New Age Islam Edit Bureau
19 August 2015
Defining Terror: Whether It's The
Terrorists Assaulting School Kids, Beating Children To Death, Hacking Bloggers,
Robbing Financial Institutions, Raping Women Or Planting Bombs At Public
Places, They All Wear The Same Ugly Hat Of Evil
By Rubana Huq
Teaching the Quran in Uyghur
By Hasan Kanbolat
Britain’s parochial politics are
unfit for Mideast challenges
By Chris Doyle
ISIS using chemical agents not hard
By Raed Omari
New Arab order should make
meritocracy its priority
By Khaled Almaeena
Convert or die: Ethnic cleansing in
By Khaled A Beydoun
Libyan conflict: The Daesh factor
By Osama Al Sharif
Defining Terror: Whether It's the
Terrorists Assaulting School Kids, Beating Children to Death, Hacking Bloggers,
Raping Women or Planting Bombs at Public Places, All Wear the Same Ugly Hat of
August 19, 2015
One would expect the concept of “terrorism”
to convey the same meaning for all in this country. It is not quite the case
For most people like your columnist, anyone
committing acts of extreme aggression and cruelty is a “terrorist”. For me, the
incident of a10-year-old boy being bludgeoned in the head with a crowbar after
being accused of stealing fish is terrorism. For me, a 12-year-old allegedly
who suffered the brutality of a compressor hose pumping air into his rectum and
ultimately tortured to death by a former boss for joining a competitor is
terrorism. For me, a13-year-old tied to a pole and beaten to death by men who
accused him of stealing a van and the circulation of a cell phone video equals
terrorism. The fourth incident that happened forty-eight hours back of a
16-year old being swatted to death in Hajaribag because of apparently having
stolen a laptop is terrorism. In a span of a only a month, Rajon from Sylhet,
Rakib of Khulna, Rabiul Awal of Barguna and most recently, Raja Mia from
Hajaribag have all become victims of terrorists who we fail to spot early on
while all of them run loose till it's too late to rectify reality. Frankly the
incident of 40 school children of Bhuiyara High School being subjected to
attacks in Chandpur and now being admitted to Kachua Upazila Health Complex for
having protested the assault on their teacher for not giving in to an extortion
attempt by young “leaders” who had demanded Tk 15,000 for observing national
mourning day programmes, is also an example of terrorism.
Your columnist also sees no justification
in calling terrorists “unidentified assailants” when they hack secular bloggers
like Niladri Chattopadhyay Niloy, Ananta Bijoy Das, Washiqur Rahman, and Avijit
Roy to death in a country where
ironically 90 percent of the 160 million people are followers of a
religion that teaches utmost tolerance and upholds the concept of peace.
While we watch police spotting and
arresting the accused, one also needs to reconcile with the fact that there are
many corporate terrorists that run free in this soil. Hallmark Group, which
just had Tk 1700 Crore written off by Sonali Bank, and Bismillah Group which
also swindled Tk 1174.46 Crore using names of fake foreign buyers and forged
documents, are no less than terrorists who terrorise and hold the financial
sector hostage. According to the Finance minister 2-3 percent of the country's
total GDP (almost Tk 450bn) is swallowed up by corruption while political
unrest adds to another one percent (Tk 150bn). Yet, despite his admission, in
July this year, 15 large business groups defaulting on repayment of loans of Tk
12,500 crore, applied for restructuring their debts under a Bangladesh Bank
policy issued in January to aid top defaulters on the grounds of prolonged
political crisis. Once again, groups, which submitted applications for
restructuring loans below Tk 500 crore, will not be considered for getting the
restructuring advantage as the policy is issued only for borrowers of loans
over Tk 500 crore. After restructuring, these groups will be allowed to borrow
up to 50 percent of the last approved amount for demand and current loans and
60 percent for term loans. The loans will be classified as special mention
account and banks would maintain provision at required rates with the additional
one percent. This prompts your columnist to quote Noam Chomsky at this point.
