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Ending The Terror Campaign Against Muslims: New Age Islam’s Selection From World Press, 21 December 2015

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21December 2015

 Ending the Terror Campaign Against Muslims

By Caitlin Steinke

 How should we deal with ISIS in Western media?

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

 Libya: Next Stop for Bombing Islamic State

By Daniel Williams

 The Invention Of ‘Moderate Islamists’

 By Nuray Mert

 How to crush ISIS

 By Ralph Peters

 Is Indonesia winning its fight against Islamic extremism?

By Mike Thomson

 Saudi Arabia’s women have spoken

By Khaled Almaeena



Ending the Terror Campaign Against Muslims

 By Caitlin Steinke


Most of us recall the anti-Muslim violence that skyrocketed in the wake of 9/11. Brown men and women perceived to be Muslim were murdered, attacked, spat on and threatened. Mosques were vandalized with bullets, rocks and Molotov cocktails. Many Muslims cancelled their plans to visit or study in the United States out of concerns for their safety, while those already within our borders feared the worst for themselves and their children.

Despite the pleas of the Bush administration to not blame all Muslims for the violent acts of a few, such language was rendered meaningless by the actions of the U.S. government. In response to 9/11, the U.S. government subjected Muslims in the United States to persistent harassment and intimidation and implemented formal policies to abduct Muslims from all corners of the globe, torture Muslims at CIA black sites, hold Muslims in secret prisons, and deny Muslim detainees even the most basic due process. There were calls for the U.S. military to "nuke" Islamic countries, and for Americans to defeat Islam before it could defeat the United States.

Sadly, violence, intimidation and discrimination against Muslims have remained a staple of U.S. culture since 9/11. And in the aftermath of the violent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, we are again seeing a dramatic surge in discrimination against Muslims in the United States. This time, the hateful rhetoric is directed at a very particular group of Muslims -- those fleeing for their lives from war-torn Syria.

Dozens of state governors have already expressed an opposition to opening U.S. borders to Syrian refugees. Citing a concern for their constituents' safety, their stance is predicated on an assumed link between Muslims and violence.

Two Republican candidates for president -- Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former Florida governor Jeb Bush -- have made this assumption explicit by calling for the United States to instead focus on the safety of Christians fleeing Syria, contrasting the implicit trust in those who share the faith of most Americans against the deeply-ingrained fear of Muslims.

Another Republican candidate for president -- Donald Trump -- has called for a"total and complete" ban on Muslims entering the United States.

Terrorism is real, and fear is a natural response. But how we react to our fear is a choice, and that choice serves as a reflection of our values. We can respond with language and actions that promote a culture of hatred and violence against those who practice a faith unknown to the majority of Americans. Or, we can respond in a way that comports with our values of inclusion, diversity, and protection of those seeking refuge.

We can choose to honor those who have been the victims of hatred and violence since 9/11 by refusing to be blinded by the shameful discrimination promulgated by those like Cruz, Bush and Trump -- and instead, seek to promote a culture of understanding, acceptance and kindness.

In the wake of tragedy and fear, we have an opportunity to be our best selves, to unite in our common humanity and quest for peace. We are a country that prides itself on our diversity; indeed, our diversity is so often the source of our strength and resilience.

Let us reject the notion that there should be a religious test for our compassion, and instead open our arms and our hearts to families fleeing violence and war. Let us resist the urge to fear the worst about those we do not know, and instead provide hope to those seeking a better life for themselves and their children.

There is already too much terror in the world. Let us choose decency.

Caitlin Steinke is an American human rights attorney who grew up in the Middle East. She works at the Law Firm of Tina Foster, which represents individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations affected by post-9/11 national security policies and discrimination.


How should we deal with ISIS in Western media?

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

Sunday, 20 December 2015

We live in a world where it seems like things are increasingly breaking down. The environment is degrading, and we are already beginning to notice this all around us. Extreme weather events keep breaking records. Even here in the UK, storms that would happen less than once a century now happen every decade, as we have seen with Desmond.

States are breaking down too. Syria and Iraq are clearly failed states. As are Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, and quite a few others. Others still are very close to breaking point. But perhaps the most important thing is that the moral discourse, the political culture underpinning these states, and indeed the entire geo-political system, is breaking down. Not just in fragile states in the Middle East. Secessionism has been on the ascendant in Europe, in Scotland, Catalonia, Flanders and other places. Meanwhile nationalist fascism is on the rise in the political discourse across Europe, North-America and indeed the Middle East - if one takes radical Islamism to be counted as fascism. I would argue that it is very similar indeed.

