Comparing Gift-Giving Practices between American and Arabian Cultures

America’s gift-giving culture is not as restricted by traditions and customs when compared to practices observed by those who belong to the Araban race.

In America, giving presents to family members, business associates and close friends is generally expected only during Christmas and special occasions like birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Fathers’ Day graduations and occasional social visits. Arabian culture, on the other hand, recognizes giving gifts as an important practice to observe when looking to forge good business and social relationships. This stems from the fact that the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of the islamic relgion encourages people to give gifts to one another as a way of maintaining harmony in relationships.

Still, there are etiquettes to observe when giving gifts to Muslims and it’s important to know some of the most vital traditions to observe

How and Whom to Give Gifts in Accordance with Muslim Traditions

First off, be in the know that when in the Middle East, the respectful way of giving a present is by using the right hand or both hands. Muslim culture considers the left hand unclean as it is largely associated with bathing and cleaning rituals.

Reciprocation is also considered ethical in Arabic culture, which denotes that when someone gives a person a gift, the recipient has to give something in return that is more or less of equal value even if symbolically and not immediately.

Giving presents to members of the opposite sex outside of the family circle is taboo because the act is regarded as too intimate. When a male has to give gift to a female business associate or vice versa, the proper way to do is to say that the present is from wife or husband, as the case may be.

Socially, when giving a family man or woman a present, it is a good practice to also give small gifts for the children. Such practice is a way of conveying genuine interest in keeping a friendship for long term or permanently.

Most Amercans make it a practice to always choose age-appropriate gifts, especially for children. To make choosing easier, they use search phrases like “fun gifts for age 6 boys” or something similar, However, when buying presents for a Muslim friend and his or her children, Americans must do so with care. Mainly because there are traditional do’s and don’ts to observe when giving gifts in the Middle East.

Important Gift-Giving Do’s and Don’ts in the Middle East

While the safest and most popular gifts to give are food items, make sure they do not contain pork and pork by-products like cured pork meat (ham, bacon, sausage and gelatin) because pigs or hogs are considered as unclean animals in Islam. Dates, pastries, cookies, chocolates and sweet treats are the most recommended food items to give as gifts in the Middle East.

Native crafts and art works are acceptable but they should not depict images of the human body because the human anatomy is regarded as a sacred gift from Allah. Items with dog depictions are also improper because Islamic religion, likewise considers dogs as unclean animals.

Wines, spirits or any form of alcoholic beverages are no-nos since the Islamic law prohibits alcohol drinking as a habit.

When choosing a garment or accessories as gift for a Muslim male, avoid those made of silk materials or constructed out of gold metals. The Prophet Muhammad’s teachings specifically stated that such objects are haram or forbidden for male Muslims.

Al-Huwaitat Tribe Seeks UN Help as Saudi Gov’t. Is Out to Displace Them

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been noted to make efforts to improve its international image, yet the al-Huwaitat tribe is once again seeking help from the UN. Urgent communication is being sent by members of the al-Huwaitat tribe pertaining to claims of abuse and displacement, in connection with the NEOM mega-city project unveiled by the Saudi government in 2016.

The NEOM project drew international attention in 2018 when several NEOM Advisory Board members withdrew their involvement, including prominent British architect Norman Foster. Their main reason for doing so was the Saudi government’s alleged implication in the slaying of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist.

In April of this year, a Saudi citizen and al-Huwaitat tribe member were slain by Saudi security forces, while the government reported that the two were killed in the course of a gun battle.

Last September, an appeal to the United Nations was made by the al-Kuwaitat tribe as several members have been arrested or abducted because they continue to lead in the tribe’s defiance of relocation orders that would make way for the NEOM project. The arrested members are being held incommunicado by Saudi security forces. Matters have taken a turn for the worse as the whereabouts of two tribe members arrested last October 1, 2020 remain unknown.

