Civilizations are proud of traditions and construct relics to build heritage sites honoring revered personalities. The Saudi government defies normal traditions by destroying the relics & shrines of all religions including Islam. Baqee is a cemetery in Saudi Arabia where Prophet Mohammed’s children, wives, companions, and relatives are buried. Since the destruction of Baqee in 1925 AD, it has become a symbol of the atrocities and brutality committed by Saudi Arabia and like-minded terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Boko Haram and other offshoots.
This is the exact same ideology that resulted in the destruction of Gautama Buddha statues in Afghanistan, Temple of Palmyra in Syria and the Tomb of Prophet Jonah in Iraq. These atrocities are a direct result of theWahhabi (Salafi) sect teachings, promoted by Saudi Arabia and exemplify their lack of tolerance, respect, peace and humanity. Apart from the destruction of heritage sites, the Saudi police display physical aggression on pilgrims visiting the cemetery especially women, which is a humanitarian issue.
A protest against Saudi Human Rights abuse held on July 13th in Washington DC, organized by The Baqee Organization, to denounce the disappearing of Islam’s holy sites.
Since Wahhabism (Saudi Arabia’s state religion) first rose its head in the desert of Nejd in the Hijaz, in the 18th century Islam, Christianity, Judaism and all other religious denominations have suffered a veritable cultural genocide.
Over 7000 Islamic sites have been destroyed to assuage Wahhabis’ own sense of self-righteous bigotry, still the world has sat in silence. Firmly anchored in intolerance for they think their ideology holy, and pure, Wahhabi clerics have rationalized religious oppression and brutality, turning it into a well-honed system.
Amid the many crimes which were committed over the years one has towered over all as it spoke of a hate so entrenched in itself it could never be defined other than in ideological absolutism.
In 1925, Al-Saud regime took its wrath on al Baqee cemetery, where some of Islam’s most noble personalities, including members of the Prophet Muhammad’s family, are buried. As it lies in ruins, al Baqee came to represent Resistance – the call of a people against the injustice of radicalism, the need for a people to reclaim its History so that cultural and religious identity would not be lost.
Wahhabism has claimed many holy sites over the centuries — Gautama Buddha statues in Afghanistan, the Temple of Palmyra in Syria and the Tomb of Prophet Jonah in Iraq. Before Wahhabism, the world stands to see its memory erased. It is this violence, this insane pursuit for religious absolutism which the Baqee Organization ambitions to denounce, and oppose so that justice could be reclaimed.
Muslims and non-Muslims – beyond creed, ethnicity, and political persuasions, people from across the United States will stand in solidarity with the embattled citizens of Saudi Arabia and the countries it oppresses. Similar protests were also held at Saudi Arabian Consulates and Embassies in Los Angeles.
In the face of tyranny, we are all minorities. It is how we face injustice which truly defines our character.
Strengthening Sino-Russian Ties
During her speech at the New Year’s celebration, hosted by the Russian Cultural Center in Beijing, in late December 2017, Olga Melnikova, Counsellor of the Russian Embassy and Director of the Russian Cultural Center in Beijing, said Russia has many cultural symbols that come from China. In her opinion, Sino- Russian bilateral relations are an example of “the most stable, healthy, mature and lasting relationship between countries in today’s world.” The Russian Cultural Center for years has organized cultural, educational and science- related activities to stimulate Chinese citizens’ interest in learning the Russian language and culture.
In her recent interview with Women of China (WOC), Melnikova said she hoped the Sino-Russian strategic partnership would be strengthened, and that cultural communications between the people of the two countries would be enhanced.
Had you visited China prior to assuming your post as Director of the Russian Cultural Center in Beijing in September 2017? What is your impression of China and the Chinese people?
I first visited the capital of China, Beijing, in 2012. I was a tourist at that time. Beijing impressed me as a modern metropolis that also kept well its traditional Chinese flavor. I saw magnificent ancient temples and palaces coexisting with modern buildings and small cozy streets. The architectural styles of many buildings, the decorations on streets, and the designs of parks clearly showed how much Chinese people had been respecting their history and traditions.