But the odd thing is that the moral failures of the Western-dominated world order are not any worse now than they were in the past. Less than 75 years ago, when the Japanese attacked the U.S. at Pearl Harbor, the American government reacted by imprisoning in concentration camps every ethnically Japanese American they could find - over 110,000 people. It kept them locked up for the duration of WW2. Yet in 2001 when Al Qaeda attacked the U.S. in the heart of New York, there were no such communal reprisals against Muslims in the United States. This despite the fact that there was a popular backlash, and reprisals could have earned a Republican president such as Bush some votes.

We do still have torture facilities, and we still do very questionable things - at home and abroad. We allow our allies to do very questionable things. But we have been making moral progress in the West, and we continue to do so. Yet the faith of the general public, and the faith of our minority groups, in the moral system underpinning our societies and states both here in the West and across the world is crumbling.

A moral malaise

ISIS enters the scene in this moral malaise. And what ISIS has that we do not is a clear moral vision. It is an utterly repugnant moral vision: one that glorifies intolerance and brutality. But in the media, in our media, ISIS is the only voice that has moral coherence.

And not because the ideology of ISIS is necessarily more coherent than our own world view or our values. But simply because the media allows ISIS to run its narrative unchallenged. We broadcast the horrors they perpetrate, but do not speak about why they claim to perpetrate them. We do not engage with the moral vision of ISIS because we take it for granted that it is absurd. Well, we do. But not everyone in the audience does. Clearly. Over 25,000 Western recruits to ISIS testify to that. We still need to have this ongoing discussion. It is not enough that the ISIS narrative is absurd or morally repugnant. It must be demonstrated, again and again, that this is so. And all parts of our society, both Muslims and non-Muslims, must be invited to take part in this discussion.

We Westerners have limited our moral response to expressing outrage against the actions of ISIS. But we do not argue an active case for our values in opposition to it. And often we do not uphold those values we claim to hold to in practice. Think Guantanamo Bay. We assume everyone is on board with our moral complaints, and we continue to work on that assumption even though the actions of our governments at home and abroad stray from our stated values routinely. We all abhor the violent excesses of ISIS, but we continue to sell weapons to regimes who have a human rights record which is at least as bad. Weapons often used against civilians. And so we leave ourselves open to be painted as amoral hypocrites.

That we scrutinize our leaders and hold them up as hypocrites as we do is entirely appropriate. And our media is brilliant at critically deconstructing the bogus moral claim made by our own leaders. We expose the hypocrisy of our politicians, of our religious leaders, or of business leaders as a matter of course. This has become almost the synonym of ‘current affairs reporting’. But why do we not apply the same treatment to ISIS? Why do we not report on their hypocrisy – they claim to be fighting for Islam, but they largely kill other Muslims. They claim to be fighting Assad’s oppression, but there are hardly any confrontations with the Syrian regime and they often trade with them for oil and gas. We report on those who go to join ISIS, but do not give nearly as much coverage to the millions fleeing from the Islamic garden of Paradise that ISIS have established in their controlled territories. We do not have a monopoly on amoral hypocrisy. But we should at least report on the hypocrisy and lies of all politicians and militants with equal rigour.

Azeem Ibrahim is an RAI Fellow at Mansfield College, University of Oxford and Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College. He completed his PhD from the University of Cambridge and served as an International Security Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a World Fellow at Yale. Over the years he has met and advised numerous world leaders on policy development and was ranked as a Top 100 Global Thinker by the European Social Think Tank in 2010 and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He tweets @AzeemIbrahim


Libya: Next Stop for Bombing Islamic State

 By Daniel Williams


It looks like foreign jet bombing of the Islamic State could be expanded from Syria to Libya. That was the subtext of talks held in Rome that focused on getting warring sides in the Libyan civil war to stop fighting with each other.

A peace deal in Libya would open the way for someone--presumably a national unity Libyan government of some sort--to permit foreigners to bomb areas controlled by the Islamic State (ISIS), the terror group and militia which has taken root in parts of the country.

The talks took place last weekend in Rome among the US, Italy, France, the UK, Russia and China, plus Turkey, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. They were billed as a step toward getting two rival governments in Libya, along with numerous tribal and Mafiosi militias, to make peace.

