Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia sets example on combating terror financing, says French Senate member Nathalie Goulet

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Updated 04 December 2021

Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia sets example on combating terror financing, says French Senate member Nathalie Goulet

  • Leading French politician and foreign affairs expert makes the comments as President Macron embarks on Saudi visit
  • Gulet gives her views on “Frankly Speaking,” the series of video interviews with regional and international policymakers

DUBAI: France and the rest of Europe can learn from Saudi Arabia’s approach to combating the financing of terrorism, a leading French politician and foreign affairs expert has told Arab News.

Nathalie Goulet, a member of the Senate of France and the country’s commission on foreign affairs and defense, said: “Saudi Arabia has its own place on the subject of fighting financing of terrorism, and they do it very seriously. It is matching international standards on the subject.”

Goulet, who recently returned from a visit to the Kingdom for meetings with senior policymakers about the campaign to halt terrorism finance, highlighted Saudi initiatives with Etidal, the center for combating extremist ideology, as well as actions by the Saudi Central Bank, and financial intelligence services.

“In Europe and especially in France there has sometimes been a kind of bad habit to link Saudi Arabia with the financing of terrorism and we have to break this image and what is now purely fake news,” she added.




Nathalie Goulet noted that the Muslim Brotherhood was still playing a significant role in terrorism funding in Europe.

Goulet, speaking just before a visit to the Kingdom by French President Emmanuel Macron, gave her views on “Frankly Speaking,” the series of video interviews with prominent regional and international policymakers and businesspeople.

In a wide-ranging interview, she also spoke of the rising threat from the Muslim Brotherhood and its role in terrorism finance, the volatile relationship between France and Algeria, and the reforms in Saudi Arabia under the Vision 2030 strategy.

On terror funding, she contrasted the practice among the Muslim community in France, where zakat donations are made in cash and therefore harder to control, with the situation in the Kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia put in place a system to prevent any collection of zakat by cash. Everything is by banking transfer to a special NGO and that is very useful, very clever, and also very, very safe.

“On collecting zakat, Saudi Arabia can be an example for us because we are absolutely unable to track the money and, at the same time of course, most of the zakat is giving (money) for good purposes. But sometimes it’s not and we try to ban cash as much as possible. Saudi Arabia is giving us an excellent example,” she said.




Frank Kane hosts Frankly Speaking: Watch more episodes.

She noted that the Muslim Brotherhood was still playing a significant role in terrorism funding in Europe and pointed out the organization’s influence in the Islamic community and within humanitarian organizations.

“First of all, they have a lot of humanitarian actions but then they use the same money to sponsor terrorism all over Europe. We have to ban those people, definitely. Austria already banned the Muslim Brotherhood from Austria; Germany is on the way. France – not yet – but I am pushing them a lot,” she added.

Goulet hit out specifically at the role of the Islamic Relief organization, which she alleged had been aiding terrorism finance, supported the terror-designated Hamas organization in Palestine, and claimed its executives had been responsible for spreading anti-Semitic messages on social media.

“So, what we have to do is track the money and then try to ban any financing for those people. We have to check and have strong investigations into how they collect money and what they are doing with this money, and we have to stop any terror financing absolutely,” she said.

The Kingdom’s resolve in tackling the funding of terrorism was an example of the positive changes taking place in the country under the Vision 2030 reform plan, which was having a profound effect on life in Saudi Arabia.

“When you see the difference on the streets, the way that the youth is happy in the country, and when you see the development, it is clear that something has happened. And it’s the Vision 2030 of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman which has brought it about and will bring such a lot of hope in the country,” Goulet added.

On French foreign policy toward Muslim countries, she thought that the issue was complicated by France’s colonial history. “It’s always very emotional,” she said.

With regard to Algeria, France’s former colony, relations with which have been strained owing to comments made by Macron, and some visa issues, Goulet expected the situation to improve, adding that “links with Algeria are very strong.”

On Lebanon, a country Macron has visited several times in attempts to help it through its intensifying crisis, she said the Lebanese people should look to a new political generation to repatriate the proceeds of corruption held in overseas havens, rather than seeking financial bailouts from countries such as France.

However, she spoke out against French policy in Lebanon with regard to Hezbollah. “The government for the last 15 years has been treating Hezbollah in a very strange way – like there is a political Hezbollah and a military Hezbollah, and we have to ban the military Hezbollah to discuss with the political Hezbollah.

“But the reality is that there is just one Hezbollah. Just as there is one Hamas, there is one Hezbollah, there is not one military and one political. It’s the same terrorist group,” she said.
Goulet was also critical of attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims within France. A recent Arab News survey with YouGov showed that 64 percent of French people had a negative impression of the minority groups.