 

The Controversy Surrounding the NEOM Mega-City Project

Based on 2016 information materials disseminated by the Saudi government in unveiling the NEOM project, the plan is to build a mega-city on virgin lands. However, it later turned out that the supposed “virgin land” is located in northwest Tabuk province, which include settlements occupied for a number of centuries by the al-Huwaitat tribe.

Today, an estimated 20,000 al-Huwaitat tribal members are facing eviction to make way for the NEOM project.

Dawn Chatty, a professor of Anthropology and Forced Migration at Oxford University, spoke with the Al Jazeera and said

”The Saudi government is not even trying to settle the issue with the tribe, pretending that the al-Huwaitat settlement does not exist at all.”

Touted as the New Future, the planned NEOM mega-city is one of the projects envisioned by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. According to NEOM website info, it is one of the Crown Prince’s initiatives in reinvigorating and in diversifying Saudi’s economy. The total projected cost is $500 billion and will be funded by the government’s Public Investment Fund.

At the start, the NEOM project stirred excitement among members of the al-Huwaitat tribe because the government said the tribe will take part in the city’s development. It even included a projection that the tribe will become the most famous indigenous group in the world.

However, in January 2020, the Crown Prince had allegedly sent an emissary to speak with the al-Huwaitat tribe, giving them notice to leave their lands. In return, each family will accept compensation of $3,000. In Saudi Riyal the compensation is roughly equivalent to SR 11,000 only. Those who refuse will simply face eviction measures.

MENA Countries on the Road to Economic Recovery

Last June, the OECD reported that several MENA countries started launching economic recovery plans, based on the success of COVID-19 containment measures.

The OECD or Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international organisation largely focused on helping countries formulate better policies for the betterment of lives, was apparently glad to announce that many countries in the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) made careful and progressive plans in gradually relaxing containment and lockdown measures, combined with strict enforcement of permanent preventive measures.

The governments of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iran, Algeria, Jordan and in some parts of Lebanon, have given commercial outlets and business establishments the go-signal to partially reopen since May. That was after gradually carrying out decontainment plans in the later part of April, 2020.

The gradual reopening was based on the success of their containment measures, like in Lebanon on which reopening depended on the status of the health crisis in the region, whether low or high risks. Iran color coded areas into white, yellow and red, using the numbers of cases and deaths as metrics.

Reopening still required safe distancing and wearing of face masks, where countries like the UAE, Morocco, Bahrain and Qatar impose not only heavy penalties but also imprisonment on violators.

How MENA Countries Managed to Control the COVID 19 Crisis

Generally, governments in the MENA region were quick to implement measures aimed at slowing down COVID 19 in their respective jurisdictions. OECD took note that there were countries that did not wait for results of medical tests.before taking decisive actions. Saudi Arabia for one, suspended Mecca and Medina pilgrimages as well as locked down religious sites in as early as February 26, 2020.

According to the OECD, many MENA administrations demonstrated capabilities for implementing prevention measures, and in preparing stimulus packages. The health crisis had emphasized the importance of transparency of government approaches in carrying out efficient public procurement, and in fighting government corruption, as those factors strengthened the trust and confidence of civil society.

Although health-system preparedness varies in levels across the MENA region, the OECD noted that generally, MENA countries were prepared; health management strategies were supported by strict implementation of containment measures.

However, the same could not be said for the developing countries in the North African or Levant region, as well as in conflict-torn countries like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and the Gaza Strip. Lack of testing equipment and hospital beds is still a major cause of concern in these nations.

Combining WFH and Outsourced Work Would be the Best New Norm

While a work-from-home (WFH) workforce is being mentioned as the new norm, there are those contemplating on outsourced work as another alternative. However, since not all business processes can be delegated to an outsourced workforce, a better solution is to adopt a combination of WFH and outsourced job forces.