Now, I look at Beijing through the eyes of one of the city’s residents, not as a tourist. In modern Beijing, people are paying great attention to physical education and sports, and to taking care of their health. I have watched, many times, the Chinese citizens who gather in the morning to exercise together. They perform qigong , a system of deep breathing exercises that Chinese use to train their bodies and properly maintain the energy flow in their bodies.
My job has pushed me to travel around China, and to meet people from all walks of life, including government officials, diplomats, representatives of academic institutions, professions, teachers, students and schoolchildren. Based on my personal communications, I think Chinese are friendly, polite and kindhearted. Chinese always l isten attentively to interlocutors’ opinions, and they know how to correctly defend their points of view.
Please tell our readers about some of the events your center has organized in China to promote Russian culture.
Under the circumstances of globalization, culture becomes an important “language,” or factor, that lays the foundation to build the whole system of international relations. Cultural exchanges include communications in tourism, the scientific and educational fields, business contacts, and cooperation in the sports, mass media, art, music and film industries.
Russia is a country that has a great cultural heritage and centuries-old traditions. Within the framework of popularization of Russian culture in the world, our Russian Cultural Center regularly hosts events, such as concerts of Russian folk artists, music and dance groups, meetings with Russian celebrities in the cultural field, exhibitions of contemporary artists, photo exhibitions of Russian museums’ archival materials, film screenings showcasing the latest achievements of Russian cinematography and theater performances for both children and adults.
Every year, we celebrate our victory in World War II, the day of the first space flight of cosmonaut Yuri Garagin and the launch of our first space satellite. Soon, we will celebrate the date of lifting the blockade of Leningrad and the anniversary of the battle of Stalingrad. Those events are great and memorable, not only for Russian people, but also for humanity all around the world.
Are you interested in Chinese cultural symbols?
Developing mutual interest in our cultures helps us strengthen the “ties” between our peoples. For example, the Chinese horoscope, which includes the tradition and meaning related to the Spring Festival, is very popular in Russia. Some symbols of good fortune, such as the dragon, fish and frog, can be found in decorations that Russian people place in their houses, offices and private shops. Although the images with auspicious hints are used as decorations, most Russians do not fully understand the meanings that those images imply. Perhaps the most popular auspicious inscription is a picture of the upside-down Chinese character of “fu,” which means “happiness.”
What roles are women playing to enhance bilateral communications between Russia and China?
It is a global trend that women play more active roles in different spheres of life — business, politics and diplomacy … In some countries, women occupy the highest positions in government. There are women ministers, prime ministers and even heads of state. Women and men should complement each other while they are dealing with political issues.
Actually, the Russian- Chinese Commission on Humanitarian Cooperation is chaired by Olga Golodets, Vice-Premier of the Russian Government, and Liu Yandong, Vice-Premier of the State Council of China.
The Russian Cultural Center is the representative office of Rossotrudnichestvo — the State Agency, which is headed by Eleonora Mitrofanova, a Russian diplomat of high level with significant experience in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and in international organizations. Our center will continue to make contributions to strengthen the ties between Russia and China, advance the promotion of the Russian language and culture in China, and stimulate the development of mutual exchanges.
Reviving the Spirit of Mosul
Last week, the world made a great commitment to rebuild Iraq following the recent defeat of ISIS. Recognizing the immense courage of the Iraqi people and the depth of their suffering, the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq pledged to rebuild infrastructure so that the country can once again prosper.
Mosul is the living symbol of Iraqi’s pluralistic identity. For centuries, it was at the crossroad of culture in the Middle East. From the Sumerian cities to Babylon, from the walls of Nineveh to the Silk Road, the region has been a melting pot of people and ideas. For the last three years, this story of peace – the true spirit of Mosul – has been overshadowed by another story of hatred and violence.
The conference stressed the importance of putting the human dimension at the heart of our efforts for sustainable reconstruction. So we launched “Revive the Spirit of Mosul”, an initiative for the reconstruction of the Old City, both its physical infrastructure and restoring the dignity of its people. When war is waged against culture and education, response must be culture and education. This is the only long-term solution against extremism.