Chomsky wrote: “It's ridiculous to talk about freedom in a society dominated by
huge corporations. What kind of freedom is there inside a corporation? They're
totalitarian institutions – you take orders from above and maybe give them to
people below you. There's about as much freedom as under Stalinism.” To put it
simply, corporate terrorism is one of the worst forms of terrorism a nation can
Day before yesterday, while I remembered
17th of August 2005, bombs exploded close to a shrine in another Asian capital,
Bangkok, right at the centre, killing at least 16 people and injuring more than
118. That triggered further memories from10 years ago, when on the same day, in
a span of half an hour, around 500 bomb explosions occurred at 300 locations in
63 out of the 64 districts of Bangladesh. A terrorist organisation, Jama’at ul
Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) claimed responsibility for the bombings with the
association of another terrorist group, Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami. In Dhaka
starting from Bangladesh Secretariat, the Supreme Court Complex, the Prime
Minister's Office, the Dhaka University campus, the Dhaka Sheraton Hotel and
Zia International Airport, the bombs went off everywhere. At least 115 people
were injured. When 7 bombs exploded at about 11:10 am at Biswa Road, rickshaw
driver Rabiul Islam was injured and finally succumbed to death while school
going Abdus Salam, only 10 years of age, died when a bomb exploded outside his
house in Savar. Thankfully, the main perpetrators of the bombing, Bangla Bhai
and Shaykh Abdur Rahman, were executed by hanging in 2007.
But that is no reason for us to assume that
their ghosts have all disappeared. Terrorists walk in our own shadows, within
our own frames and network. We may continuously convince ourselves about us
being free from the clutches of the terrorists, but the truth is we are
subjected to terrorism in multiple forms on a regular basis. Whether it's the
terrorists assaulting school kids, beating children to death, hacking bloggers,
robbing financial institutions, raping women or planting bombs at public
places, they all wear the same ugly hat of evil. By not defining them aptly, by
not identifying them from within our own selves, and most of all by denying
their existence, most of us are indulging in lies, which are getting bigger by
the minute. One of Hitler's closest associates and most devoted followers,
Joseph Goebbels, ironically spelt the truth for many of us to pay heed to:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep
repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it…for the truth is the
mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy
of the State.”
Let this never happen in our soil where
each one of us, including the highest authority speaks the same language in the
case of handling terror. Let terrorism never assume the proportion of a
deceiving reality while we ourselves trick ourselves into believing that we are
all safe from terror. We are not. Therefore, while we redefine terror amongst
ourselves, the war must go on.
Rubana Huq is Managing Director, Mohammadi Group.
Teaching the Quran in Uyghur Autonomous
August 17, 2015
Mosques fail to offer enough space for
worshippers at regular Friday prayers for Muslims in two prominent cities of
the Uyghur Autonomous Region of China: Urumchi and Kashgar. People have to take
to the streets and squares without bothering others. The Idkha Mosque in
downtown Kashgar is the largest mosque in the region. More than 30,000 people
join the Eid prayers performed in the square that also hosts the mosque. The
Idkha Mosque was built in 1442 and was enlarged three times. Around 700 people
can perform prayers in the closed area of the mosque.
There are 28,000 clerics (24,000 appointed
to mosques) officially assigned to the Uyghur Autonomous Region. There are
schools teaching lessons on the Quran in the local towns that offer courses
lasting two to three months. Graduates of elementary and high schools are
admitted to these schools. China has nine years of compulsory education during
which no religious courses are offered. There are 10 Quran courses in China.
The Xinjiang Quran School is the only officially recognized school for teaching
the Quran in Xinjiang Uyghur region in China. It is also the only school that
teaches the Quran in the Uyghur language in China. The Hadiths are recited in
Arabic but the explanations are in Uyghur. Students study for five years in the
school to receive their qualifications and Muslim graduates who are appointed
to serve the people are given a monthly allowance.
