Saudi Youth Idle No More

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Sabria S. Jawhar says the perception that “Saudi youths are idle, humorless and disengaged from the political and societal movements” was probably true for previous generations, but it is not the case for the new generation. You can see that, she says, in the many YouTube comedy shows produced by young Saudis over the past two years:

More important than simply entertainment, the Saudi government can learn a great deal about what young people think, especially as ministries prepare to introduce new regulations that affect society in general or more specific issues like employment. Their comedic commentaries are a constructive way to express disappointment without being confrontational.

Branson Calls on Saudi Government to Abolish the Morality Police

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British billionaire Richard Branson writes in his blog:

It’s nothing short of depressing to see the same old stories come out of Saudi Arabia, especially when last year saw some encouraging developments. Such as their first ever female Olympian, Sarah Attar, competing at London 2012. As I mentioned at the time, I have had first-hand experience of the way certain sections of the country’s population can be treated. It’s a shocking thing to experience.

The educated Saudi men that I personally know disagree with the regime’s approach to women. I suspect it would be wise for the Saudi government to abolish the morality police and start treating all sections of their society with a little bit more trust and dignity.

US Embassy: No Blacklist for Saudi Islamist Activists

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A senior official from the United States’ Embassy in Saudi Arabia has denied the existence of a list of Saudi Islamist activists who are banned from traveling to the US, noting that the previous travel ban was based on confidential information that cannot be disclosed to the public.

Cecilia Khatib, a consul at the US Embassy, said that US privacy laws protecting personal information state that reasons for an individual being banned from travel can only be disclosed to that individual. She added that there is no information about the existence a list.

The question is probably related to the case of famous Saudi cleric Ayedh al-Qarnee who was deplaned a flight from Riyadh to New York last month after he was told he is persona non grata in the United States. Former US diplomat in Saudi Arabia John Burgess wrote on his site Crossroads Arabia that he is “sure” the Embassy in Riyadh does not hold a blacklist.

Saudi Arabia vs Qatar

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James M. Dorsey:

At the core of the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar are fundamentally different strategies of self-preservation. While the royal families of both have sought to buffer themselves by lavish social spending, Saudi Arabia has opted for maintenance of the status quo where possible and limited engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria, toward which it harbors deep-seated distrust.

In contrast Qatar seeks to be on the cutting edge of history and has exercised a sophisticated soft diplomacy with its winning bid to host the World Cup, positioning itself as global hub by developing a comprehensive sports sector, creation of world class museums and sponsorship of the arts. In effect, Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood and popular revolts in the region constitutes an integral part of its foreign and defense policy, designed to embed itself in the international community so as to enhance the chances that other nations will come to its aid in time of need

It seems that the Saudi-Qatari honeymoon that lasted for the past few years, clearly seen in Al Jazeera’s softening their coverage of Saudi Arabia, is probably coming to an end over differences on how to handle the Arab uprisings. Saudi Arabia’s newest newspaper al-Sharq has been running many pieces critical of Qatar in recent weeks.

Saudi Preacher Gets Away With Murder

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Until he was arrested for torturing his 5-year-old daughter to death last November, most people have not heard of a preacher named Fayhan al-Ghamdi. The man has previously made some appearances on private religious channels, but he was not well known. It was not until his ex-wife, the mother of Lama, spoke publicly about the case that his name became familiar to many people. Al-Ghamdi was detained on November 12, 2012. Earlier this week the court issued its ruling in the case. The sentence was shocking to many observers: No jail time for the preacher who gets to walk free after paying blood money. Lama’s mother told al-Watan that she will appeal the ruling.

Can You Teach a Foreign Language Sans Its Cultural Values?

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Khalid al-Seghayer:

Teaching English along with its culture is in line with the announced goals of teaching English to Saudi students, i.e., to prepare Saudi citizens to be intercultural speakers or cross-cultural literates who are knowledgeable of different cultural practices and world views. Therefore, the call to remove all cultural references from the English language textbooks of international publishing companies, the call to teach English in isolation from its culture, and the call to include only local cultural references while teaching English are all unwise and unreasonable.