New Age Islam Edit Bureau
6 November 2015
Canadian Elections — will the US be Inspired?
By Bisma Tirmizi
An Arab boycott of Palestine too
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
There can be no peace without justice in Syria
By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim
Canadian elections — will the US be inspired?
By Bisma Tirmizi
November 5, 2015
O Canada, what have you done? Have you done enough to inspire your neighbours on the south to choose like you in 2016? That is something the world is yet to witness. Canada declared a clear victory for Justin Trudeau recently, hence concluding the decade-long leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, the Republican equivalent of that country. What does that mean for the US? If the country wants to be cerebral then a lot, but if Americans are to take trash-talking Trump to the White House, we have some learning to acquire before the November finals of 2016. Interestingly the conservatives of Canada vote for conservative principles and values, unlike in the US, where Republicans tend to vote more on conservative social issues rather than the ideology.
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Canada seems elated as does the PM-designate, and rightly so. Forty-three-year-old Trudeau came out strong winning by a decent majority in a country that only allowed him 34 parliamentary seats just four years ago. What changed in four years? More importantly, what did Trudeau promise the Canadians that got him their votes? Definitely something more tangible than just his convincing ad campaign and dynamic good looks. And now what is it that the Democratic candidates in the US, namely Clinton and Sanders, have to do to beat the GOP to clinch 2016?
Sell the idea of raising taxes on the rich, and sell it well. Market it effectively so everyone is willing to buy the idea, support it and see good, long-term value in it. Grandpa Sanders is already doing so; he has heart, but he needs energy. Hillary Clinton needs to say the same, but she needs authenticity. She needs the base to believe her. She has charisma, but is not relatable, though that can all change; we still have a year to go.
Canada PM Trudeau sworn in, reveals diverse gender-equal Cabinet
One of the biggest draws could be reduction in college tuition fee, and partial forgiveness of college debt. That could bring out the younglings to vote — the more realistic the incentives, the more support can be mustered through the younger vote bank. Investment in green infrastructure at home creates more jobs, reduces bills, and speaks of long-term goals like reduction in the dependence on foreign oil, plus it speaks to Democratic voters of the seriousness of the two candidates.
The Democrats also need to consider black voters in the real sense. Currently, they take the black vote for granted. They believe that since black voters do not, historically, vote for the GOP, hence their support of Democratic candidates is a certainty. That is over-confidence that they can do without. Candidates must set aside their expectations and work doubly hard to win real and genuine support amongst black voters. There must be emphasis on reducing incarcerations of blacks, less jail-time for them, more forgiveness, an unbiased legal system, a clear path out of the ghetto life and true incentives for education. Availability of jobs and the real American Dream for black Americans must be a priority. They already are a part of a system that has failed them and have fallen through the cracks of racism and empty promises; they now need honest redemption.
Two Pakistani women elected in Canadian elections
A clear immigration policy must be laid out for illegal Mexicans within US borders. The ones who are already in the US, raising children and contributing to the economy must be acknowledged and given some kind of legal status. Mexicans must be appreciated for their laborious contribution to meet the agricultural and harvesting needs on US farmlands. The exhausting work these hard-working immigrants put in must be appreciated by elevating their legal status. Policies like the ones in vogue in Arizona, or as outlined by Donald Trump must be deemed unacceptable.
The politics of the future is very liberal. Children born in the US, of all colours, religions, cultures and languages, are very inclusive. For them gender biases and racism is not just politically incorrect, it is actually incorrect. Immigrants, Caucasians and African Americans are very accepting of each other. Inter-racial and inter-religious marriages are a norm, plus the social media explosion and continued exposure to conventional media, tolerant or otherwise, has vastly aided in cerebral growth of future generations. They are much less biased compared to the older folks. This is the generation that understands the language of liberals like Trudeau. The political language and rhetoric of candidates like Trump, which is old-school and somewhat racist, requires a dictionary for understanding, and today’s young America is at a cusp of evolved understanding. Hence, the language of the GOP may soon become too archaic for them to comprehend.
Today, I wish Pakistan and India could be more like Canada
In simpler terms, liberals of America must push hard in these times since the coming generation is theirs to win over. They have an advantage; like Trudeau, Sanders and Clinton have the advantage of appealing to the logic of the voters. Now, how effectively they do it is something we have to wait and see. America will have the answer to this question soon, and much like Canada, the answer may just turn out to be the right one.
An Arab boycott of Palestine too
5 November 2015
Palestinian citizens of Israel cannot enter Arab countries. This is how they are rewarded for holding on to their land and tolerating decades of Israeli oppression. It is prohibited to sell their products in Arab markets, while Jewish Israelis can visit Arab countries if they carry other passports.
Israel prohibits Palestinians in the occupied territories from leaving the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while most Arab governments prohibit them from entering their countries unless they carry Egyptian or Jordanian passports.
