Saudi Arabia condemns ‘provocative’ Qur’an burning in Denmark

Danish police surround Rasmus Paludan ahead of his burning of a copy of the Qur’an in Copenhagen, Jan. 27, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Reuters)
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Updated 29 January 2023

Saudi Arabia condemns ‘provocative’ Qur’an burning in Denmark

  • The foreign ministry reiterates the Kingdom 'strongly rejects all these blatant acts'
  • Saudi Arabia calls on European governments to urgently address all these practices

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Saturday strongly condemned the burning of copies of the Qur’an by extremists in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, “in a new provocative step to the sentiment of millions of Muslims around the world.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated the Kingdom’s position, which “strongly rejects all these blatant acts that have unfortunately been repeated in several European capitals recently, under the pretext of freedom of expression, without a clear reaction toward stopping these practices.”

The Kingdom called on all European governments in which these extremist violations occurred, to urgently address all these practices that contribute to fueling hatred and conflict between followers of religions, the ministry said in a statement.

Rasmus Paludan, a far-right activist who holds both Danish and Swedish citizenship, already infuriated the Muslim world by staging a Qur’an-burning protest in Sweden on January 21. On Friday, Paludan replicated the stunt in front of a mosque as well as the Turkish Embassy in Copenhagen and vowed to continue every Friday until Sweden is admitted into NATO.

Several regional and international organizations, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Muslim World League, Arab Parliament and Gulf Cooperation Council, also issued statements strongly denouncing the incident, along with Pakistan, Jordan, Turkiye and Oman.

Russell Peters, the comedian enjoying the last laugh

Updated 29 February 2024

Russell Peters, the comedian enjoying the last laugh

  • Canadian performer advises people to follow their dreams despite setbacks
  • Stand-up veteran recalls earning $50 for gigs, being booed off stage and learning on the job

RIYADH: Award-winning Canadian comedian Russell Peters has revealed the secret behind his successful career.

“Identify your dream and actively chase it,” Peters said during a recent interview on Arab News’ podcast, The Mayman Show. “It’s far more rewarding to have pursued your dream, even if you fail, than to passively wonder about it.”

Peters found his own path in 1989 when he began performing stand-up comedy at amateur shows. Despite not being allotted more than five minutes with the mic, he was determined to pursue his passion.

“If I got one laugh, I think that’s all I needed: Let’s figure this out, let’s try to figure out how to get more of those people,” he said on learning from his first performances.

Discussing his early career, he talked about being booed off stage in Toronto in 1993 while opening for The Pharcyde, a hip-hop group from the US. With hindsight, he laughs at his own arrogance then, viewing the experience as a well-deserved lesson.

Peters recounted how he would drive hours to perform, earning $50 plus complimentary chicken wings, a tank of gas, and a soda. During those days, he thought: “If I stayed, I’d be in the exact same financial position I would have been had I gone. So I wasn’t losing anything and I’d stay there and I’d be talking to people for free,” he said. “I just remember all the hard gigs, those were the fun ones.”

Fast-forward to 2024, and Peters has been hailed as one of the greatest comedians of all time by Rolling Stone, and has held the record for being the longest-standing comedian since 2007. He was also the first comedian to sell out Toronto’s Air Canada Center in 2007, and has performed in Vancouver’s Rogers Arena, London’s O2 Arena, and more. As part of his “Act Your Age” tour, which he has been doing since 2021, Peters recently took to the stage in Riyadh, performing at the Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University on Feb. 24.

This is his third visit to the Kingdom, and Peters admires the generosity of the Saudi people: “I remember at the hotel, they said, how did you sleep? And I said, it was honestly like the best, the most comfortable bed I’d ever felt in my life, and when I came back to my hotel room, they had packed up all the stuff that I complimented and shipped it to me in America.”

Peters also cherishes the memory of his performance at the Maraya building in AlUla in 2016, renowned as the world’s largest mirrored concert venue. “The acoustics are great in there because it’s built for that. And they put the sound dampeners in there. The same can’t be said for when I just performed in Egypt,” he said.

During his one-night performance in the country, American comedian Adam Hunter opened his show. Hunter is known for his popular Instagram channel, MMA Roasted, in which he humorously critiques fighters, and has been traveling with Peters for some time.

His latest show in the current tour is scheduled for March 3 in Bangalore, India, a place he regards as his true home. Beyond the stage, Peters also feels at home in the DJ booth. He said that his DJ career was purely for enjoyment, focusing mostly on old-school music. Peters said that his go-to song is “Black Trump” by Smif-N-Wessun and Raekwon.