“I think it’s a fact unfortunately and it’s because of the major political leaders surfing on the wave of populism right now. It’s something which will help them collect votes,” she added, referring to the presidential elections in France next year.

“We also have the yellow vests (movement) and street agitation, along with conspiracy theories, and everything is boiling in the same pan to produce something that smells very bad.”

Goulet, who is a member of the Centrist Union political grouping in the French Senate, was disparaging of the presidential prospects of Eric Zemmour, the rightwing populist who recently gained ground in opinion polls.

She said: “I think these things will collapse soon. It was just like a small fire. His campaign will collapse. That is not France, I mean that cannot be France. I mean this guy is a pure populist. He has no team and I hope he will run out of money soon and then will disappear in the trash because he doesn’t deserve anything else but trash.”

The politician expressed hope that relations between France and Britain – under increasing strain since Brexit and the arrival of the government of Boris Johnson – could improve but noted that the “misunderstandings” in Anglo-French affairs went all the way back to French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte.

With regard to the latest flashpoint – the migration of refugees across the English Channel – Goulet said the situation was “unbearable,” but pointed out that higher levels of social benefits were available to refugees in the UK compared to France and other EU countries.

“I know for sure that Britain attracts emigrants because it’s easier for them to live there and have some subsidies and help. So, maybe one of the keys is for Britain to be more restrictive regarding migrants so it doesn’t look so attractive – maybe.”

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Statement by Islamic Relief Worldwide

Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) categorically denies funding terrorism and also denies any support for Hamas. As a registered charity regulated by the Charity Commission of England and Wales, IRW is independently audited on behalf of governments, UN bodies, and other significant institutional donors several times a year. Between 2009 and 2019, the organization underwent over 500 internal and external audits which found no evidence of using funds for anything other than saving lives and contributing to the global humanitarian agenda in line with the important humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence.

We have stringent checks in place to ensure that money only goes to where it is needed – helping the most vulnerable. We routinely screen all trustees, senior management, staff, volunteers, partners, and contractors to ensure they have no links to proscribed groups or entities of any kind.

IRW rejects and condemns terrorism and believes that all forms of discrimination – including anti-Semitism – are unacceptable. Regrettably, there have been historic cases of individuals falling short of our values, but these have been dealt with firmly and swiftly, and the individuals involved are no longer with the organization. Following these past incidents, the Charity Commission of England and Wales conducted a fact-finding review last year which concluded that we had responded thoroughly and appropriately. In addition, an independent review was conducted by the former UK Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC, which found that the organization was not institutionally anti-Semitic.


You can find a link to the Independent Commission report here.

You can find the Charity Commission’s statement on the completion of its fact-finding review here.

 


Saudi Arabia protecting endangered turtles through rescue programs

Updated 16 January 2022

Saudi Arabia protecting endangered turtles through rescue programs

  • Five of seven sea turtle species in world have been discovered in the Kingdom’s territorial waters
  • The Saudi National Center for Wildlife aims to protect nesting sites of these endangered sea turtles

JEDDAH: The Saudi National Center for Wildlife has rescued and rehabilitated five turtles found on the coasts of Saudi Arabia.
According to the center, the world’s oceans include seven species of sea turtles, five of which have been discovered in the Kingdom’s territorial waters of the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.
For more than 100 million years, sea turtles have crossed great distances across the world. They play a vital role in maintaining the health and balance of the marine ecosystem.
The Kingdom has recorded sightings of green, hawksbill, loggerhead, olive ridley and leatherback turtles.
According to the center, during nesting season, sea turtles lay 60 to 160 eggs at once. This can be repeated up to six times over the course of a nesting season. In some cases, turtles have been seen to return to the same areas that they were born in more than 40 years later.

FASTFACT

For more than 100 million years, sea turtles have crossed great distances across the world.

The islands of Karan and Jurayad along the Kingdom’s coasts on the Arabian Gulf are found to be primary nesting sites for both the hawksbill and green turtles.
And on the Red Sea, Ra’s Baridi, Farasan Island, Shakir Islands, Ras Al-Shaaban, Jabal Hassan and Sanafir Island are also important locations for the two species.

Sea turtles are facing many threats, including overfishing, pollution, climate change and habitat destruction, mainly due to development in coastal areas and the wildlife trade. (Shutterstock)

Sea turtles are facing many threats, including overfishing, pollution, climate change and habitat destruction, mainly due to development in coastal areas and the wildlife trade.
The World Wildlife Fund has listed the hawksbill and green turtles as “endangered,” while loggerhead, olive ridley and leatherback turtles are classified as “vulnerable.”
Through rehabilitation programs and research studies, the Saudi National Center for Wildlife aims to protect nesting sites of endangered sea turtles to maintain an environment in which they can thrive.
The Kingdom is committed to preserving and restoring its marine biodiversity through initiatives.
Among the many projects to restore and protect marine life, NEOM has launched programs to protect endangered species such as the hawksbill sea turtle and hammerhead shark.
The Red Sea Development Company also works towards implementing initiatives to protect marine life and endangered sea turtles in the Kingdom.
The company, in cooperation with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, early last year worked on the rehabilitation of two hawksbill turtles.
The turtles were safely returned to the waters of Waqadi Island, which will remain untouched and undeveloped as a protected area overseen by the The Red Sea Development Company.
The Saudi National Center for Wildlife continues to set standards for sustainable development initiatives to lay the foundation for marine protection in all future development plans.