Not incidentally, the objective of battling ISIS was being batted around. The rival Libyan governments have decided to sign the unity deal. We'll soon see whether than leads to quick bombing of the Islamic State, military action which is looking more and more like improvised Whack-a-Mole. ISIS pops up in Iraq, bomb 'em. In Syria, bomb 'em. Now Libya?

Italy is particularly interested in bringing order to Libya due to the uncontrolled migration of sub-Saharan Africans from the country to Italian shores. But there is a further worry: the Islamic State is set up across the Mediterranean Sea only 400 miles from Sicily.

Participants in the Rome talks all have their special objectives. France, after the Paris attacks, is keen on hitting the Islamic State wherever and whenever. Egypt wants to inhibit the spread of violence across its western borders, while Turkey and the UAE are supporting rival groups. Everyone would like to have some sort of UN cover to bomb Libya, hence the appearance of China and Russia, two Security Council members. In addition, Russia appears eager to expand its gunslinger role in the Mediterranean.

On the eve of the meeting, Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, expressed Moscow's "understanding" of Italy's problems and said that his government "is ready to help."

Oh yeah, the US. Is it leading from behind, or in front, or at all? Hard to tell, though Secretary of State John Kerry was at the meeting.

Hitting the Islamic State in Libya from the air has already happened in a piecemeal way and without UN approval. Egypt and Arab friends bombed the terrorists last year after the Islamic state beheaded Christian Egyptian citizens on a beach near Sirte. Last month, a US jet bomber tried to kill ISIS leader Abu Nabil Al-Anbari, who had recently disembarked in Libya. It's not clear if the attack succeeded; other reports had al-Anbari eliminated on December 12 near the Syrian border with Iraq, during a raid by the Iraqi army.

And just where would the bombs land in Libya? The No. 1 candidate is the city of Sirte, where an Islamic State-affiliated chapter is headquartered. Sirte, by the way, was the hometown of dead Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. It seems his tribal kin have gone from being fans of Gaddafi's Green Book, his ideological handbook, to being enthusiasts of the Islamic State's Black Flag. Maybe after Sirte, the Islamic State will have no place to hide.


The Invention Of ‘Moderate Islamists’

 By Nuray Mert


Famous “Islamism expert” Oliver Roy’s latest book, “En quête de L’Orient perdu” (In Search of the Lost Orient), did not provoke enough of the debate and criticism that it deserved, especially these days when we all talk and write about Islam and Islamism with reference to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Roy’s book was published in Turkish in May and the author visited Turkey afterwards, but instead of scrutinizing his book, those who interviewed him asked him more about his general views on recent politics.

Indeed, he is one of the most qualified neo-Orientalists, since his knowledge of “the Orient” is based on lifelong research, theorization and language skills. Otherwise, most of the new-Orientalist writers and so-called experts do not bother to learn much about the issues that they dare to write about, though that does not stop them from offering ambitious ideas on the subject. The books, articles and op-eds on ISIL, “its relation to Islam and Islamism” and “its roots and prospects” are mushrooming in Western languages with no new insight or depth, while also displaying insufficient knowledge. “The Orient” and “Orientals” are still the subject of patronizing knowledge and matters of judgement by “others,” now with less effort.

No doubt Roy was not one of those, since he belongs to the sophisticated school of neo-Orientalism. In fact, even the title of his book is meant to be critical of Orientalism with reference to classical Orientalists’ definition of the Orient as an exotic, ahistorical fantasy. Nevertheless, first of all, his book’s language undermines his ambition by revealing his patronizing attitude towards the people that he writes about. From “meek Afghans” who do not know anything about the world that they live in, to his reference to the Tajik government of the time as “a bunch of murderers,” he speaks the language of superiority. Besides, his cynical style is another clue for his aspirational, cool detachment from the banal facts that he talks about. It is true that his cynicism is not particular to “the world of Orientals,” but more a general claim of wisdom. To tell the truth, his cynical approach to the 1968 generation is a very entertaining revision. Nevertheless, the same cynicism is meant to be an apology for his relations with Frenchinstitutions, including the defense ministry, and foreign services including the CIA and MI6.

 This is not a place for a comprehensive book review, nor is it my intention to discredit a famous name by labelling him a neo-Orientalist who has murky political connections. Sometimes we learn a lot from Orientalists, and Roy is no exception. My point is that it was prestigious experts like Roy who promoted some very problematic concepts like “moderate Islamists” and that “secularism produces fundamentalism” (his own words). Indeed, he admits that “perhaps he invented the concept of ‘moderate Islamist’ at the time” in 1984. He stated that on his way back to Paris from the Islamic Conference in Rabat, he was determined to arrange a meeting between Burhanuddin Rabbani (then the leader of the Afghan resistance) and then-French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson, but because the latter was a rigid secularist, Roy said he needed to present the Afghan warrior as a “moderate Islamist.”