The destruction of the University of Mosul Library, the dynamiting of the Al-Hadba minaret and the pillaging of the Nabi Yunus Shrine, emblem of the religious coexistence of the three religions of the Book – shocked the world. Public libraries were burnt, music was silenced, artists attacked and cafes closed.
Thousands of children have learned war and been indoctrinated with an intellectually corrupt ideology. They have not received an education – the essential tool for building the future. To avoid raising a lost generation, we must teach peace but also reinfuse these communities with the culture of peace, steeped in Iraq’s rich history and cultural life.
The revival of the Old City of Mosul is the cornerstone of our initiative, supported by both UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi. This initiative means restoring architectural symbols that bring the Iraqi people together, in all its diversity. Many key actors like the European Union, neighboring countries and international organizations expressed great interest in participating in this effort that UNESCO will coordinate.
UNESCO will bring its expertise in damage assessment to restore and reconstruct the emblematic sites of the historic center. We will work hand-in-hand with the local population and the government to restore bookshops, cultural centers and museums – including the Museum of Mosul, which was tragically ransacked.
We will provide opportunities for technical and vocational training, particularly in traditional building techniques, so that Iraqis will have the skills to actively contribute to this reconstruction.
The great civilizations of this region defined the course of humanity, through a thousand-year dialogue, which gave birth to the wheel, writing, mathematics and law. We will work with our Iraqi counterparts to ensure future generations will learn of their proud heritage, through the school materials that we are developing, including a new school curriculum, which puts humanities at its core along creativity, critical thinking and values of respect. This is the only way to ensure that fanaticism does not prevail once more.
This “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” initiative will be UNESCO’s main contribution to the United Nations’ Response and Resilience program designed to help Iraq’s government fast-track the social dimensions of reconstruction.
Later this year, we will organize an international conference at UNESCO Headquarters, with the Iraqi government and all our partners, to design a blueprint for this reconstruction.
Through culture and education, we can restore trust and create the conditions for a common future. This reconstruction will take time but, brick-by-brick, lesson-by-lesson, together we can revive the true spirit of Mosul.
First published in Asharq Al-Awsat
Music and art from the country of peaks and legends: Day of Afghan Culture
On 8 February 2018, the SCO Secretariat hosted the Day of Afghan Culture. Addressing the guests and participants of the event, the SCO Secretary-General thanked top leadership and the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for all-around support in organising the Day of Culture.
“Afghanistan is populated by wonderful and courageous people, descendants of ancient ethnicities who cherish their sacred traditions, lifestyle, unique culture and art,” Rashid Alimov said. “The entire SCO family strongly and unanimously supports the Afghan government and people’s efforts towards a peaceful, stable and prosperous state. We believe this day is near and wish the brotherly nation of Afghanistan peace, happiness and prosperity.”
In his remarks, Afghan Ambassador to China Janan Mosazai expressed his deep appreciation to the SCO Secretariat for organising the Day of Afghan Culture. “Events like this strengthen the Shanghai spirit in the growing SCO family,” he noted.
The main event of the programme, a concert of traditional Afghan music, delighted the guests with charming melodies from the ‘country of peaks and legends.’ The programme was presented by ten talented musicians from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music led by its founder and director Ahmad Naser Sarmast.
The guests also enjoyed a display of amazing colourful masterpieces of Afghan carpet weaving art, which goes back more than 2,000 years. A special photo exhibit showcasing the uniquely beautiful nature of Afghanistan and the rich legacy and contemporary life of its people was also very popular. The guests had a taste of the traditional Afghan cuisine.
The event was attended by extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassadors of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan, Syria, Bahrain and Singapore, as well as representatives of diplomatic missions, EU ambassadors, Chinese and foreign media.
The Day of Afghan Culture took place as part of the SCO Is Our Common Home programme.
Some 40 types of carpets were displayed at the Mosaic of Afghan Carpets exhibition. Afghan carpet weaving is known for distinct colours and traditional geometrical ornaments.
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