Saudi Arabia celebrates ‘Year of Saudi Coffee’ at Expo 2020 Dubai

Updated 15 January 2022

Saudi Arabia celebrates ‘Year of Saudi Coffee’ at Expo 2020 Dubai

  • A short film discussed the importance and status of coffee in Saudi society
  • Visitors at the pavilion were able to taste the different types of coffee grown in the regions of the Kingdom

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s initiative designating 2022 as “Year of Saudi Coffee” spilled over at its pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai with an information campaign emphasizing the importance of celebrating one of the Kingdom’s main elements of culture and folklore.
A short film discussed the importance and status of coffee in Saudi society, with its different types, flavors and tastes, as these types represent multiple regions of the Kingdom, state news agency SPA reported.
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most coffee consuming countries, and is currently striving to achieve self-sufficiency in Khawlani coffee beans and raising its economic return, with the aim of contributing to raising the non-oil GDP.

A picture of Khawlani coffee plantation, planted in Saudi Arabia's Jazan region, is displayed in Saudi pavilion at the Dubai Expo 2020 in Dubai, UAE, on October 11, 2021. (@KSAExpo2020/Twitter)

The short film featured scenes about the importance of coffee in the Saudi society, with its different types and flavors, as each kind represents multiple regions of the Kingdom.
Visitors at the pavilion were able to taste the different types of coffee grown in the regions of the Kingdom.
The Saudi pavilion has so far attracted “over 2 million visitors over the first three months,” according to Hussain Hanbazazah, the commissioner general of the pavilion.


Qatari, Omani, Kuwaiti and Bahraini forces arrive in Saudi Arabia for GCC security exercise

Updated 14 January 2022

Qatari, Omani, Kuwaiti and Bahraini forces arrive in Saudi Arabia for GCC security exercise

RIYADH: Security forces from Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to take part in a joint tactical exercise of Gulf Cooperation Council member states.

First to arrive was a contingent from the Royal Oman Police, commanded by Colonel Salim Mubarak Al Abrawi.

The Qatari force, which came on board a Boeing C-17 Globemaster military cargo plane, is commanded by Maj. Yousef Al-Hamad.

Kuwait's contingent is commanded by Brigadier General Abdullah Al-Ateeqi, who explained that the exercise is aimed at "raising the level of coordination and field cooperation" among the GCC states.

Bahrain's team arrived in a motorcade through the King Fahd Causeway, which connects Saudi Arabia's eastern city of Alkhobar to the island nation.

Omani security forces arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to join the GCC security exercise. (Royal Oman Police photo)

UAE’s security forces arrived in the Kingdom on Wednesday. 

Arab Gulf Security 3 will take place this month in Dammam in the Eastern Province, the Saudi Defense Ministry has said. 

In a statement carried earlier by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Saudi Ministry of Interior on Tuesday said "the exercise aims to strengthen the bonds of cooperation between the Gulf Cooperation Council countries in the security field and raise the level of coordination and the degree of readiness of the security services to confront crises and emergencies and to address all threats and risks to the Arabian Gulf region.” 

 

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Female business owner kitting out camels at King Abdulaziz Camel Festival

Updated 14 January 2022

Female business owner kitting out camels at King Abdulaziz Camel Festival

  • Noura’s company Safayef specializes in customized camel capes, covers, necklaces and other accessories

RIYADH: Female camel owners last week had the chance, for the first time ever, to showcase their animals in a camel beauty contest at the annual King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia. But they were not the only women to play a prominent role at the event; others contributed by providing the impressive accessories that helped the camels catch the eyes of the judges.

Noura Al-Ghannam, for example, is the owner of Safayef, a company that specializes in making customized camel capes, covers, necklaces and other accessories.

“I started my business two years ago, in 2019, but a year before that we studied the local market and the problems in traditional products and how they are limited,” she told Arab News.

She came to the conclusion that traditional capes for camels were very plain and simple and lacked style, so she decided to brighten them up with the addition of colorful embroidery and by offering a variety of fabrics. The name of the business, Safayef, refers to the decoration made from woolen threads that appears on the camel accessories.