Most Arab governments prohibit their citizens from visiting Palestinians in the occupied territories to support their tourism or benefit from their services. A Saudi football team recently refused to play a football match in the West Bank because it is considered as dealing with Israel and recognizing the latter's authority.
This strange and shocking treatment of Palestinians actually has legal justifications. Arab League decisions oblige member governments not to deal with Israel or with anything it controls. Over the course of 60 years, this has harmed the Palestinians and their cause, and completely failed to harm Israel or its occupation. It has harmed the Palestinians as much as Israel has harmed them, sometimes more so.
Arab decisions have impoverished and besieged the Palestinians in their occupied lands, and in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, where they live on the little support provided to them by international organizations. Palestinian citizens of Israel have better living conditions, but the decades-old Arab boycott of them has isolated them.
If I had not known who worked at the Arab League when all these decisions regarding Palestinians were taken, I would have thought it was run on the basis of a conspiracy by Tel Aviv. However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The League's boycott has facilitated the occupation's task of prohibiting dealing with Palestinians. More Jews than Arabs have visited Jerusalem and its mosques and churches, as Arab governments prohibit their citizens from visiting them.
Palestinians no longer have any hope in a political or military solution. Time and Arabs' attitudes toward the Palestinian cause have proven that it is merely a soccer ball they play with to serve their own interests.
It is prohibited to buy from the Palestinians, to sell to them, to visit them, to host them, to pray in their mosques or to play football with them. The Arab League must be blind and deaf not to distinguish between the victim and the executioner, between the occupier and the occupied. It is time to reconsider the concept and policy on how to deal with Palestine and Israel.
This political absurdity established by naive Arab politicians - who half a century ago thought the Israelis would pack their bags and return to New York, Saint Petersburg and London - must end. Millions of Palestinians pay the price every day as they continue to be besieged by both Arabs and Israelis.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
There can be no peace without justice in Syria
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim
5 November 2015
The United States, European countries, Russia, Iran and Arab states met in Vienna last week to try to resolve the Syrian conflict. Predictably they failed to reach an agreement, but the meeting was reportedly not altogether fruitless, and participants agreed to meet again in two weeks.
Getting these countries to agree on a course of action for Syria is easier than actually achieving peace, because there is no guarantee that a deal agreed by these parties will be the right deal for Syria. There can be no peace without justice - this has been the lesson of so many other conflicts. However, it seems unlikely that Syrians will get justice from the negotiations.
The Shiite Alawite regime in Syria has committed crimes against humanity, particularly toward the Sunni majority. Shiites fear brutal reprisals if the regime falls, and not without reason. Meanwhile, Sunnis are unlikely to stop fighting until they can be satisfied that justice will be served for the hundreds of thousands dead and more than 10 million displaced.
Perhaps the only recent example of a country that has successfully emerged from a similar civil war is Bosnia in the 1990s. Its success was predicated on two factors: the main instigators of the civil war and the worst abuses against civilians were handed over to be tried for crimes against humanity at The Hague; and the country was effectively partitioned along ethnic lines.
Both these things will be necessary in Syria. President Bashar al-Assad and his leading commanders need to be tried for crimes against humanity. However, rebel groups - not least the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) - are similarly guilty of such crimes.
As such, there needs to be an agreement that all the leaders of the various factions should, as much as possible, be held accountable for atrocities against civilians. In addition, the country may need to be federalized or partitioned along sectarian lines.
Assad’s fate is the main sticking point. Russia and Iran fear losing their regional influence if his regime falls. Both countries have invested hugely in the Assad dynasty for decades, and will not just give into demands to have him removed. If they could be persuaded that Assad himself could be disposed of, they would insist that the core group of people that constitutes his regime remains de-facto in power in some shape or other.
U.S. and European negotiators could be persuaded to accept such an arrangement, especially in the current climate where Russia and Iran seem to hold all the cards in terms of military deployment on the ground in Syria. The problem is that if Syrian Sunnis perceive that not all those responsible for the many unspeakable atrocities against their community have been held to account, they will not stop fighting.
The idea of federalizing or partitioning Syria is not on the cards for any of the negotiators. The West has a seemingly innate distaste toward adjusting borders, even when it is patently clear that those borders are meaningless, senseless, and only promote conflict. Russia and Iran have no interest in seeing their client state diminished in such a way.
Yet by now it should be clear to any observer that there is no such thing as a “Syrian” people. Alawites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds have made it amply clear in the past four and a half years of conflict that they do not feel themselves to be part of the same national identity.
They are not a national community. They are a number of sectarian and ethnic communities trapped in a perpetual struggle of us versus them within the prison of the “national” borders of the Syrian state. Should we not even entertain the notion that these communities should be allowed to go their separate ways in peace?
Azeem Ibrahim is an RAI Fellow at Mansfield College, University of Oxford and Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. 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