There are 10 different ethnic Muslim groups
in Xinjiang and those other than the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Huis are able to
communicate with each other. The graduates of the school teach the Quran to the
public and some work as members of the local popular congress. The Chinese
Religious Affairs Directorate and the Chinese Islamic Affairs Department
regulate the appointment of students abroad. Of these, 37 students continued
their education in Egypt. The Huis have nine other Quran schools in other parts
of China. The Huis teach in the Chinese language. The construction of the
Xinjiang Quran School started in 1983 and the school was completed in 1987. It
receives financial aid from the state and the Chinese government gave 250
million yuan in 2012 to construct a huge new school that now hosts 300 students
and 70 teachers. They train clerics in eight undergraduate and three
pre-undergraduate programs. Mainly religious and cultural courses are offered,
with cultural courses constituting 3 percent of the curriculum. The cultural
classes include ethnic and religious policies. Uyghur literature, Arab language
and literature, and history are also being taught.
Seventy percent of the courses are focused
on religious studies, which include studying the Quran, recital, Tawjeed (rules
of recitation), methodology, Islamic jurisprudence, Islamic theology and
culture, the life of the Prophet Muhammad and Arabic grammar. Male high school
graduates aged between 18 and 22 are admitted to the school in a two-stage
The Xinjiang Quran School is a religious
school that trains clerics. They do not admit female students. There are three
different types of religious education: clerical school, Quran courses and
Quran schools. Women are allowed to receive religious training from their
fathers or husbands at home. The school offers help every year for those who
would like to perform the pilgrimage in Mecca. The pilgrims have to meet
several conditions, including having sufficient financial resources, being
healthy and able to travel. Every year, nearly 14,000 people in China travel to
Mecca for the pilgrimage. Of these, about 3,500 sign up for the pilgrimage in
Xinjiang. Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate President Mehmet Görmez has
paid a visit to Xinjiang twice. He was appointed president after he returned
from Urumchi. For this reason, it is argued that Urumchi brings good luck.
Britain’s Parochial Politics Are Unfit for
Given the nature and scale of the challenges
facing the world, the financial crisis, global warming, the future of the EU,
Russia and the crises in the Middle East, the need for courageous bold
leadership and dynamic politics gets ever more desperate. Sadly the last twelve
months in British politics have highlighted this glaring absence, the dearth of
talent and ideas, a trend dangerously repeated across the globe.
Twelve months ago, the United Kingdom came
desperately close to losing Scotland largely thanks to a negative and
ill-thought out pro-union campaign that eventually has led to the crushing
victory of the Scottish Nationalists at the general elections in May this year.
These elections were similarly lacklustre, highly negative and devoid of any
compelling vision for the country let alone debate about events beyond its
shores. The anti-Westminster sentiment has just grown and grown. May’s general
elections did little to push back the tide.
The leadership elections for the Labour
party, the main opposition, have so far been more akin to the sort of
backbiting at a town council meeting not the election for the leadership of one
of Britain’s largest parties.
The Labour leadership election is a four
horse race with no thoroughbreds. Many Labour party supporters appear dejected
and disappointed clinging to the hope that any elected leader may be replaced
before the 2020 election.
The policy debate is lame to non-existent.
The modern politicians seem brilliant at saying as little as possible of real
substance with the aim of offending the least number of people possible.
Meaningless sound bites follow yet more bland proclamations.
So should this trouble those in the Middle
East? Well yes. Uncertainty about Britain’s role in the world is not helpful.
At its best Britain has driven EU foreign policy and tempered the extremes in
Washington with thoughtful, informed policy decisions. At its worst…well sadly
one is spoilt for choice.
Britain has been involved in wars in Iraq,
Libya and Afghanistan so far this century. As a U.N. Security Council member it
was party to the Iran deal. It was one of the largest donors assisting the
Syrians. It has a Prime Minister, David Cameron whose primary foreign policy
focus at present is the defeat of ISIS and Islamic extremism. His efforts on
this front are to put it generously, mixed.