That is not to say that it was Roy and his likes who shaped the Western politics of moderate Islam, but that is what they served for. Now, it is not only those who live in Muslim countries who pay a high price for such political fantasies but the West itself. It is true that a rigid understanding of secularism created tension and dissent in Muslim countries, though it was not secularism which produced fundamentalism, but rather the political manipulation of Islam which enforced it.


How to crush ISIS

 By Ralph Peters

December 20, 2015

An American president with no military experience, little grasp of history and an outdated mental map of the Middle East.

Obama today? Yes, but potentially a Republican next year.

Ideology isn’t a strategy, and sound bites don’t win wars. The Islamic State caliphate (ISIS) and its rivals can be annihilated, but only if we have a clear objective, a realistic assessment of the means needed to achieve it and — above all — a president with the vision, courage and fortitude to lead.

What will it take? Here are the requirements for a serious military effort (only a military approach will stop ISIS):

Congress must declare war.

Congress needs to face up to its constitutional responsibilities with a declaration of war against “the Islamic State, al Qaeda, their affiliates and imitators and their supporters, wherever they are found.” War is no longer restricted to state-on-state violence, nor should its conduct depend on a president’s whimsy.

Define the mission.

The goal should be the uncompromising destruction of violent jihadi organizations. It shouldn’t include the reconstruction of artificial borders imposed on the Middle East by long-dead Europeans. Don’t cling to doomed governments.

Say less, do more and keep secrets.

Don’t announce operations or troop deployments for domestic political advantage. In the jihadi World Series, our team has to show up unexpectedly. Crack down on Pentagon leaks.

Stop pretending that war can be waged gently.

Kill the enemy. Accept that there will be civilian casualties and collateral damage. Get the lawyers out of the targeting process and off the battlefield. Rules of engagement should empower our troops, not shield our enemies.

The morbid “humanitarianism” of the left ignores the proven principle that winning fast spares lives. As a result of our reluctance to fight promptly, powerfully and ruthlessly, there are now 300,000 dead in Syria, untold numbers dead in Iraq and rising body counts elsewhere, with millions of refugees. And because our enemies know that we don’t strike populated areas, they base themselves in crowded neighborhoods, guaranteeing more civilian deaths.

Concentrate on effects, not numbers.

Our obsession with troop numbers is political, not practical. In a global war against Islamist fanatics, the troop strength required for missions will fluctuate. A vital operation in one country might require a few dozen special operators for one night, while an operation in another might demand 30,000 troops for three months. Anyway, the resolve with which force is applied is far more important than numbers.

Accomplish the mission and leave.

No nation-building. No occupations-by-another-name. Go in, do the job, get out. If you have to go back and do the job again later on, that’s still cheaper in blood and treasure than hanging around. What are called for are old-fashioned punitive expeditions, not nation-building where there are no nations. Surprise them; slaughter them; leave.

Conventional forces must think unconventionally.

Our forces must become more agile and operate under more-austere conditions. More bullets, fewer bases, no Baskin-Robbins. Mobility, speed and firepower are crucial. Think cavalry, not constabulary; saddle bags, not shipping containers.

Hyperexpensive weapons can be the enemy within.

At present, we’ll use a million-dollar precision-guided munition to take out two low-level terrorists at a checkpoint. As a result, we’ve drained our arsenal. While this is good news for the defense industry, it exposes the fallacy of a weapons-procurement process that assumes a short, decisive war against a compliant enemy.

Don’t make fun of the Russians for using cheap bombs on easy targets. We should be doing it, too. And inexpensive, old-fashioned napalm would be poetic justice for apocalyptic jihadis who burn captives to death.

Choose allies for their utility, not from habit.

In the broken territories formerly known as Syria and Iraq, we need to support those whose interests converge with ours, while cutting our losses where our largesse only helps other enemies. That means tacitly backing a Kurdish state; accepting a new Sunni-Arab (but non-Islamist-extremist) state straddling the old border; and cutting all support for the Iranian-dominated Baghdad government President Obama’s incompetence facilitated.

From Libya to Afghanistan and Pakistan, we must not let ill-drawn lines on old maps tyrannize our foreign policy.

Presidential support of our military.