Peters is currently practicing jujitsu, a form of martial art. His enduring passion for combat disciplines began at the age of 16 with boxing, because of bullying at school. Boxing became more than just a sport; it was a coping mechanism, especially after he was kicked out of school.

Later on, as his career developed in comedy, it also became a way of dealing with challenges.

“I would do it all the time growing up,” Peters said, “to try and get out of situations, dealt with a lot of racism growing up. So you just kind of figure out a way of getting out of situations by being funny.”

Turkish ambassador bids farewell, reflects on his time in Saudi Arabia

Updated 29 February 2024

Turkish ambassador bids farewell, reflects on his time in Saudi Arabia

Riyadh: Turkish ambassador to Saudi Arabia Fatih Ulusoy is bidding farewell to the Kingdom at the end of his tenure in Riyadh, and reflecting on the growth of Saudi-Turkiye relations over the past two and half years.

“I have had a fantastic time here — you usually get more or less emotional when you bid farewell, but if you are a diplomat you are quite used to it changing from one place to another,” Ulusoy told Arab News.

“I feel privileged to serve as the ambassador of Turkiye in Riyadh, as I had the opportunity to personally witness the historic transformation in the Kingdom as well as the concrete progress and positive momentum in the bilateral relations between Turkiye and Saudi Arabia,” the envoy said.

“Having served as the Turkish ambassador for two and a half years, I saw three visits by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Saudi Arabia and the visit by Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman to Ankara in this period.

“On his way back from his visit to Jeddah in April 2022, President Erdogan announced Turkiye’s solid support for Riyadh’s candidature for Expo 2030. We are happy to see Riyadh will host the World Expo 2030 as that year means a lot for Saudi Arabia. Turkish companies will be ready to work with their Saudi counterparts to make Expo 2030 a huge success,” Ulusoy said.

“In the margins of the visit by Erdogan to Jeddah in July 2023, four governmental MoUs and one G2B agreement were signed in the fields of defense, investment, energy, media and defense industry, bringing Turkiye and Saudi Arabia, two brotherly countries, even closer. These areas stand as key areas for our future collaboration, however, our cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not limited to these fields. We have frequent ministerial and high-level visits between Turkiye and Saudi Arabia.

“For example, during FII7 in late October, our Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek signed a deal on cooperation in financial areas with his Saudi counterpart Mohammed Al-Jadaan.

“October 29, 2023 was a special day for us, which is our centennial anniversary, and we celebrated our national day at our embassy with a big crowd of guests.

“I was very happy and emotional to see Turkish flags on the huge screens of Riyadh Boulevard on that day,” the envoy said.

“In mid-February this year, a Turkish-Saudi investment forum was held in Istanbul with the participation of four esteemed ministers from two brotherly countries. I was delighted to see the big interest and hundreds of companies from both sides to this key forum.

“Within the past year we witnessed fruitful contacts between two brotherly countries in the field of military and defense industry. Turkiye participated in the World Defense Show in February 2024 with 63 companies, covering 15 percent of the entire exhibition area.

“I was so happy to see our air acrobatic teams, Turkish Stars and Saudi Hawks perform together up in the sky, side by side during the World Defense Show early this month,” Ulusoy said.

“I want to highlight the field of tourism, which represents a huge potential for cooperation between our brotherly countries. Turkiye is ready to share its experience with Saudi Arabia as we are among the top tourist destinations in the world. We announced visa-free entry to Turkiye for Saudi citizens in December 2023 and we look forward to hosting more and more Saudi brothers and sisters every year.

“Saudi tourists traveling to Turkiye can avail of visa-free entry after Erdogan issued a decision last December granting Saudi citizens a visa exemption. It allows Saudis to visit Turkiye for tourism without obtaining a visa in advance. They are allowed a stay up to 90 days within six months.

“We are expecting the visit of our Trade Minister Omer Bolat in the first week of March to Saudi Arabia, and a Turkish trade fair and business forum will also be held in Riyadh within the same week.

“We also expect more agreements to be signed between two brotherly countries in the near future. The main philosophy of our cooperation with Saudi Arabia is to share our strengths and achieve win-win results. As Saudi Arabia is going through a massive transformation, this era represents enormous opportunities to further prosper our relations and cooperation. We have contributed to the development of Saudi Arabia in the past and we will be walking together with Saudi Arabia through its important journey under the Saudi Vision 2030,” Ulusoy said.