And yet on all these issues not to mention
the other crises besetting the Middle East, both at the General and Labour
leadership elections no politicians have truly proposed any radical or even
semi-thought out proposals for tackling these crises. For the most part
candidates are wary of exposing their own ignorance of the region and foreign
affairs in general. None of the four has articulated a serious strategy to take
on ISIS for example.
Understanding Jeremy Corbyn
The exception is that of the hard left wing
candidate, Jeremy Corbyn who has electrified up the race. Despite barely
getting enough Labour Members of Parliament to back him to become a candidate,
he is now according to the polls the clear favourite to win – the result to be
announced on September 12. He appears to have attracted support because he is
an atypical modern politician who speaks with clarity and conviction.
His policies hark back to the 1980s – he is
anti-austerity Syriza-style, pro-nationalization, wants to exit NATO, get rid
of Britain’s nuclear deterrent and is a diehard opponent of wars and arms
sales. He opposed what he sees as the illegal Iraq war of 2003 and thinks
former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, may have to answer charges of war crimes.
The Corbyn surge has happened to the sounds
of severe cranium scratching in the Labour party's establishment whilst
Conservative politicians are spending their summer holidays in total rapture a
Corbyn-led Labour will leave them in power for one if not two more elections.
Understanding Corbyn’s success is
instructive. His consistent anti-war stance and pro-Palestinian positions have
served him well. The British public is tired of wars and remains largely
appalled by Israeli actions. Many agree with him that the UK would be safer if
it stopped following U.S. foreign policy. The Labour party won a large segment
of the Muslim vote in May, perhaps an extra eight seats according to one study,
not least because it had backed recognition for Palestine and had opposed
Israel’s land invasion of Gaza. Other candidates are nervous of speaking out.
Liz Kendall, the Blairite candidate, even regretted Labour voted for the
recognition of Palestine.
Whilst there has been no serious debate on
these issues, Corbyn’s campaign has had to fend off serious charges of associating
with racists and anti-Semites, something he rejects. His suitability has boiled
down to his comments about his “friends” from Hamas and Hizbollah, and what
associations he had with someone who is now an open holocaust denier and
But I have known Jeremy Corbyn for many
years and although I disagree with him on many issues, I am sure he is not in
the least bit anti-Semitic. Nevertheless greater care should have been taken
over whom he met and some of the expressions used. Corbyn never expected to be
in the limelight and was not surrounded with the usual coteries of political
chaperones to protect him from upcoming landmines.
Sadly there are some in the Palestinian
movement who are truly anti-Semitic. In fact historically, anti-Semites have
done massive damage to the Palestinian cause (as well as Arthur Balfour, who
first promised Palestine to the Zionist movement and the anti-Jewish Christian
right in the US as well). There is insufficient criticism of the actions,
policies and statements of both Hamas and Hezbollah. For example, too few have
condemned Hezbollah’s actions in Syria and out and out support for the Assad
Yet there is a woeful and dangerous double
standard and some have argued, there is a whiff of McCarthyism to this. Corbyn
rightly has to answer questions on his views and links. But in all these
elections, rarely has such an intrusive examination given to those with links
to disreputable organizations and people, not least Islamophobes, those who
failed to condemn the bombing of Gaza, the illegal settlement in the West Bank
or those who have denigrated and dehumanized refugees and asylum seekers. Hate
speech and bigotry is on the rise but it is not only anti-Semitism.
The lessons from Britain’s elections are
that politics is failing. Not just in Britain but also across the EU and the
United States, our political systems are not fit for purpose. They no longer
attract the best strategists and brightest minds. (Donald Trump anyone?). The
media is designed to advance petty, trivial, negative campaigning that chews
over the minutiae of personal lives including what are their favourite
biscuits, with little focus on political vision and strategy. Nowhere is this
more painfully felt in international relations. Parochial politics simply
cannot work for a globalized world.
Those in the Middle East may be best
advised not to wait for Western states to help sort out their problems.