In the U.S., leading research and advisory company Gartner revealed that about 74% of Chief Financial Officers (CFO) who responded to a related survey expect that their employees will continue to work-from-home even if the COVID-19 health crisis comes to an end. The greater purpose that WFH and outsourced arrangements can serve is the opportunity to cut real estate costs particularly rental, maintenance and related cost of utilities and taxes.

Factors to Consider When Permanently Shifting to WFH Arrangements

Additional costs will still come into the picture if WFH will become a permanent set up. Companies have to consider the fact that not all home environments are ideal for WFH conditions. Some employees may be living in small overcrowded spaces, whilst sharing Internet connection with family members engaged in similar remote set-ups, either to work or to acquire education from home.

 

That being the case, business organizations cannot just normalize conditions, by having WFH employees carry out tasks under the same improvised and temporary set-up that supported them during the COVID-19 crisis. In order to promote, as well as ensure productivity, WFH employees need to have the right technology in a home-based workspace, away and shielded from potential disruptions, distractions and security risks.

Ideally, a WFH set up is one that keeps employees plugged-in to a secure network that will enable them to keep abreast of latest developments related to their tasks. At the same time, clear and constant communication must be maintained among work-collaborators.

That being the case, an ideal WFH set up is where company executives, managers, supervisors and rank employees have stronger and more reliable IT support, and software-driven solutions that allow them to network and cloud-compute using a secure system.

Moreover, hiring and personnel policies as well as employment contracts will have to be modified to ensure that work discipline and confidentiality of information will be maintained.

What to Consider When Choosing a Call Center Outsourcing Firm

Companies still need to maintain and ascertain good customer relationships even as the workforce is scattered in different geographical locations. When looking to outsource customer service management and support to a call center outsourcing firm, give careful consideration on what the latter offers in terms of capabilities and technologies.

Although affordability of cost is an important factor, it would be best to have a clear perception about the type of services that a call center firm can offer as outsourced support. Have a look at 31WEST outsourcing packages, which could include Help Desk support that can provide IT assistance and Back-Office Support in addition to Customer Servicing.

 

Moreover, the availability of 31West call center agents on a 24/7 basis and in any location, are supported with technologies that allow sustained communication via live chat, phone, email, or social media channels using 3rd party applications.

In having awareness that small and mid-sized organizations cannot afford the cost of having an IT department in place, 31West can provide the best in outsourced Linux server support and highly trained engineers and administrators who will partner with clients in running their IT infrastructure.

A Cursory Look at Video Gaming in the Middle East

Video gaming statistics in the Middle East show that the most number of gamers come from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Nonetheless, while 86% and 81% of UAE and KSA nationals respectively, are into video gaming, about 53% in Qatar and 49% in Tunisia represent a notable number of nationals attracted to the world of video gaming.

Video games developed by Western gaming companies remain popular among Middle Eastern players, despite the typical racially-biased representations of Muslim and Arab nationals in combat-type video games. After the 9-11 incident, the negative depiction of Middle-Easterners as turban-clad, AK-47 toting extremists became even more pronounced in international video game realms.

Although some western developers tried to penetrate the Middle East video gaming market by introducing games that are more attuned with middle-eastern culture, such attempts failed. The release of massive multiplayer online (MMO) games described as “Arabized,” did not gain much support from ME players.

According to games publishing experts, the failed attempts were due to a number of technical issues such as lack of Unicode text, absence of right-to-left orientation, no-support websites and if there were any, used mostly Google-translated texts. It also became apparent to Western game developers that certain elements such as alcohol, gambling, sex and nudity are subjects avoided, when seeking for a successful establishment of an internationally recognized video gaming market in the Middle East.

Riot Games Still Actively Exploring Ways to Better Serve ME Players

Nonetheless, Riot Games, known for being the developer of “League of Legend (LoL0,” is still seeking ways to build a strong connection with ME players through its Dubai headquarters. The company is currently seeking ME locals to fill up positions like Software Engineering, Brand Marketing, Publishing, User-Experience Designer and Web-Content Associates in the Dubai office,

Moreover, Riot Games announced that in officially launching its new, first-person shooter game “Valorant,” which is tentatively set to launch in summer of this year, ME players are assured of getting full support from Middle East and North African servers.

