France hijab ban ‘against Olympic spirit’ — Islamic sports body
ISSF said in its statement on Monday French ban could prevent some French Muslim athletes from competing
French sports minister said last month French government was opposed to any display of religious symbols during sports
Updated 02 October 2023
A group of sports federations from Muslim-majority countries said on Monday that France’s move to bar its Olympic athletes from wearing the hijab would “send a message of exclusion.”
The 57-member Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation (ISSF), based in the Saudi capital Riyadh, voiced “profound concern” over the French decision, which was taken in line with the country’s strict rules on secularism.
French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said last month the French government was opposed to any display of religious symbols during sporting events.
“What does that mean? That means a ban on any type of proselytising. That means absolute neutrality in public services,” she told France 3 television.
“The France team will not wear the headscarf.”
The ISSF said in its statement on Monday that the hijab was “an aspect of many Muslim women’s identity and should be respected,” adding that the French ban could prevent some French Muslim athletes from competing.
“The Olympics have historically celebrated diversity, unity and athletic excellence,” the statement said.
“By implementing a hijab ban for their athletes, a host would send a message of exclusion, intolerance and discrimination that goes against the Olympic spirit.”
The statement urged French authorities “to reconsider this ban” and called for “meaningful engagement with the Muslim sports community in France.”
The ISSF was founded in 1985 to serve members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, based in the Saudi city of Jeddah, “in all aspects of sports activities,” according to its website.
It has organized five editions of the Islamic Solidarity Games, most recently last year in Turkiye.
The UN human rights office has not addressed France’s hijab ban for its athletes directly, but a spokeswoman said last week that “no-one should impose on a woman what she needs to wear or not wear.”
Ukraine says wife of spymaster Budanov was poisoned
Updated 7 sec ago
KYIV: The wife of Ukraine’s military spy chief has been poisoned with heavy metals and is undergoing treatment in a hospital, a spokesperson for the agency said on Tuesday. Marianna Budanova is the wife of Kyrylo Budanov, who heads Ukrainian military intelligence agency GUR, which has been prominently involved in clandestine operations against Russian forces since Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. “Yes, I can confirm the information, unfortunately, it is true,” GUR spokesperson Andriy Yusov told Reuters, without clarifying when the poisoning took place. The BBC’s Ukrainian service cited Yusov as saying that several GUR officials had also experienced milder symptoms of poisoning. Budanov’s public profile has risen in Ukraine and the West, where he is portrayed as a behind-the-scenes mastermind of operations to strike back at Russia. In Russian media he is a hate figure. The 37-year-old has himself been the target of several attempts on his life, including a botched car bombing. If confirmed as deliberate, the purported poisoning of his wife would represent the most serious targeting of a high-profile Ukrainian leadership figure’s family member during the 21-month-long war. The poisoning was first reported by Ukrainian media outlets. One publication, Babel, cited an unidentified source who said Budanova had been in hospital, and was finishing a course of treatment for the effects of the poisoning. Another outlet, Ukrainska Pravda, cited an unidentified source who said the poison was likely administered through food. Moscow has previously blamed Ukrainian secret services for the murders of a pro-war Russian blogger and a pro-war journalist on Russian soil. Ukraine denies involvement in those deaths. Separately, Russian media has reported that a court in Moscow had arrested Budanov in absentia in April on terrorism charges.
Ukraine says Russian shells hit private homes, four killed
“A 63-year-old man was killed. Two women, aged 65 and 63, were injured,” Dnipropetrovsk region governor Serhiy Lysak said
Updated 23 min 50 sec ago
KYIV: Russian shells struck a residential building and private houses on Tuesday, killing four and injuring at least five people, local Ukrainian officials said.
A five-story building was hit in the morning in the southern town of Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk region governor Serhiy Lysak said.
“A 63-year-old man was killed. Two women, aged 65 and 63, were injured. There may be people under the rubble,” he said on Telegram messenger.
In a separate attack in the afternoon, Russian shelling destroyed at least five private houses in a northern settlement just on the border with Russia, Sumy regional prosecutors reported.
Two bodies have been recovered from the rubble, and a 7-year-old girl died in hospital after a car she was in came under fire, the prosecutors said on Telegram. Three people have been injured.
Russia has denied deliberately targeting civilians although many have been killed in its frequent air strikes.
COLOMBO: Sri Lanka is looking for Saudi investment to modernize its tourism and other sectors, top officials in Colombo have said following an official visit of Saudi Economy and Planning Minister Faisal Al-Ibrahim.
Al-Ibrahim was in the Sri Lankan capital on Monday, where he met President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry to discuss ways to strengthen economic ties.
“President Ranil Wickremesinghe … further highlighted that the tourism and agriculture sectors were areas open to greater investment, as the country is committed to modernizing these domains,” the presidential secretariat said in a statement.
Tourism and agriculture are key industries for Sri Lanka, accounting for about 12 percent and 7 percent of its 2019 GDP respectively. The country has been working to revive its crisis-hit economy following a severe financial crisis that drove the country to bankruptcy last year.
