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Category Archive: Opinions & Editorials

Question of Observing Ramadan in Iceland

23 July 2014 | comments (1) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

Iceland is a country the size of the American state, Kentucky, or about 40,000 sq. miles and considered one of the least populated countries of the world. Its capital, Reykjavík is the most northern capital in the world. And even though Iceland is volcanically and geologically active with very small population, Iceland is famous for its achievements in social and political systems and for its advanced infrastructure. Every time I meet a lady from Iceland, she would tell me that Iceland became famous around the world when it became the first country in the world to have a political party formed and led entirely by women. But when I met a man from Iceland he told me that Iceland became famous because of the (Icesave) dispute in which Iceland instituted capital control that made it impossible for any foreign investor to take money out of Iceland. This ruled had changed in the past years. This is Iceland but what about the Icelandic midnight summer sun and the few Muslims in Iceland during this holy month of Ramadan?

First, let me start by saying that since I started fasting during the holy month of Ramadan at an early age (at around 11), I have asked myself, why don’t I get hungry in Ramadan during the day when I don’t eat my regular breakfast meal or lunch? But, if I don’t eat breakfast or lunch during other months, my stomach starts making many funny noises and I loses the ability to think or do anything while my stomach craves for food. As a matter of fact, I even used to play basketball or football in the morning or late afternoon during Ramadan.

The length of fasting hours in Ramadan varies according to the time between early morning and the sunset. And it varies between summer and winter. In this case, during the summer some Muslims observe fast for 10 hours in some countries and some fast 22 hours. If Ramadan falls during the winter months, then some Muslims might only fast for two hours. The month of Ramadan is a lunar month, which means that the start and finish of Ramadan shifts by an average of 9 days each year in regard to the Gregorian or any other calendar.

Few days ago, I read in a report in Arab News about Muslims in Iceland who fast 22 hours. These are very long hours of fasting. What is more, what about some areas near the polar circle in which they experience a strange phenomenon called midnight sun. The sun sets and rises at the same time. I experienced this phenomenon when I was touring the northern parts of Alaska and the Rovaniemi in Finland. Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) always urged his followers to take the easier way and Muslims are ordered to stop eating when they start differentiating between the white and black thread with the naked eye (seeing the signs of daylight). But this is impossible when you are close to the polar circle. So fasting for more than 18 hours is some time very dangerous to the health of people who are diabetic or people who have to work for long hours. Islam is a religion, which orders Muslims not to harm themselves and Islam wants Muslims to follow its teaching according to their abilities. So there is a need for Muslim scholars to look into matters like this one and issue an edict (fatwa) that clarifies fasting in countries like Iceland.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Question of Observing Ramadan in Iceland reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

MH17: Terror in the Sky

22 July 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

First of all, I would like to express my deep sympathy to the families and friends of all the innocent victims who died aboard Malaysia’s flight MH 17. My heart also goes to the beautiful and good people of Malaysia. This is a very difficult time for Malaysia and its national carrier which for a long time had been known to be one of the safest and best airlines in the world. But, in a very short time, the airline saw two tragedies. First one involved a mysterious disappearance of a wide-body aircraft that most likely will never be found. The other tragedy happened because of a conflict in Ukraine that neither Malaysia nor the unfortunate passengers had anything to do with.

I am not an aviation expert, but the minute I heard about the crash of Malaysia’s MH17, I asked myself why it was flying along a route which took it above Ukrainian air space. I and many others asked the question even before it was announced that the cause behind the crash might be a surface-to-air missile. As far as I know, when there is a conflict of any kind, then notices to mariners and aviators are broadcast worldwide to alert seafarers and aviators of any threats. So, was there any warning about any restriction regarding Ukrainian Airspace or was it up to the airlines to decide which areas to avoid?

Just a short time before the tragic incident, many airlines changed their flight plans and avoided flying over Crimea, the Black Sea and Azvos due to potential conflicting air traffic control between the Russians and Ukrainians. For the information of readers, the air traffic control over these areas had been lacking proficiency since the communist era. And at the end of the day, a civilian plane was shot with hundreds of passengers from different nationalities and now people are asking who did it and why they did it?

Most likely, MH17 crashed without sending any distress or voice messages. This means that there is a big and sudden malfunction in all its avionics. But, the crash area saw several deadly SAM missiles engagements which resulted in the downing of Ukrainian planes. This includes small and fast low-flying jets and slow flying cargo planes. MH17 was flying at an altitude of 32,000 feet at a speed of 500 knots and if it was downed by surface-to-air missiles, then this missile must have speed, acquisition ability, big war head, air search radar, fire control radar and trained crew….. Oops, did someone say or mention Buk missile system or SAM-11? So, who has this missile system in that area? Answer is easy. Russia or rebels backed by the Russians.