This is the most important factor of all. Our troops and their leaders need to know that their commander-in-chief won’t betray them based on spurious claims from the media or anti-war activist groups; that he won’t lose his courage and resolve when things get ugly; and that he’ll be our military’s advocate, not its adversary.

Of course, there are myriad practical details to be addressed, from basing rights and overflight issues to the conflicting goals of third parties, such as Iran or Russia. Even in lean operations, logistics rule. And our military must relearn how to fight and win, escaping the thrall of political correctness.

We can defeat ISIS, but first we have to stop defeating ourselves.

Ralph Peters is a retired US Army officer and the author, most recently, of “Valley of the Shadow.”


Is Indonesia winning its fight against Islamic extremism?

By Mike Thomson

19 December 2015

 Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, but are its local Islamic traditions in danger of being overtaken by fundamentalism?

As I thread my way through crowds of worshippers at central Jakarta's grand Istiqlal Mosque, traditionally dressed religious students grab my arms and pull me towards them.

"Take your photo with me!" shouts one. "No, first with me!" shouts another. Several small cameras appear as I am propelled to the centre of their smiling, boisterous group. All raise their thumbs in the air as the cameras start clicking.

I have visited many mosques around the world and I cannot remember ever getting such a warm and friendly reception. Though when I relate this experience to Yenny Wahid, founder of a Jakarta-based research centre on religion and daughter of the late Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, she is not surprised.

This, she says, is an example of a particularly Indonesian approach to Islam, known as Archipelago Islam.

"It really puts an emphasis on moderation, on tolerance, on protecting minority rights and basically has a big emphasis on a life of harmony," she says. "So, it's not strange when you see a woman in a headscarf walking hand in hand with a nun here."

Archipelago Islam, or Islam Nusantara as it's known locally, was built over the centuries on Islam that arrived from several other parts of the world and was initially intertwined with Hinduism and ancient Javanese religions. In a large and diverse country stretching over 3,000 miles from east to west and composed of more than 17,000 islands, a less tolerant and inclusive interpretation of the Muslim faith may have struggled to survive. It came to be based on five principles - social justice; a just and civilised humanity; belief in one God; Indonesian unity; government by the will and consent of the people.

Such values evidently weren't shared by those behind the Bali bombings of 2002 which killed more than 200 people, many of them foreign tourists. But since then the country has been relatively successful in curbing extremism.

"We're not just coming up with a counter narrative we coming up with a counter identity, and that's what AI is all about," says Yenny Wahid. "We believe we're good Muslims but to be a good Muslim we don't have to accept the recipes that are handed out by some radicals from the Middle East."

An estimated 500 people in Indonesia have gone to fight for Islamic State in Syria. That sounds a lot until you compare it with the estimated 700 from the UK who are thought to have done the same. Britain is home to less than three million Muslims, while Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has 70 times that number.

But times do seem to be changing. When I first came to Indonesia 20 years ago there was little obvious sign of Islam in the streets. Now more men are wearing traditional dress, and women hijabs and headscarves. Sidney Jones, an American woman who has lived in the country for several decades, says public displays of faith and religious conservatism have grown year by year.

"When I first came here they used to have transvestite beauty contests, you couldn't get away with that in a million years now in Indonesia," says Jones. "There's an increasing attempt by some groups to try to enforce morality by the state which is something we haven't seen before in Indonesia."

Driving through bustling central Jakarta the shrieks of a protesting crowd grow louder as my taxi passes the presidential palace. To my left a passionate crowd chanting "God is Great!" wave large black banners demanding the expulsion of an American mining company.

They belong to the hardline group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which campaigns for the creation of a caliphate ruled by Sharia law. Its campaign literature claims that allowing Western firms to extract Indonesian minerals breaches Sharia - and the group's local spokesman, Ismail Yusanto, tells me that 73% of respondents in one recent poll supported the introduction of Sharia, while 81% favoured the country becoming a caliphate.

The country's Minister of Religious Affairs, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin admits that there is growing support for some elements of Sharia law - and says the government is preparing legislation to reflect this.

"We are now considering introducing a ban on drinking alcohol, gambling and prostitution. We will then put these proposals to the people and they will be made law if there is democratic agreement," he says.

The minister insists that moves like this do not signify a drift towards Islamic fundamentalism, but merely reflect the growing sense of pride people here feel for their religion. However, recent actions by a vociferous minority of extremists have led many to question this.