Doyle is the director of CAABU (the London-based Council for Arab-British
Understanding). He has worked with the Council since 1993 after graduating with
a first class honours degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. As the lead spokesperson
for Caabu and as an acknowledged expert on the region, Chris is a frequent
commentator on TV and Radio, having given over 148 interviews on the Arab world
in in 2012 alone. He gives numerous talks around the country on issues such as
the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Islamophobia and the Arabs in
Britain. He has had numerous articles and letters published in the British and
international media. He has traveled to nearly every country in the Middle
East. He has organized and accompanied numerous British Parliamentary
delegations to Arab countries. Most recently he took Parliamentary delegations
to the West Bank in April, November, December 2013 and January 2014 including
with former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
ISIS Using Chemical Agents Not Hard To
18 August 2015
There have been reports recently of the
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) using poison gas in Iraq's
Kurdish-controlled areas. Though as yet unconfirmed, such allegations are
unsurprising. The White House said it was investigating the matter.
In July, two UK-based organizations -
Conflict Armament Research and Sahan Research - said ISIS had used devices
filled with chemical agents in late June against Kurdish forces and civilians
in Hasakah province in northern Syria, and against Kurdish military positions
near Mosul dam in northern Iraq.
The findings followed reports of ISIS using
suicide bombs and improvised explosive devices including chlorine gas and other
substances, and may seek to exploit the use of chemicals while developing new
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights (SOHR) said it had documented the use of projectile-delivered chemical
agents by ISIS in an attack on a village near Tel Brak, Syria, on June 28. It
said 12 Kurdish fighters had been exposed to the gas. The SOHR also said it had
received information about the gas attack in Hasaka, but gave no further
Days before ISIS's alleged chemical attacks
in late June, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said: "The
terrorist group is prepared to use any and all means, any and all forms of
violence they can think of, to advance their demented cause." She added
that ISIS had recruited "highly technically trained professionals" to
develop chemical weapons, and had already used chlorine as a weapon.
Iraqi officials and Kurds have made similar
allegations. In March, Kurdish officials accused ISIS of a chemical attack
against Kurdish fighters on a road between Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul and
the Syrian border, as Kurdish forces fought to seize a vital supply line used
With a lack of well-documented information
about its activities and brutality - except what it publicizes - testimonies of
locals under its rule or of those forced to leave are the only source of
Despite a lack of conclusive evidence,
however, ISIS has displayed unsurpassed brutality, and is present in countries
that had chemical weapons industries and still have remnants of such hazardous
substances on the black market or in abandoned chemical weapons plants.
Concerns first surfaced in July 2014
following ISIS's capture of a former chemical weapons plant in Al-Muthanna,
east of Baghdad, which was thought to have small quantities of precursor
chemicals and badly damaged chemical munitions left after U.N. inspections in
ISIS has no red lines when it comes to its
brutal treatment of civilians and prisoners of war. In addition, why should it
be concerned about breaking international law when other chemical attacks have
gone unpunished? Phrases such as "international law" and
"international community" are not present in ISIS's lexicon.
Manufacturing primitive chemical weapons is
not difficult, particularly in ISIS's case since many of its fighters have
science degrees and are ex-Baathist officers with military experience. After
all, it was not hard for the Japanese Aum Shinriko movement to manufacture and
unleash Sarin gas on the Tokyo subway in 1995.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary
affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His
writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging
economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and
social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya
New Arab Order Should Make Meritocracy
The Arab world is passing through its
darkest phase in history. Even the most diehard optimist would find little to
cheer about. Arab political pundits and newly self-appointed social media
analysts have come up with many theories, mostly bizarre, for the predicament
we are in.
They blame everyone under the sun but have
not bothered even to give a cursory glance at what has led us to this sorry
situation. Let’s be frank. All what has happened to us is of our own doing. Right
from the so-called Arab independence movement through post independent stages,
most Arab leaders failed their people as self-appointed generals, presidents
for life and others were more focused on consolidating power through oppressive
measures rather than uplifting their population.