Al-Ibrahim said that he was honored to meet Wickremesinghe.
“We discussed both countries’ ambitions and transformation journeys as well as strengthening our bilateral economic ties and trade and investment growth opportunities,” Al-Ibrahim wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
During Al-Ibrahim’s meeting with Sabry, the two officials discussed Saudi investment, as well as manpower and tourism cooperation, the foreign minister said.
“We also discussed (ways) to improve the tourism traffic between the two countries and further strengthen people-to-people contact. We also discussed the possibility of Saudia Airlines commencing direct flights to Colombo,” Sabry told Arab News.
“We decided to explore possibilities of Saudi investment in Sri Lanka and opportunities for the Sri Lankans for further skilled employment opportunities in Saudi Arabia in its planned construction boom,” he said, alluding to the Kingdom’s various megaprojects under Vision 2030.
“All in all, we had a very productive discussion and agreed to have a clear plan to continue our cooperation.”
Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka have expanded ties in the past year. They agreed to broaden their political consultation following their first joint committee meeting in May and earlier this year launched a new employment scheme aimed at boosting Colombo’s manpower exports to the Kingdom.
Finland closes Russian border for 2 weeks to stop asylum seekers
Some 900 asylum seekers from nations including Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen have entered Finland from Russia in November
Updated 28 November 2023
HELSINKI: Finland will close its entire border with Russia to travelers for the next two weeks in a bid to halt a flow of asylum seekers to the Nordic nation, the government said on Tuesday.
Finland last week shut all but one of its remaining border posts to travelers from Russia, keeping open only the northernmost crossing located in the Arctic. But this too would now close, allowing only goods transport, the government said.
Some 900 asylum seekers from nations including Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen have entered Finland from Russia in November, an increase from less than one per day previously, according to the Finnish Border Guard.
The decision means only freight traffic can pass between the two countries.
Singapore sees logistics, green energy opportunities under Saudi Vision 2030
Saudi Arabia, Singapore elevated their ties to strategic partnership during PM Lee’s visit last month
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng tells Arab News about Singapore’s interests in deepening cooperation
Updated 28 November 2023
SINGAPORE: Singapore sees growth opportunities in logistics, transport and green energy under the Saudi Vision 2030, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said on Tuesday, as the two countries have recently elevated their ties to a strategic level.
Saudi Arabia and Singapore agreed to strengthen relations during an official visit by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to the Kingdom and his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last month.
The visit was preceded by seven memoranda of understanding to facilitate investment opportunities, which were inked during the third session of the Saudi-Singapore Joint Committee held in Riyadh, led by Tan, who is also the city state’s second minister for trade and industry, and Saudi Transport and Logistic Services Minister Saleh Al-Jasser.
“Minister of Transport and Logistic Services Eng. Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser and I reaffirmed our commitment to growing our countries’ bilateral ties,” Tan told Arab News.
“With Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, the country has seen new growth areas for Singapore’s businesses on many fronts, such as in logistics, transport and green energy. I had shared with His Excellency Al-Jasser Singapore’s interests to deepen our cooperation in the ports and logistics sectors and Singaporean companies’ interest to participate in projects arising from Vision 2030.”
Singapore, Asia’s top logistics hub, has been ranked by the World Bank as the first in the world for logistics competence, infrastructure and timeliness of services.
During the Saudi-Singapore Joint Committee’s recent sessions, the Saudi Ports Authority, known as Mawani, and Saudi Global Ports, a subsidiary of Singapore’s port operator PSA, signed an agreement to establish an integrated logistics zone at the King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam.
“The development of the integrated logistics zone is one of SGP’s partnerships with Mawani on its Vision 2030 roadmap to grow Saudi Arabia as a logistics hub,” Tan said.
“On the energy front, I was pleased that Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and I signed the Energy Cooperation Roadmap. Through this, we will see closer cooperation in areas such as low-carbon solutions and technologies, renewable energy, energy efficiency and innovation for decarbonization. Prince Abdulaziz and I also discussed our countries’ commitment to our energy transition.”
This year’s joint committee meeting also saw in attendance representatives of the private sector from the Federation of Saudi Chambers and the Singapore Business Federation, as well as members of a business delegation from Singapore, which signed five memoranda with the Saudi Ministry of Investment to facilitate their entry into the Kingdom.
Tan said that Singaporean companies were also interested in working together with Saudis in the fields of oil and gas, tourism and hospitality, urban infrastructure and education sectors.
He gave as an example Surbana Jurong, a Singaporean government-owned consulting company focusing on infrastructure and urban development, which has already established offices in Riyadh to work on design consultancy in NEOM, the Kingdom’s flagship smart-city megaproject under Vision 2030.
“I am also glad that (the Saudi Ministry of Investment) has set up a Singapore office earlier this year in September, to promote investments into the Kingdom and facilitate Saudi companies tapping into Singapore to expand into Asia,” Tan said.
“With these developments, I hope that in the years to come, there will be greater presence by Singapore companies in the Kingdom, and that more Saudi companies will explore using Singapore as a launchpad into Southeast Asia.”