 In February last year a group of students at an Islamic university on the outskirts of Jakarta declared allegiance to IS. Since then the country has also seen open parades and demonstrations by uniformed IS supporters. But over the past year the country's security services, who've long been working closely with reformed extremists, have been clamping down.

At a court in central Jakarta a young man accused of terrorist offences sits head down as the judge reviews his case. Dressed in a bright orange jumpsuit he's just one of eight men facing similar charges here. None have been charged with membership of so-called Islamic State, raising funds for them or fighting for them in Syria. That is because none of these things are actually illegal in Indonesia, so all are being tried on looser charges of supporting terrorism.

 Support for extremist groups like IS, though, is not the biggest worry for human rights groups in Indonesia. What most concerns them are the widespread attacks on religious minorities over recent years as well as the government-backed demolition of many churches, temples and other places of worship.

Elson Lingga, a priest from the northern province of Aceh - the only part of the country currently governed by Sharia law - says Christians are feeling increasingly threatened.

"We are so afraid now that nobody goes to work any more," he told me. "And I even got letters this morning from people in my community suggesting that perhaps it is time for us all to flee the area and become refugees because it's no longer safe for us here."

Andreas Harsono of the campaign group, Human Rights Watch, insists that unless incidents like these along with the growing use of draconian blasphemy laws are stopped, this once tolerant nation could well become a failed state.

"Some writers use the word 'Pakistanisation' of Indonesia. Pakistan is a failing state, the amount of violence against minorities in Pakistan is gruesome. Here in Indonesia some people are killed but in Pakistan hundreds die every year," he says.

"Plus we're talking about thousands of blasphemy cases too. Before it is too late Indonesia has to stop this process. If not we are going to have a failing state on the Straits of Malacca and it is going to be a disaster for the world."

Yenny Wahid agrees that such worries, along with the hatred and intolerance spread by Islamic extremists, pose a serious threat.

But she insists that the vast majority of Indonesians here, including the Muslim group, Nahdlatul Ulama which boasts more than 40 million members, support the tolerant principles of Archipelago Islam.

This, Wahid hopes, will help win the battle against groups like IS, not just in her own country, but elsewhere too.

"Archipelago Islam will always be practiced in Indonesia no matter what," she says.

"And I believe we can inspire other Muslims throughout the world to also practice Islam the way it's intended to be, which is as a religion of peace."


Saudi Arabia’s women have spoken

Khaled Almaeena

Sunday, 20 December 2015

The municipal elections that resulted in 21 Saudi women winning municipal council seats may seem trivial to some abroad, but it has a historic significance for the future of this country.

When women’s participation in the elections was announced, the altitude was that they would not make any gains as society was against it. But those with this notion were proved wrong.

Yes, there were many who opposed it. There were the self-appointed religious “leaders” who issued edicts against it and there were others who voiced their opposition through blaring loudspeakers and other forms of media. To all of them, the nation spoke and said: “enough!”. We have had enough of your obscurantism, enough of trying to run our lives according to “your customs and traditions”, enough of your actions that have made us a laughingstock and embarrassed us in front of others, enough of your domination of our personal lives.

Partners in progress

Most Saudi women want to lead normal, healthy lives like their counterparts in other parts of the world. They want to be partners in progress. They want to contribute by being part of the decision making process in society. They do not want to be sitting still within the confines of four walls subjected to rulings by people with half of their intellect.

The government has focused on education for all. Today you have Saudi women spread across all segments of society and producing for the nation. They are educators, bankers, media people, scientists and doctors. They have overcome many obstacles to continue the journey which has not yet ended.

I am a critic and a person who does not mince words with regard to any transgression be it official or personal. However, I say very clearly that the government has encouraged and promoted women’s welfare and continues to do so. It knows that preventing any part of the population from participating in societal development will hamper progress. The women who ran for elections encountered several problems, including red tape, but they overcame all of these. Saudi women from all strata of society, from all regions of the Kingdom and both the young and the old, including at least one nonagenarian, came out to exercise their right to vote. Credit should also be given to the men who believed in their cause and supported them.

The Saudi woman is determined and progressive. She wants to lead and not to be led. She wants to play a constructive role. Society is evolving. There is no such thing as a woman’s place. This country belongs to all!

Nor are women going to be misled by ill-informed clergy who claim that they are inferior. In this month, precisely next Wednesday the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born. He was a great advocate of women’s rights. In fact, he worked for a woman. Let women read his farewell sermon and be encouraged. And to all the women in Saudi Arabia we say congratulations and more power to you!

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 traveled 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 Post. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena


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