I grew up hear messages blaring on radios
haranguing Arab masses, and highlighting imperialistic plans to gobble up the
Arab world. We saw a number of coups and counter coups, and the slaughter of
thousands of innocent people because the new general was suspicious of them.
But even then there was always hope.
However, today there is almost no light at
the end of the tunnel. Bomb blasts, beheadings, massacres are a daily feature
of our news diet. The Arab Spring, which was supposed to usher hope, has
engulfed us and thrown us in the dark recesses of a world that has turned into
a tumultuous frenzy, while prompting some Arab states to take sterner measures
to stifle dissenting voices.
Learn From Your Own History
Can we continue like this? The answer is an
emphatic no! Arab states should take examples of other states where discipline
was maintained but voices were heard. Singapore and South Korea are but two
examples that have shown there can be no progress without a free and responsible
press. There can be no viable state if the leader does not lead from the front,
implements good governance, demands accountability and transparency beginning
with himself and leads the change against corruption.
The media should be viewed as a partner and
the ruler should know that criticism would be constructive and can serve the
state. That is the role of journalists to alert the state of the shortcomings.
A society should be created where free flow of ideas and information could help
create an atmosphere where the focus is on growth.
A new Arab order should make meritocracy
its priority. We have been damaged by years of nepotism and corruption. We have
been hindered by the inaction and the incompetency of those in charge. We
cannot afford to procrastinate.
Dangers lurk where there are gaps and
vacuums in society, we should not allow this to happen. There should be trust
between all members of society and Arab government. An atmosphere of trust and
accountability should prevail for the state to progress, and in order to create
trust we must put an end to the divisive ways practiced by a certain section to
hold sway over society.
Women are an important segment of society
and they should be allowed to play a leading role. The voices of extremist and
obscurantists should not be allowed to drown the voices of those who seek
progress. Provincialism, tribalism and ethnic favouritism should be eradicated
totally from the minds of those in power.
Arab governments should take a lesson from
their own history. They cannot rule by sheer force and absolute control in an
age of social media. Also great advances in technology, where a chip can be
planted in humans to read each other’s thoughts, it will be futile to try to
control the masses.
The Arab people are like their peers
elsewhere they want to live in peace and dignity. In today’s world it is
inevitable that everyone works to achieve peace and all are accorded dignity.
The sooner our leaders realize this, the faster we will develop and progress.
Khaled Almaeena is a veteran Saudi journalist, commentator, businessman
and the editor-at-large of the Saudi Gazette. Almaeena has held a broad range
of positions in Saudi media for over thirty years, including CEO of a PR firm,
Saudi Television news anchor, talk show host, radio announcer, lecturer and
journalist. As a journalist, Almaeena has represented Saudi media at Arab summits in
Baghdad, Morocco and elsewhere. In 1990, he was one of four journalists to
cover the historic resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and
Russia. He also travelled to China as part of this diplomatic mission.
Almaeena's political and social columns appear regularly in Gulf News, Asharq
al-Aswat, al-Eqtisadiah, Arab News, Times of Oman, Asian Age and The China
Convert or Die: Ethnic Cleansing In CAR
18 Aug 2015
Muslims are only newsworthy when behind the
gun, not in front of it.
Modern journalism continually reaffirms
this baseline with regards to domestic crises and, perhaps even more so,
international human rights calamities.
The systematic targeting of Muslims in the
Central African Republic (CAR), a nation ravaged by strife since March of 2013,
has devolved into massive scale ethnic cleansing.
However, few outside of the African nation
and beyond the human rights community are even minimally aware of this
In the past several weeks, armed militias
have roved through the western part of the nation, intimidating and brutalising
Anti-Balaka, a fundamentalist group
comprised of animists and Christians, is forcing Muslims to worship in private,
remove religious garb, and convert at gunpoint.
Brandishing religious fervour
While the term fundamentalism seems
reserved exclusively for Muslim actors, Christian and animist militias in CAR
have brandished religious fervour in one hand, and endless rounds of ammunition
in the other to terrorise the nation's 750,000 Muslims - which make up 15
percent of the nation's population.
