Saudi Arabia: signs of strain

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A Shia cleric from the Eastern province sentenced to death. Commentators find evidence of tension as the Kingdom faces the challenge of IS. Oil price and oil exports down. On 15 October a Saudi court sentenced to death the leading Shia cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was arrested in March 2013 after being injured …

Arab women and sport

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Increasing flow of stories about women’s sport – marginal interest, or leading to more substantial emancipation? Modern sport, previously little followed in the Arab world, has become a passion in this generation – football mania in particular. More recently, again following the non-Arab world, more attention has been paid to women’s sport. To understand the position of women in the Middle East it is often helpful for outsiders to recall their position in western society one, two or three generations ago, with all the conventions, restrictions and inhibitions …

Saudi Arabia: the threat

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Today 11 September Saudi Arabia is hosting talks on confronting IS, expected to include John Kerry and from the region Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and members of the GCC including Qatar, but not Syria or Iran. There will be a conference of regional and international powers in Paris on 15 September. If IS were to continue its …

Alcohol

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(a word derived from Arabic) is surrounded by taboos in the Middle East and the Middle Eastern media. It, or rather “nabidh” (a word whose precise meaning is disputed), is of course forbidden for Muslims. The excavation of what may be the oldest wine cellar in the world at the Canaanite Palace of Tel Kabri in the far north-west of Israel is a reminder that wine may first have been made in the Levant.Wine-drinking continued in the golden age of Arabic civilisation. One of the greatest classical poets Abu …

Saudi women

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The Saudi media carry a large number of stories about women, particularly in the world of work. Most suggest that there is change, many imply that change is inadequate and there is a failure to grasp the real issues. A typical article in the Saudi Gazette yesterday 11 August headed "Justice Ministry seeks help from women …

Saudisation

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Most countries seek for both political and economic reasons to maximise jobs for their nationals, which often involves pressure to reduce competition from foreign labour. The problem takes an acute form in oil-rich countries in which the nationals often pay no taxes and may be under no economic pressure to work. In 2011 Saudi Arabia introduced a new employment …

Saudi King speaks

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Yesterday 1 August a short statement by King Abdullah was read on his behalf (evidence of his extremely poor health) on Saudi TV denouncing those who create division (fitna) in Islam and commit terrorist crimes in the name of religion, and calling on Islamic leaders and scholars to stand against them. He criticised the indifference of the international …

Gaza: Saudi and Arab reactions

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It is a commonplace that Palestine no longer dominates Arab politics to the extent that it did a generation or two generations ago. The dreadful images of destruction in Gaza are making a big impact on world opinion and even some impact on American opinion. What about the Arabs? Is the reaction limited to words? Typically …

Terror: a sense of proportion: Saudi role

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Islamist terror: a sense of proportion: Saudi role Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute in London on 7 July Sir Richard Dearlove the former head of the British intelligence service known as MI6 said that the UK government and media have blown the "Islamist terrorism threat" out of proportion, giving extremists publicity that is counter-productive. Britons spreading "blood-curdling" messages on …