The dean of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Kingdom organized a farewell ceremony at the Cultural Palace in the Diplomatic Quarter in Riyadh at the end of Ulusoy’s mission as Turkish ambassador, which was attended by many ambassadors and their wives.

India’s top business body prepares to open Riyadh office

Updated 29 February 2024

India’s top business body prepares to open Riyadh office

  • India organized the first trip of the country’s top CEOs and government officials to Riyadh
  • `From the Indian side, the office in the Saudi capital will be led by an FICCI member, the federation’s secretary general S.K. Pathak told Arab News

NEW DELHI: India’s top business federation is preparing to open its office in Riyadh after leading a high-powered delegation to the Kingdom to explore the possibilities offered by Saudi megaprojects.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, India’s largest and oldest trade association, organized the first trip of the country’s top CEOs and government officials to Riyadh and the site of the flagship multibillion-dollar NEOM project in Tabuk, on Feb. 18-21.

The visit was in the wake of the growth of Saudi-Indian ties during India’s presidency of the G20 last year, which was followed by the state visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi-India Business Forum in September.

During the forum, Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih and his Indian counterpart, Piyush Goyal, agreed to open chamber of commerce offices in their respective countries.

From the Indian side, the office in the Saudi capital will be led by an FICCI member, the federation’s secretary general S.K. Pathak told Arab News.

“We have already identified the location. We are just waiting for the paperwork, and we will launch. This will be in addition to our other offices in GCC. It’s a matter of weeks,” he said in an interview in Delhi on Wednesday.

The office will facilitate better business interactions between Indian companies and those based in the Kingdom.

“Whether you are a FICCI member or not, we are all Team India. Anyone from the Indian industry wanting to have ties in Saudi Arabia, this office will help you. That’s the objective,” Pathak said, adding that following last week’s visit there had already been multiple inquiries from companies interested in the Saudi market, and especially NEOM.

The FICCI delegation met NEOM leaders and executives responsible for projects such as The Line linear smart city, the floating Oxagon city, Trojena futuristic ski resort, Sindalah island resort, TONOMUS — the world’s first ecosystem of cognitive technologies — and ENOWA, which leads the development of NEOM’s sustainable energy and water systems.

“The NEOM project itself is a trillion-dollar project. It’s going to be a multi-decade project, and there is so much that India and Indian companies can do there,” Pathak said. “We have been flooded by inquiries from FICCI members and many who want to become FICCI members saying they also want to participate in this business opportunity.”

There was also an opportunity to learn, he said. The way water will be recycled in NEOM, which is set across desert valleys, and the smart city and biotechnological services designed for the site, were relevant to India too.

“That’s a great lesson for all Indian cities,” Pathak said. “It is quite an exciting opportunity for anyone in infrastructure and services to go and look at.”

Under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, increasing opportunities have been available for Indian companies and the number of them operating in the Saudi market has grown from 400 in 2019 to 2,900 in 2023. Their biggest presence is in construction, information technology, health, oil and gas, telecommunications and financial services.

“This is a great time for India, and we are looking at the next 10 years, 25 years being a very good time for Indian business,” Pathak said. “Vision 2030 gives us the confidence that India and Saudi will grow even closer together.”

Saudi surgeons begin complex 14-hour operation separating Nigerian conjoined twins

Updated 29 February 2024

Saudi surgeons begin complex 14-hour operation separating Nigerian conjoined twins

Riyadh: Surgeons in Saudi Arabia on Thursday began the complex procedure of separating Nigerian conjoined twins Hassana and Hasina at King Abdullah Specialist Children’s Hospital in King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh.

The twins, who arrived in Saudi Arabia last October, share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves.

The separation surgery is expected to take about 14 hours and involves 38 consultants, specialists, technical, nursing, and support staff, state news agency SPA reported.

Med-day on Thursdat Al-Ekhbariya reported that the 4th stage of the operation started.

Head of the medical team Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah said the operation has a 70 percent success rate and will involve nine stages.

This is the 60th operation performed by the Saudi program for separating conjoined twins. Over the past 34 years, the program has cared for 135 sets of twins from 25 countries.

Saudi crown prince, French president discuss cooperation

Updated 29 February 2024

Saudi crown prince, French president discuss cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received a call from French President Emmanuel Macron, the Saudi Press Agency said early Thursday.

The pair discussed bilateral relations and ways to enhance cooperation in all fields, in addition to issues of mutual interest.

They also exchanged views on several regional and international issues and the efforts made regarding them to achieve security and stability.