India's Modi Leads Yoga Day Celebration in Muslim-majority Kashmir

While yoga is not itself a religious practice, it has its origins in Hindu philosophy and many residents of Kashmir are indifferent it. DIBYANGSHU SARKAR / AFP
While yoga is not itself a religious practice, it has its origins in Hindu philosophy and many residents of Kashmir are indifferent it. DIBYANGSHU SARKAR / AFP
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India's Modi Leads Yoga Day Celebration in Muslim-majority Kashmir

While yoga is not itself a religious practice, it has its origins in Hindu philosophy and many residents of Kashmir are indifferent it. DIBYANGSHU SARKAR / AFP
While yoga is not itself a religious practice, it has its origins in Hindu philosophy and many residents of Kashmir are indifferent it. DIBYANGSHU SARKAR / AFP

Stretching, arching his back and kneeling on a mat, India's Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi led hundreds of people performing yoga in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir on Friday.
The exercises in Srinagar, capital of the Indian-administered part of the disputed territory, marked the 10th international yoga day, Modi's own brainchild, AFP said.
But while yoga is not itself a religious practice, it has its origins in Hindu philosophy and many residents of Kashmir are indifferent to the discipline.
Thousands of government employees, schoolteachers and students from all over Kashmir were brought in for the event, although rain forced Modi's performance indoors.
Afterwards, he urged hundreds of people including many police and armed forces personnel on the shores of Dal Lake to make yoga "a part of their daily lives".
"Yoga fosters strength, good health and wellness," he said.
But one Srinagar resident saw the event as a cultural intrusion.
"This yoga is being imposed on our children to culturally change the next generations and control their minds," they told AFP, declining to be identified for fear of reprisal.
"It's an imposition on us."
June 21 was declared International Yoga Day a decade ago and Modi has since led events at emblematic locations across India, and last year at the UN headquarters in New York.



Saudi Arabia's Mawhiba Signs Strategic Partnership with UNESCO to Foster STEM Education in Arab States

Mawhiba signs a significant partnership agreement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) aimed at fostering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education across Arab countries. (SPA)
Mawhiba signs a significant partnership agreement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) aimed at fostering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education across Arab countries. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia's Mawhiba Signs Strategic Partnership with UNESCO to Foster STEM Education in Arab States

Mawhiba signs a significant partnership agreement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) aimed at fostering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education across Arab countries. (SPA)
Mawhiba signs a significant partnership agreement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) aimed at fostering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education across Arab countries. (SPA)

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity “Mawhiba” signed on Friday a significant partnership agreement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) aimed at fostering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education across Arab countries.

The partnership marks a pivotal moment in advancing innovation, creativity, and scientific excellence in the region, Mawhiba said in a statement.

UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences Dr. Lidia Arthur Brito and Saudi Ambassador to France and Monaco Fahd bin Mayouf Al-Ruwaili joined esteemed colleagues and distinguished guests to commemorate the occasion.

The agreement was signed by Mawhiba deputy secretary-general for business development and communication Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al-Subail and UNESCO’s Brito.

Mawhiba secretary-general Dr. Amal bint Abdullah Al-Hazzaa expressed the foundation's profound honor to partner with UNESCO. She emphasized the shared commitment to empowering young Arab minds and advancing sustainable development through education and innovation.

Highlighting the Kingdom’s progress in STEM under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Dr. Al-Hazzaa underscored the importance of this collaboration within the framework of Saudi Vision 2030.

UNESCO’s Brito expressed her happiness in signing the strategic partnership with Mawhiba, adding that it addresses an important area of UNESCO’s work in the field of science.

Dr. Brito stated that this strategic partnership aims to provide young people with the necessary knowledge and capabilities and to motivate them to use science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to meet global challenges.

She added that the experience gained by Mawhiba in working with youth in Saudi Arabia will help in exchanging these experiences globally. She pointed out that there is potential for expanding these efforts to Africa and other parts of the world to promote sustainable development goals.

The strategic partnership aims to enhance STEM education for students from 6th grade to 12th grade across Arab states, focusing on refining their scientific knowledge, nurturing creativity, and fostering critical thinking. Special attention will be given to empowering Arab girls and young women, ensuring they have equal opportunities to excel in STEM fields.

Central to the initiative is the MAWHIBA-UNESCO Online STEM Oasis, which will serve as a global platform for local, national, and regional science and engineering fairs. The initiative aims to provide Arab students with valuable opportunities to showcase their talents and gain international recognition.

Additionally, the partnership will implement real-time assessments of middle and high schools in Arab states to elevate educational standards and infrastructure.

Recognizing the pivotal role of educators, the partnership will focus on training Arab science teachers to lead research and guide students in scientific projects, thereby boosting the overall quality of STEM education. Public understanding of STEM will be bolstered through targeted training programs, particularly for preschoolers and young women, ensuring inclusivity and accessibility of STEM education across Arab States.

Mawhiba is committed to expanding the use of the UNESCO Open Science Portal and the UNESCO Science-2-Innovation Network to build the capacity of young scientists and women in STEM education globally. Over the past three years, Mawhiba has supported 839 students from Arab states through enriching STEM programs, setting a precedent for regional cooperation and development in STEM education.

The partnership underscores Mawhiba’s leading role in discovering talents and empowering students in STEM, both locally and internationally. It represents a shared vision for creating opportunities for all Arab states to thrive and excel in STEM fields, fostering a culture of scientific inquiry and technological advancement that will benefit the entire Arab region.

By joining forces with UNESCO, Mawhiba aims to amplify its ability to address global challenges such as climate change, health crises, and technological disruptions. The collaboration aims to inspire young Arab minds to pursue careers in STEM, providing them with access to cutting-edge research and resources through initiatives like the UNESCO Open Science Portal.

The partnership between Mawhiba and UNESCO signifies a shared commitment to a brighter future, dedicated to building capacities in STEM fields to support sustainable development. By working together, they aim to create an environment where every young Arab mind can thrive, innovate, and contribute to the global community. This initiative underscores the importance of investing in the future and ensuring every child has the opportunity to explore, experiment, and excel in science and technology.