However, “Valorant” is at the moment not available in those regions, because the game is still in closed beta stage. ME and NA players are advised not to attempt accessing the beta version via other regions. According to the LoL creator, doing so will likely result in high ping, while account transfers will not be available yet. Riot Games promises that pertinent advice will be given ahead of Valorant’s official launching date.

Closed-Beta Players Already Warn of Valorant’s High-Level of Difficulty

The most common feedback given by Valorant’s closed-beta players is the high level of difficulty that gamers face once they unlock Valorant’s Competitive Mode. Also, what makes the ascend to high rank levels difficult, is the presence of the Vanguard anti-cheat system.

This early, it would be wise for ME players to get in touch with their providers of reliable game boosting services. It is important for them to make sure that the professional player they will hire to render valorant elo boosting, can pass Vanguard’s strict scrutiny of legally-played matches.

Iran Borders Remain Open Despite Covid-19 Spread

Iran, one of several countries worst hit by Covid-19 outside of China, still keeps borders open to travelers; heightening concerns in nearby countries.

Certain regions in the country have been identified as hotspots for having the most number of Covid-19 cases since January, 2020. Yet Iranian authorities have not yet issued lockdown orders to prevent the virus from spreading further. The province of Tehran is said to be the hardest hit, as the latest report coming from the region says the number of confirmed cases has reached 1,945. Other Iranian provinces with large numbers of infection cases include Isfahan with 601, Gilan with 524, Mazandaran with 633 and Qom with 712.

Nearby countries, namely: United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are concerned about Iran’s open borders. Many of the confirmed cases in their respective country are linked to travels in Iran, in connection with work and/or business .

Even making matters worse in the country are the misinformation spread about Covid-19 treatment. IRNA, Iran’s official news agency reported that 16 fatalities linked to the contagion were results of methanol poisoning; spurred by false rumours that directly drinking alcohol (the disinfectant) will protect them against the disease.

Iranian Government Criticized for Suppressing Criticality of Covid-19 in the Country

Last Monday, Kianush Jahanpour, a spokesman for the country’s health ministry said that 40 people infected with the novel coronavirus have died; whilst adding that around 2,400 were able to recover from the disease. Mr. Jahanpour also said the rate by which new cases are occurring has dropped,

However, the health ministry spokesperson’s announcement did not jibe with earlier reports announced Saturday, which stated that about 16,000 have been admitted in hospitals in major cities; all of whom are undergoing treatment for potential Covid 19 infection.

Saeed Namaki, another Health Ministry envoy, told local news agencies that in the province of Gilan alone, at least 200 have died of the infectious disease. Namaki, though, later retracted his statement saying he had mistakenly included patients who died from other causes. .

Namaki’s retraction only fueled doubts that the Iranian government has been suppressing information about the true impact of the pandemic in the country.

In fact the reason why representatives from Iran’s Health Ministry are making the announcements is because Iraj Harirchi, the Deputy Health Minister in charge of Iran’s Covid-19 task force has also tested positive of the novel coronavirus.

Moreover, at least 24 members of the parliament have tested positive, two of whom have died; one was a representative of Tehran, while the other is from Gilan who won in the election. Many believe that the reason the government had suppressed information about the growing coronavirus crisis, was to avoid reducing voter turnout.

Palestinian Journalists Protest Action Draws International Support from Social Media

Palestinian journalists have long been at the forefront in calling the world’s attention on how the Israeli occupation has resulted to abuse and agression by Israeli forces. However, many of those journalists were also among those who suffer as a result of such aggressions; from arrests to serious injury, and at worst, death.

The most recent incident of violence involved Muath Amarneh, a Palestinian photojournalist who took a hit in the eye from a shot taken by an Israeli sniper, while Amarneh was documenting Israeli soldiers in Israeli-occupied Hebron.

