Jeddah, the futuristic megacity of NEOM and other famous places of interest.”
Q. How would you describe your meetings with Saudi officials during your just concluded visit?
A. First of all, I would like to thank the Saudi government and all my counterparts whom I was privileged to meet for their generosity and time they spent on preparing our visit. They set up a wonderful program. We had insightful meetings, and I am confident that we have together managed to take relations between our countries one level higher.
During my meeting with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, we reassured each other that our relations are friendly and that the general standing of our countries is in many ways complementary. We have much to offer each other in areas of trade, scientific cooperation, the energy sector, mining and the security industry.
The Kingdom, together with the UAE, belong to our top five trade partners in the Middle East. That is something we can build on, something we are obligated to develop. And that is also the reason why I was accompanied by a trade mission of more than 20 distinguished business people from various industrial fields.
At the same time, our cooperation is not limited only to business. We have a long run tradition of cooperation in the health sector. Many Saudis study at Czech universities. Saudi citizens are frequent fliers when it comes to our spa resorts.
With Prince Faisal, we agreed on the need to revitalize the Czech-Saudi Joint Commission, which has not met since 2011. It is a useful platform bringing together representatives of committed ministries to discuss specific issues of mutual interest.
Q. Did you discuss political cooperation with Saudi Arabia on regional and development issues?
A. It goes without saying that visiting the Kingdom and meeting its leaders gave me a unique chance to discuss issues of international politics and global issues alike. We agreed, both with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir, my fellow Georgetown alumnus, that we want to formalize regular consultations between our foreign affairs ministries. We hope for an establishment of a strategic partnership in the near future.
We also shared with our Saudi hosts the need to intensify contacts at the highest political level. I hope that the foreign minister will come in the near future for a visit to the Czech Republic. I was also glad to hand over an invitation for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to visit the Czech Republic.
Q. What kind of cross-investment flows do you envisage between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Czech Republic?
A. Thank you very much for that question, since I truly believe there is a great potential for bigger Saudi investments. Over the last 30 years, the Czech Republic has attracted many foreign investors, from both portfolio and green foreign direct investments, from Europe, the US and Asia.
So far, the Gulf investors have been slightly lagging behind, though we are already seeing that some of them are starting to discover existing opportunities for investments in Central Europe. Therefore, we plan on organizing an investment forum for representatives of sovereign funds from the Gulf region, at which they will have the chance to meet managers of foremost Czech financial groups.
The Czech-GCC Investment Forum will be held between May 30 and June 4, 2022, shoulder to shoulder with the presidency of the Czech Republic in the Council of the EU in the second half of 2022.
I would like to invite the managers of the Public Investment Fund and other important financial groups in the Kingdom to take part in the event.
Q. Do you see a greater role for Czech technology companies in the Kingdom’s ongoing development projects under Vision 2030? In what sectors would these mainly be and what impact would they have?
A. In my opinion, the ambitious Vision 2030, its goals and the projects it leans upon, provide Czech companies with numerous opportunities, mostly on subcontracting basis. We are truly interested in facilitating the access of the Czech companies to the tenders floated by Saudi state-owned enterprises. We see a great potential in delivering Czech knowhow, technologies and high-tech products to the government's megaprojects, be it NEOM, the Red Sea Resort, or the Green Riyadh initiative.
We are confident that Saudi enterprises, such as Saudi Aramco, SABIC and many others, would also benefit from it.
Q. Before your departure for the Gulf, you said that the Czech Republic will not recognize the Taliban. Can you kindly elaborate on your statement?
A. I think we have to distinguish carefully between two separate things. The first is communication with the Taliban, who are no doubt the new rulers of the country. It is clear that the EU and NATO will not avoid interacting with them just so that we can provide the Afghan people with the humanitarian aid that they are in dire need of now.
I am not talking about high-level and official contacts, but communication at the working level will have to take place. Another thing is official recognition of the Taliban government; great caution is necessary here. I believe the Taliban are far from fulfilling their promises. The media are informing us how they are behaving in the streets of Afghan cities and what atrocities are being committed.
Q. You have also said your country will accept the unhappy reality “as it is” that the Taliban are “the new masters of Afghanistan.” Can you deal with the Taliban without implicitly granting it recognition?
A. The EU and NATO must be pragmatic and accept the new reality in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, that does not mean that we will give up our effort to put pressure on the Taliban to maintain at least something of what has been achieved in Afghanistan over the past 20 years.
I am talking now, in particular, about the rights of women and girls. So yes, the international community can negotiate with the Taliban over that and, depending on the outcome, maybe the question of official recognition of the Taliban government would become topical in the future.
Q. What leverage does the EU have over the Taliban in your view? Are the Czech Republic and EU positions totally convergent?
A. The position of the Czech Republic is fully in line with EU policy. As you know, just recently EU foreign ministers agreed at their informal meeting in Slovenia that any substantive engagement with the Taliban is only possible if some conditions are met: Respect for human rights, in particular women’s rights, and the establishment of a representative inclusive government, are among them.
I am not convinced that the Taliban would meet them sometime soon. We understand the necessity of keeping the EU’s presence in Kabul but the Czech Republic had to evacuate our diplomats and Afghan facilitators.
Communication with the Taliban is necessary, as we must try to influence the way they will rule the country, at least to prevent humanitarian and migration crises. The Taliban will seek international recognition and resources — that is our main leverage now.
Q. International organizations with offices in Afghanistan have repeatedly warned of an impending humanitarian disaster. There is rising hunger, little cash and very little health care. How can the international community help Afghans?
A. We are aware of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. An international donors’ conference was held in Geneva last Monday under the auspices of the UN. The international community, including the Czech Republic, has pledged to continue humanitarian aid. The Czech Republic has declared its readiness to increase its contribution to humanitarian and development projects in Afghanistan and neighboring countries.
Who’s Who: Hisham Abdulaziz Al-Makhdoub, executive vice president of engineering and operations at AEC
Updated 19 September 2021
Hisham Abdulaziz Al-Makhdoub is executive vice president of engineering and operations at Advanced Electronics Co., a Saudi Arabian Military Industries company.
He is responsible for all the technical and operational activities of AEC, including manufacturing, MRO, engineering, development, quality and supply chain management, and IT.
A seasoned senior technology executive with more than three decades of professional experience, Al-Makhdoub has proven expertise in strategically strengthening local high-tech capabilities, localization and technology transfer in electronics manufacturing and digital industries.
Having joined the research and development department of AEC as a project manager in 2000, Al-Makhdoub rose through the organization’s ranks during his illustrious career, serving in various roles, including director of engineering and then senior vice president of engineering and development.
Leveraging his extensive experience in strengthening indigenous capabilities, Al-Makhdoub actively contributes to AEC’s efforts to raise the Kingdom’s local capabilities in military manufacturing to 50 percent by 2030.
Before joining AEC, Al-Makhdoub held various engineering roles at the Space Research Institute at King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology, where he began his career in 1991.
Al-Makhdoub holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering (communications) from King Saud University in Riyadh.
He is an advisory board member of the College of Engineering, Prince Sultan University, and is both a leader and member of several AEC committees.