Anti-Balaka's aim is as plain as it is
gruesome: rid the nation of its Muslim population. At any cost.
While the Islamic State of Iraq and the
Levant (ISIL) remains in the headlines and at the tip of everyone's tongue, the
mere mention of anti-Muslim terrorism in CAR - which has claimed at least 6,000
lives, pushed 30,000 Muslims to live in UN protected enclaves, and left scores
of mosques destroyed - remains a largely unknown menace.
This would not be the case if Muslims were
the villains of the human rights atrocities in CAR, instead of victims.
Mainstream media outlets have long
neglected the humanitarian plight of black victims, particularly on the African
This is most vividly highlighted by the
genocides in Rwanda and Burundi in the 1990s, which was brought to the
attention of the masses too late, and only garnered international sympathy a
decade later with the popular film, Hotel Rwanda.
In recent memory, stories of black
victimhood that have been actively covered by the mainstream media have centred
upon either white heroes (the fleeting Joseph Kony craze), or Muslim villains
(Boko Haram's kidnapping of schoolchildren in Nigeria).
Or both, as was the case in Sudan, which
framed American celebrities and organisations as interveners, saving
"black Christians in the south" from "Arab Muslims in the
Similarly, the media is quick to gravitate
towards Muslim villains, but it is consistently slow - or wholly absent - when
the victims are Muslim.
This is duly illustrated by ISIL's ubiquity
in global headlines, coupled with the failure to illustrate the fact that its
greatest victims - by a far stretch - are Muslims.
Unfortunately, the victims in CAR are both
black and Muslim, and therefore, occupy an extremely vulnerable intersection
where both dimensions of their identity are linked to villainy instead of
Stuck between an anti-black animus and
Islamophobia that underlies and frequently drives media coverage, the unseen
and unheard plight of CAR Muslims results from believing black Muslim bodies as
incapable of victimhood.
Gathering Global Consciousness
Media coverage, particularly within the
most prominent outlets, means far more than simply highlighting and sharing a
For an international crisis, like the
events in CAR, coverage means generating global consciousness that would spur
political mobilisation, fundraising, and pressure on governments to act.
This is particularly true with the emergence
of social media, which, when discursively viewed as being distinct and separate
from traditional media, is typically energised by headlines featured in the
Media outlets may fashion themselves as
objective bystanders, but they are functionally key actors in unfolding crises.
Robust and active media intervention can
check the actions of culprits and prompt humanitarian rescue, while neglect
facilitates, and indeed emboldens, the aims of terrorists. The CAR case vividly
illustrates the latter.
Anti-Balaka forces have benefited immensely
from the lack of coverage. Their numbers have grown, and their violence is ever
increasing in severity.
In addition to compelling Muslims to
convert and decimating mosques, reports about Muslims paying anti-Balaka
militants large sums of money to spare their lives are widespread.
Media Attention Saves Lives
Anti-Balaka militants intensified their
killing and forced-conversion spree during this past Ramadan, which proved
dangerous, and even fatal, for CAR Muslims fasting, praying, and openly
observing the holy month.
Cameras and reporters flocked to Rwanda when
it was far too late. When they arrived, the genocide had claimed virtually all
of its targets.
Since then, scores of scholars, human
rights advocates, statesmen and stateswomen have argued that timely media
attention could have created the pressure needed to spur more comprehensive
Thousands upon thousands of lives, and
future generations of Tutsis, could have been saved.
As highlighted in CAR, lessons from Rwanda
have not been heeded, exposing its diminishing and imperilled Muslim population
to unspeakable violence and arming its anti-Muslim militias with the green
light to continue the killing spree.
But since Muslims are in front of the gun
instead of brandishing it, this story will continue to be sidelined from the
Khaled A Beydoun is an assistant professor
of law at the Barry University Dwayne O Andreas School of Law.