Although the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) issued a statement condemning Armameh’s shooting, the condemnation continued to fall on deaf ears as far as Israeli auhtorities are concerned. Even the sit-in protest against Armameh’s wounding held by Palestinian journalists in Bethlehem, did not escape the Israeli force’s abusive treatment.

As the PJS stated

“The Israeli forces’ aggression against Amarneh, only represents a part of a series of attacks launched by the occupation forces in order to suppress and prevent Palestinian journalists from covering Israel’s continuing occupation of the Palestinian people.”

Even the Peaceful Sit-In Protest Was Not Spared from the Aggression

The sit-in solidarity protest saw dozens of activists and journalists coming from across Gaza and the West Bank, to show solidarity in voicing condemnation not only the violence committed against Amarneh but for many other journalists who were either injured or killed by Israeli forces in the past years.

Akram al-Waara, a Palestinian freelance reporter for Mondoweiss, told of how the Bethlehem sit-in protesters took to the streets with one eye covered to symbolize Amameh’s eye injury. However they were immediately dispersed when Israeli forces started firing tear gas. The sound bombs sent the crowd of protesters scampering for safety.

Akram added the Israeli forces not only suppressed the protest rather quickly but also and went after people, detaining a handful of them for several hours. Akram reported that any journalist filming the protest was a target.

Palestinian Journalists Turn to Social Media for Support

Unable to take their peaceful demonstrations to the streets, the protesters flooded social media sites with one-eyed photos of themselves. The collage of photographs came captioned as “We are All Muath.” Underneath was a brief explanation of the reason why they covered their eye with either their hand or with a patch is to highlight the result of an Israeli sniper’s intentional shooting of Amarne, who was at that time was documenting Israeli soldiers occupying Hebron.

The Palestinian social media post immediately drew the attention of international journalists particularly Activestills photographers, who joined the protest by posting similar one-eyed photos of themselves under the hashtags “The eye of the truth will not be shut” and “We are all Muath.”

Succession of Drone Attacks Heightening Conflict between Middle East Countries

Several and separate drone attacks recently launched against countries like Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen and most recently Lebanon, has caused tensions that aggravated conflicts among the countries.

Saudi Arabia points to Iran as the culprit behind the drone attacks that destroyed major Saudi oil pipelines and pumping stations. The Lebanese government on the other hand, has accused Israel of launching the drones that recently hit Beirut, specifically, the Hezbollah media office.

Drones have Become Primary Weapon of Assault

Apparently, drones have become instrumental in escalating conflict between between Israel and Iran, as well as between Israel and Lebanon. The small, economically manufactured drones are capable of eluding radar systems. That is why Israel is widely known for using it as primary weapon, primarily in the country’s operations in Gaza.

 

The Israeli air force though dropped bombs in Syria targeting and hitting Iranian military assets positioned in Syrian territory. According to the air force, it was a pre-emptive strike that would prevent Iran from launching killer drones coming from war-torn Syria.

Although Israel has not made any official statement for being responsible in the recent Beirut drone strikes, two western diplomats speculated that the attack could have been an assassination attempt; or an attempt to destroy equipment to be used in fitting rudimentary rockets with advanced guidance systems. Other sources say that Israeli officials confided to European diplomats that the Beirut drone attacks were for the latter reason.

Elias Bou Saab the defense minister of Lebanon said it was Israel’s most dangerous act of aggression against the Hezbollah, since the month-long war that transpired between the two, in 2006. Hezbollah, is the powerful Shia Islamist military and political organisation in Lebanon, which emerged as a force to contend with when Israel invaded the country in 1982.

That being the case, Hezbollah warned that retaliatory attacks will be launched against Israel.

Israel Razed Palestinian Houses Said to Be Illegal Because They Were Too Near the Border

On July, 22, 2019, security forces tore down a cluster of Palestinian houses, which the Israeli government said are illegal because they were built too close to the West Ban separation barrier.