“I realized that we need different fabrics for camel capes that are suitable for winter and summer, and some are only suitable for formal occasions,” Al-Ghannam said. “We also work on necklaces and medals.” 

Each colorful, embroidered cape is customized and meticulously stitched as per the precise measurement of the camel to ensure a perfect fit. (Supplied)

Sewing has been one of her passions since a very young age, she added.

“I loved embroidering and adding accessories on fabrics, and while most designers tend to design traditional clothes, I wanted to differ from them and decorate camels, as I have an interest in them,” she said.

One of the challenges she faced in setting up her business was the bespoke nature of the accessories she provides, which require precise measurements to ensure they perfectly fit the camel they are made for.

“One of the reasons why we don’t have a retail store is because these clothes are specially tailored and customized for one camel at a time,” Al-Ghannam said. “When we get an order we have to take the measurements of the camel so it can fit the clothes perfectly. 

Each colorful, embroidered cape is customized and meticulously stitched as per the precise measurement of the camel to ensure a perfect fit. (Supplied)

“One of the biggest challenges that we had was taking the measurements for a camel. However, after a year of working with camels, we overcame the problem and now it has become easier to do so.”

Al-Ghannam said that she wants to expand her business to all Gulf countries and aspires to it becoming the leading specialist brand for camel accessories.

Her clients include camel owners and the organizers of camel festivals, and she revealed that she also receives many requests for horse accessories.

“I know many horse owners want accessories for their horses,” she said. “However, Safayef is a business specializing in camel accessories only — and in any business, it is very important to focus on what you do best.”

Al-Ghannam said that when she started her business she contacted the Kingdom’s Camel Club and explained her business plans. They welcomed her with open arms, she added, and this year she participated in the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival for the first time by providing flags, necklaces, scarves and embroidered covers.

Safayef has also supplied camel capes and team uniforms to the Eid Caravans initiative, organized by the Ahyaha Humanitarian Foundation in cooperation with the Saudi Camel Club, Diriyah Gate Development Authority, and the Imam Mohammad bin Saud Charity Society. The initiative involved a convoy of 14 camels loaded with gifts that were distributed to more than 400 homes. In addition, Safayef has participated in other special events, including for Saudi National Day and Eid.


Saudi walking wonder completes latest trek to promote AlUla, personal fitness

Updated 14 January 2022

Saudi walking wonder completes latest trek to promote AlUla, personal fitness

  • In 2020, Nayef Shukri walked in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) following the old Hijrah road, and last year he hiked from Jeddah to NEOM on what he dubbed his Vision 2030 trip

JEDDAH: Saudi walking wonder Nayef Shukri has been putting his best foot forward in a solo mission to promote fitness and his country’s rich heritage.

In his latest marathon meander around the Kingdom, the 33-year-old adventurer recently completed a 760-kilometer trek from Jeddah to AlUla to highlight the desert tourist destination.

Battling through extreme weather conditions and the pain barrier, Shukri covered the distance in 22 days, sleeping along the way in places including gas stations and under trees, and proudly carrying the Saudi national flag.

 

 

With just a backpack and a change of clothes, his only companion was manager Abu Hatem who shadowed him by car to light the route during the night.

Shukri, from Jeddah, said his walk to AlUla had been prompted for two main reasons. “First, out of absolute love for my country and to support tourism in AlUla with the start of the AlUla Season. Another reason for the march, was fitness. I wanted to promote the idea of keeping fit and setting an example for both young and old. 

“It wasn’t just my family and friends who supported this trip. Wherever I went, people would come out in droves to wave and cheer for me. They didn’t know me, nor did I know them, but everyone who saw me walking the flag wished me luck and encouraged me. I felt the true spirit of Saudi Arabia on this trip,” he added.

He pointed out that he wanted to encourage young people to travel within the Kingdom, visit historic sites, learn more about the country’s heritage, and enjoy experiences away from the daily routines of city life.

“Everyone has to discover the abilities in their own body and challenge themselves to discover new skills,” he said. 

In 2020, Shukri walked in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) following the old Hijrah road, and last year he hiked from Jeddah to NEOM on what he dubbed his Vision 2030 trip.

During his walks he has visited many archaeological, historical, and cultural sites including in Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah, Taif, Yanbu, Dammam, Jubail, Al-Ahsa, Asfan, and Badr. 

“It relates to the biography of the Messenger (peace be upon him), and I completed my journey walking in the footsteps of the Messenger, and across the Hijrah Road, the old road, where I covered the distance in eight days and nine nights,” he added.

On his recent AlUla walk, Shukri said: “The hospitality was overwhelming. We knew we would be welcome but the hospitality we received along the way was amazing.”

And posting on social media, he told followers of his joy at arriving in the old city of AlUla. “Finally, we reached it, thanks to God. Thank you all for your support.”

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