Libyan Conflict: The Daesh Factor
Western nations’ reaction to the
deteriorating security situation in Libya, especially in the beleaguered city
of Sirte, is pathetic to say the least.
A joint statement by the governments of
France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK and US on Sunday offered nothing more than
the usual words of condemnation over “the ongoing barbaric acts by
Daesh-affiliated terrorists in the Libyan city of Sirte;” it called on “all
parties in Libya aspiring to a peaceful and unified nation to join efforts to
combat the threat posed by transnational terrorist groups exploiting Libya for
their own agenda.”
The western nations reiterated “that there
is no military solution to the political conflict in Libya and remain concerned
that the economic and humanitarian situation is worsening every day.”
Such rhetoric is unlikely to have an effect
on stalled peace talks between various Libyan parties, who remain pinned down
since a provisional accord was reached in Morocco last month.
The internationally recognized government
and Parliament in Tobruk have failed to extend control over much of the Libyan
territory. The national army is in dire need of weapons and ammunition, but
influential western powers refuse to lift sanctions despite repeated pleas by
the government. Even in Benghazi militants continue to challenge the national
The latest statement on Libya underlines a
lack of clear vision by Europe and the US. It ignores the deepening of the
humanitarian crisis in that country and the fact that Libya remains a launching
pad for tens of boats carrying migrants to European shores. Hundreds die every
month as they make this perilous journey.
In Tripoli, where another government and
Parliament still claim legitimacy, the situation is not better. The country has
been carved up by various militias and tribal alliances. Libya is already a
dysfunctional state and since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in October 2011,
western interest in the war-torn country started to wane. The price of
abandoning Libya will prove to be high both regionally and globally.
Daesh has used the political void in Libya
to set up a base for itself, first in Derna, where local militias were able to
chase its fighters out few weeks ago, and now in Sirte. Foreign jihadists had
managed to ally themselves with local tribes, some from Qaddafi’s own clan, in
order to spread in areas beyond the control of the two rival governments.
It is perplexing that while an
international US-led coalition is striking Daesh positions in both Syria and
Iraq, the militant group is allowed to grow in a strategically situated
country, few hundred miles from European shores.
But it is not only western nations that are
unable to adopt a clear strategy on Libya. Arab countries as well have failed
to move beyond the rhetoric. The collapse of the Libyan state has affected the
security situation in Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria. Arms and fighters have
slipped through the long desert borders to and from Libya. Egypt and the UAE
have launched airstrikes against suspected militant bases in the past, but even
as the threat of militant groups increases in Libya key Arab players are unable
to agree on a united strategy.
The recognized Libyan government has asked
for help to deal with the recent fall of Sirte including the launch of
airstrikes. The Arab League was scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss the
Libyan situation. This will be the first real test for the recent Arab League
resolution to create a joint Arab force and one wonders if the will to put such
a force to work will prevail.
If no action is taken, either by the Arabs
or the international community, against the background of continued divisions
by Libyan interlocutors, Daesh will continue to expand. It will be able to use
the current political void to carve a chunk of Libya for its so-called
caliphate. The threat to the region and to Europe will increase dramatically.
That mini-state will attract insurgents from neighboring countries and the
militants will become part of human trafficking and illegal migrant business.
It is only a matter of time before Daesh will be able to smuggle fighters into
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni
echoed such concerns on Monday when he urged Libyans “to quickly agree to a
power-sharing agreement.” He told a newspaper that “we either close (a deal) in
a few weeks, or we will find ourselves with a new Somalia near (our) coast and
we will have to react differently.” Such a scenario, he said, will change the
international community’s goal in Libya from stabilizing the country to
It would be prudent to consider the latter
objective now and quickly. The reality is that the Libyans parties are too
divided to agree on a national unity government anytime soon. Even if they do,
implementing the accord will not be easy. Intervening in the Libyan conflict
back in 2011 remains a controversial issue and is believed to have precipitated
the collapse of an already fragile state. But the Daesh factor has changed