New Age Islam
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Islam and the West ( 13 Sept 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Is International Morality The Answer To Terrorism?: New Age Islam’s Selection from World Press, 14 September 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

14 September 2015

Is International Morality The Answer To Terrorism?

By Qadijah Irshad

Why Has Europe Gone Soft On Syria’s Assad?

By Raed Omari

Why Saudi Women’s Participation in Elections Gets My Vote

By Samar Fatany

Changing Scenario in Syria

By Hassan Barari

Using Connectivity to Put the Horror Of 9/11 Behind Us

By Meidyatama Suryodiningrat

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Is International Morality The Answer To Terrorism?

By Qadijah Irshad

September 13, 2015

Security can no longer be national - we need an international system

Last week I was trying to teach my children the theory behind behaviour and consequences. It was about the same time former Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai talked about the importance of international morality in combating terrorism at a defence seminar in Colombo. Now, a talk on consequences to a six-year-old and a message to the superpowers may not seem to have anything in common, but in fact they are remarkably similar.

One: If a child misbehaves, he will face consequences - and it's the same with nations. Today, terrorism - whether it is in the form of Daesh or Al Qaeda or until recently Sri Lanka's own Tamil Tigers - would not have thrived without the backing of nations or states, said Karzai. He is right. Funding terrorism for your own agenda has consequences. Because terrorism grows. It spreads. It poisons. And one day it turns up in your own backyard. The United States saw this with 9/11, as did India, when former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a suicide bomber of the Tamil Tigers - the very same terrorist group his mother, prime minister Indira Gandhi, helped fund and train. Terrorism haunts.

Two: Taking responsibility. You tear your book, you take responsibility. Nations that encourage terrorism need to face responsibility too. The United States has so far spent between four to six trillion dollars on fighting Al Qaeda, and the group is still in business, with nearly 25,000 foreigners fighting for it or its associated organisations. The war in Sri Lanka technically began in 1983 with the help of some extremist political factions. While the government watched, Sinhalese rioters dragged out and killed minority Tamil men and women, burnt their homes and set aflame vehicles with entire families inside them. They destroyed the lives of one generation and sowed hatred into many more to come. Now, after obliterating terrorism we have to reconcile, make amends.

The washed-ashore body of the little boy in red, Aylan Kurdi, this week put the four million Syrian war-refugees on the map. The UN High Commission on Refugees is three billion dollars short on its 2015 funding for Syria operations. In December 2014, the World Food Programme declared it had to stop providing food for 1.7 million refugees - because it didn't have enough cash. Now the countries that backed the war in Syria are refusing to take these refugees in. You make a mistake, you take responsibility.

Three: Working together as a team. Some kids learn it the hard way, as do some nations. Karzai emphasised that terrorism would not be eliminated unless the international community begins to see terrorism as a common threat to all. Let there be a return to the system of balance of power that existed when the US/Nato and the former Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact were the dominant players in the world, he said. Security too, can no longer be national - we need an international system.

The time has come when the United States and its allies seek advice and consult the three emerging powers - China, India and Russia. The time has come to stop more Aylan Kurdis.

Four: Working within a moral framework. Whether we practise religion or not, we teach children morality. And the world is where it is today, with more than 50 ongoing wars, facing the greatest refugee crisis because it lacks international morality. It is impossible for any terrorist organisation to inflict damage without backup. Using ethnicity and religion as tools to start wars - in the pursuit of national interest is immoral. And if the "great" nations refuse to embrace international morality now, our children will grow up in a world where terrorism thrives. You can bet on that.

Qadijah Irshad is a columnist based in Colombo


Why Has Europe Gone Soft On Syria’s Assad?

By Raed Omari

13 September 2015

Europe has unmistakably softened its posture on Bashar al-Assad recently, with leaders of key countries in the refugee-plagued bloc coyly acknowledging the beginnings of unified policy on Syria.

Given the shock of the non-stop influx of refugees, Europe's longstanding narrative on Syria has shifted from being anti-Assad to something of a grey area – neither in favor, nor against, the embattled president.

For the Europeans, ISIS is now the embodiment of all terror in Syria. And in the European rhetoric, a regime change is no longer a necessity.

The refugee crisis is a key reason behind the abrupt paradigm shift. The Europeans are concerned about a possible – and, for some, inevitable – demographic impact given the non-stop influx of refugees.

Because of this, European leaders have begun calculating other options to address Syria’s four-and-a-half-year conflict, especially given that its consequences have reached the shores of the European bloc, which already had its share of geopolitical and economic problems. The new position on Syria has not been announced as a unified policy of the European Union – but takes the form of remarks made by individual countries’ leaders that all, in a way or another, mean the same.