The BUK missile is a very sophisticated surface-to-air missile system that can travel at three times the speed of sound. It has four main components which consist of acquisition and targeting radar, command element, missile launcher and the logistic element. And it requires a crew of 4 highly trained personnel. The missile system can be readied in four minutes and it is very sensitive and only trained crew can operate it. It is designed to track about 16 targets at a time. But, why did the firing crew fail to identify a civilian plane cruising at 32,000 feet. So, the missile system is Russian and most likely the crew that fired the missile is from the Ukrainian rebels. But, if the information is accurate, then why did Russia provide the separatists with such an advanced weapon. For the information of the readers, after the missile is fired then it needs some guidance by the operator to guide it toward the target, but, the missile does not need to hit the target directly because it can destroy the target by detonating next to it and do the damage by its fragments… this is deadly.

Now, this unfortunate incident has already happened and nothing will bring the dead back. But, many people around the world are shocked of the behavior of the Russians and the Ukrainian rebels and their disrespect for the dead and their lack of cooperation with the concerned agencies. Europe has given stiff warnings to Russian President Vladimir Putin directly. Russians have a lot to explain because there are indications that the MH17 was downed by a surface-to-air missile.

Russia will be more isolated than before. And as a matter of fact, Russia has always been isolated not only by governments, but, also by people around the world. It is very seldom to hear a tourist spending his/her vacation in the Russian countryside or someone sending his child to attend school in Russia. If Russia did it or the one who provided this lethal weapon to uncontrolled and undisciplined separatists, then Russia will not only lose its respect in the world, but, will also lose its respect by its own people.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. MH17: Terror in the Sky reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

The Cycle of Violence in Gaza Cannot Go On

16 July 2014 | comments (3) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Khaled AlmaeenaKhaled Almaeena

The relentless Israeli bombing of Gaza for the past few days continues unabated. In fact it is increasing by the hour and the death toll is rising. Most affected are children and women.

What is different from previous airstrikes, which use freely supplied, sophisticated, lethal American weaponry, is the precision targeting of civilian homes, charity organizations, hospitals and dispensaries.

There is no end in sight as Prime Minister Netanyahu stated: “We do not know when this operation will stop.” Over 185 Palestinians have been killed as Israelis pound what is described as the largest open prison camp.

No Israeli has been killed. This has encouraged Netanyahu and his cohorts to continue the bombing.

Refugees fleeing to United Nations Relief Work Agencies (UNRWA) shelters on cars, scooters and donkey carts were strafed by Israeli air force F16s.

It was hell said a Norwegian doctor working in the camps. Neither the United States nor its closest European ally Britain has said anything constructive. On the contrary, bland statements calling on both sides to exercise restraint were made after both the US and Britain stated loud and clear that Israel has a right to defend itself.

The question is: Defend itself against whom? The Gazans have been blocked on all sides. Gaza is a concentration camp. Its tragedy is that its people want to live free. They cannot.

Adding to their woes is the impotence of the Arab countries, each of which is embroiled in its own miserable condition.

And the Western media has also, as usual, covered up Israeli atrocities. The BBC and CNN are the main culprits. Their allegiance to Israeli interests, which contradicts all honest journalism ethics, has gone beyond the pale of decency.

In fact, they are “open mouthpieces of the Zio-Nazis  of Tel Aviv,” said a Western diplomat.

What can we do to help the people of Gaza? Making personal appeals to our friends in the West and relaying to them pictures of the horrors inflicted on the Palestinians, making our voices heard through the Arab communities in the diaspora and boycotting Israeli goods are some of the things that we can do.

We should strive to let the people of Gaza know that while Arab officialdom is helpless, we as a people are not. So let us not talk but contribute all that we can. However much we do, we cannot wipe away the scars, the trauma and the hurt of the people of Gaza.

As for Israel, the more they continue their murderous policies, stray away from the path of peace and indulge in bloodletting, the more they will become vulnerable.

For what goes around comes around.

~Reprinted with permission of the Saudi Gazette and Khaled Almaeena. The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at kalmaeena@saudigazette.com.sa and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena

Improving Cabbies’ Behavior

16 July 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

Taxi industry is one the biggest employers in any country around the world. There are many huge companies with thousands of cars in their fleets. Many taxi drivers have a pre-set amount they pay to the mother company on a daily bases and the extra is for them to keep. This is why many taxi drivers work long hours either to make more money or simply to meet the pre-set limit. And most important, a taxi driver’s behavior can give a country or a society a bad or good image. London Taxi has the most unique cars and they are the most respected drivers in the world because they show great pride in their services to the community and they are proud of their job as taxi drivers. Nowadays, London taxicabs with their unique shape are becoming a common scene in Riyadh. So, we are seeing a change of shape and we need to see a change of behavior.

Ironically most taxi drivers in many countries are not natives. Places like Riyadh, Dubai, New York are an example, but at the end of the day, taxi driving business is very important not for the economy but also a very important public relation mechanism for any country. Many people judge a country by its cab drivers and their behavior. Majority of taxi drivers in Saudi Arabia are non-Saudis but there are many Saudi taxi drivers as well. We have to note that Saudi Arabia is a huge country and there are many big cities, which means that taxi driving is a very lucrative business. The importance of taxis is highlighted by the absence of public transportation system within the cities. So, taxi driving in the Kingdom can be a very important employer for the young who can’t find a job or still looking for a job or even as a part time job for college students who want to make money while going to school. Gas at the pump is very cheap and owning a car through monthly installments is no big deal.