Around 200 Israeli soldiers and 700 police officers swooped down on the village of Wadi Hummus, located at the edge of Sur Baher. They arrived with excavators and began tearing down 10 buildings earmarked for demolition.

Although Palestinian residents said the Palestinian Authority had given them permits to build the houses, the Israeli government contends they were illegally constructed, based on the ruling handed down in 2012 by the Israeli Supreme Court.

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that the Supreme Court had already ruled unequivocally that building houses in the area of the security fence, is prohibited. Those who insist on building in that area are taking the law into their own hands. He further quoted a passage in the ruling, which said

“the illegal construction constitutes a severe security threat”

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Actually, the ruling made by the courts in 2012 mentioned that the houses built near the barrier “limit the operational freedom of the military as well as increase tension among the civilian population”. The Supreme Court elaborated by stating that such buildings may also shelter illegal residents or terrorists; allowing terrorist operatives to sneak in and/or smuggle weapons inside Israeli territory,

Palestinian Authority Set to File a Complaint with the ICC

Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said they intend to file a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Israel’s “grave aggression”.

PM Shtayyeh describes it as continuing action of the forced displacement from their homes and lands, which is a war crime not only on the people of Jerusalem but also against humanity.

UN officials have warned that under international humanitarian law, the demolition actions launched by Israel were incompatible with its obligations.

The European Union likewise appealed to the Israel government to immediately cease the demolitions, asserting that such actions undermine the policy for lasting peace.

The Global BDS Movement: What is It and What Triggers it?

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement stems from calls for freedom, equality and justice by Palestinians situated in Palestinian land colonized by Israel. Locally and originally launched by 170 organizations, comprising Palestinian political parties, professional associations, unions, women’s groups, refugee networks, popular resistance committees and a host of other Palestinian civil society bodies that banded to achieve the simple mission of entitling every Israeli Palestinian, the same basic rights held by the rest of humankind.

Several decades of discriminate actions against Palestinian citizens, who became subjects of the Israeli government as a result of colonization, have drawn international attention. Not a few academic associations, churches, unions, and various grassroots organizations from across the globe. have joined the campaigns against Israel; whilst transforming the BDS into a dynamic global movement aimed at pressuring Israel to abide by international laws.

Inasmuch as the BDS contends that Israel, through a colonial apartheid rule, denies Israeli Palestinian citizens their fundamental rights, the BDS continuously takes action by launching boycotts, divestment campaigns and calls for sanction. The campaigns are addressed to foreign governments and corporate entities that ignore Israel’s violations of internationals laws and oppression of its Palestinian citizens; including denying Palestinian refugees the right to go back to their homes.

BDS is not without critics and oppositionists though, as not all countries encourage or even allow participation in BDS movements.

Countries that Support or Forbid BDS Boycotts

Countries like Germany, South Africa, Ireland, and Spain have issued policies that clearly endorse boycott movements launched by the BDS.

Still, serious accusations hurled by critics against the BDS are its alleged ties to Middle Eastern Terrorist groups such as the PLO and Hamas. The contention is that the BDS receives financial support from the same financial backers of the said terrorist groups.


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it is interesting to note that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) had issued statements that it does not support the BDS movements. PNA Chairman and President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, had uttered in a speech before the Greek Parliament that the state would prefer to have a peace agreement with Israel rather than build a fence that would separate their nations. In contrast however, the PNA carries on with boycott strategies against Israel, in ways that partially match those launched by the BDS.

In the UK, several city councils passed motions that support the BDS and its campaigns. The motions though were refuted, when in 2016, the UK government prohibited local councils from enacting policies in support of boycotts of Israeli goods. The British administration deemed such boycotts as detrimental to community cohesion as well as liable to hurt the country’s national security.

In the U.S. and as of January 2019, 27 states have issued policies that do not support BDS boycotts .