What we lack in the Kingdom is that we don’t give special courses to taxi drivers regarding their behaviors or attitudes toward the passengers. In addition to that, passenger pick-ups at airport terminals by unregistered taxi drivers should be banned. And it is very important to introduce or widen the use of scheduled passenger pick up through cab company’s dispatchers. This will give the passenger a comfort because the dispatcher knows the taxi driver and his ID. Also, it will be a way to save fuel because cab drivers are not obligated to roam the streets looking for a passenger and this is very important to set a daily working shift for each driver rather having them overwork. Fatigue is one of the main reasons for the bad behavior of cab drivers or the high rate of accidents on the road. A special school for cab drivers is a must. The drivers must be taught how to communicate and behave with a passenger and they should be taught the importance of responsibilities toward the passenger and most importantly they should be taught the importance of safety on the road. Statistic shows a very high number of accidents are caused by cab drivers. Cab and taxi diving can be a major source of income be it a Saudi driver or an expat, so those drivers have an obligation to respect the road and the passenger.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Improving Cabbies’ Behavior reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Israeli Missiles and Gaza’s Bomb Shelters

16 July 2014 | comments (2) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

Few weeks ago, three Israeli teens were kidnapped and murdered. Two of them held dual citizenships, Israeli and American. Few days later, apparently to avenge the deaths, a Palestinian teen was kidnapped and killed. It was clear that the two incidents would spell disaster. In other words, four teens were murdered and there were more killings to come.

In the wake of the four killings, many in Israel and the West Bank including some mayors in Israeli and Arab towns urged both the Israeli government and Hamas not to escalate tensions but it looked obvious that things would not calm down and the rest of the story is known to all.

A question answer of which is not known to anyone is: Why Gaza does not have bomb shelter? Hamas took control of Gaza Strip in 2005 following Israeli withdrawal. However, hostilities never ended. In one of the conflicts around 1,500 Palestinians lost their lives and the Israeli side sustained few casualties. Undoubtedly, Israel is militarily powerful than Hamas. Had Hamas built bomb shelters, the causalities would have been reduced. It seems Hamas does not pat much attention to the number of dead Palestinians. Hamas is not gaining anything by locking horns with Israel.

In the wake of this current crisis, people around the world took to the streets, some supporting Israel and some opposing it. Reportedly many Jews around the world took part in protests slamming Israeli attacks on Gaza. Many Arabs criticized Hamas’ “irresponsible” approach that has put Palestinians in harm’s way. In other words, there are people from both sides who are not in favor of armed conflict. So why don’t these people sit together for a truce resulting in a lasting peace? Now, let us go back to the absence of bomb shelters in Gaza. Hamas either does not understand the rule of the game or simply just turn a blind eye to it. Hamas know well that Israel will hit back and hit hard if attacked. So, why Hamas was successful in spreading a sophisticated network of tunnels and fail to build simple bomb shelters if they knew there would be armed conflicts? Is Hamas willing to sacrifice Palestinians to get more Arab and foreign financial aid and what is more, does Hamas receive orders from abroad or they simply have no control over various factions within Hamas? As we have seen, some of Hamas missiles are either from Iran or used Iranian technologies. So, the question is, can Hamas use these missiles or its technologies without a green light from Iran and is the attack from Gaza planned by the Iranians to take some of the pressure off Bashar Assad?

Till the time of writing this article, the number of Palestinian dead is approaching over 200 and we have seen gruesome scenes of dead children but we all know that the dust will eventually settle and they will just become statistics in history books. What if the Israeli ground forces attack northern Gaza? How many casualties Hamas is willing to sustain?

Hamas had been in isolation from the day it took control of Gaza because of its behavior. So, maybe Hamas wanted to emerge from this isolation and catch world’s attention but other means should have been adopted to do that. Leaders of Hamas are now under more scrutiny from their people. Hamas leaders are jet setters. They travel high class, stay at the best hotels and eat the best food but their people are not paid their salaries on time and what is worse is that they are always under constant pressure from Hamas rule and the Israeli missiles. And Hamas did not even think of building bomb shelters. So, is Hamas looking for more innocent Palestinian casualties to gain more sympathy from the outside world?

Israel is using lethal weapons at a time when many countries in the Arab world are in chaos. There are more Syrian refugees and displaced families than there are Palestinians. There is more destruction in Libya and Yemen than there is in Gaza and there are far more gruesome killing scenes in Iraq than in Gaza. The Arabs are busy. So, the assets of Hamas could have been utilized to educate the Palestinian youths. But if Hamas really wanted an armed conflict, then they should have at least built some bomb shelters for the poor innocent Palestinians. Most of them don’t want this armed conflict.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Israeli Missiles and Gaza’s Bomb Shelters reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

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