All Change On Regime Change

For the UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Assad could remain in office for six months with his “eventual” departure within a transition process agreed with the Russians and Iranians. Hammond was also quoted as saying that regime change is not the direct aim of possible UK strikes on Syria, which would be intended to disrupt ISIS’ hold on Raqqa.

Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has called on European leaders to be “pragmatic” on Syria, urging the West to collaborate with Assad in defeating ISIS. The EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker is also urging for a “pragmatic” approach in responding to the refugee crisis, and has shied away from even alluding to Assad’s brutality as the reason behind the Syrian refugee crisis, linking the large numbers of asylum seekers to ISIS’ cruelty.

Such statements certainly signal a departure from the West’s official posture on the conflict in Syria which, for almost five years, advocated regime change and accused Assad of committing war crimes against his own people. Since the early beginnings of the Syrian war, the departure of Assad seemed to be an irreversible demand for the British and French – but things have changed considerably, probably as a result of the recent refugee dilemma and new developments on the ground in Syria, paramount of which was the news about Russia sending in troops and weapons.

Refugees from ISIS Territory

What contributed to Europe’s emerging conviction that Assad's brutality is, so to speak, less brutal than that of ISIS is the fact that most of the thousands of Syrian and Iraqi asylum seekers come from territories held by the militant organization. Very few refugees are coming to Europe from Assad’s Damascus – but from Raqqa, Aleppo, Kobani and other Syrian districts where ISIS is active.

No matter what the Assad regime is, for the Europeans – and, to a lesser degree, the Americans – it is easier to communicate and deal with, compared to ISIS. The Syrian regime has its institutions and can be brought to negotiating tables – unlike ISIS.

Iran Ties

And let us not forget that Europe, after the signing of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers, is not the same Europe as it was before. The bloc is pinning hopes that the deal could open doors for more economic cooperation between oil-rich Iran and EU member states. Shortly after the deal was signed, some European leaders flew to Tehran, sending a signal to the U.S. about their eagerness to lift the sanctions and begin a new chapter of economic cooperation. For the Europeans to continue their anti-Assad position – which in a way also means they are against the Ayatollah’s regime – has consequences on the Iran deal and, consequently, the envisioned economic cooperation with Iran.

It is however Russia’s stubborn position on Syria and its unaltered support of the Syrian regime that is, in my opinion, a major factor behind Europe’s softening of its anti-Assad rhetoric. In order to avoid angering the Russians in ‘nearby’ Ukraine, the Europeans decided to calm them in ‘far away’ Syria – which also proved to be very close.

Whilst ISIS’s brutality and threat are undeniable and should be a source of concern, the Europeans are wrong in their conviction that ISIS alone is the embodiment of all terror in Syria.

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 English.


Why Saudi Women’s Participation in Elections Gets My Vote

By Samar Fatany

3 September 2015

Saudi women are entering a new era of public participation. Municipal elections will be held across the country in December this year. Registration for voting has begun and the government awareness campaign to support the participation of women is gaining momentum. The government should be commended for its full support and its nationwide campaign to ensure the participation of women in the upcoming municipal elections.

The concept of voting and standing for election is new to the Kingdom. Training sessions for voter education have been organized by the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs across the Kingdom to promote the election process and to raise awareness among women about the great significance of their participation in municipal elections. One hundred and fifty women trainers have been mobilized to educate women about the electoral process not only in major cities but nationwide. In Riyadh alone, 85 election centres have been set up for women candidates and voters, with 10 on standby for emergency purposes.

Equal Footing

Meanwhile, to confront the hardliners who are against the move, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs has urged imams to inform the public about the importance of participating in the polls and to defy the anti-women participation campaign that is being promoted by hardliners in society.

Finally the time has come for Saudi women to be part of the political process. As elected representatives they can now have a say in shaping public policy. According to the women’s department of the Riyadh secretariat, there are no seat quotas on councils for either women or men; whoever gets the most votes will win the seat.

The concept of involving all members of society in nation-building efforts could influence change and accelerate reforms. The participation of women in municipal elections on an equal footing with men can have a great impact on the country’s future. Women represent half of society, and they have been contributing in most sectors. They continue to play an effective role in nation-building.

A Golden Opportunity

Professional and educated women are keen to vote and be part of the decision making process. However, some women may not realize that if they do not vote, they will not have a say and they will remain marginalized. Nothing will improve and they will lose a golden opportunity to make a difference if they decide to stay home and moan their fate.

Women voters feel elated registering to vote for the first time in the history of Saudi Arabia. They will not need a male guardian’s approval to run for office or to vote. Indeed, the change signifies a step forward in easing the government’s restrictions on women.

The awareness campaigns launched nationwide have encouraged many to participate. Voters are now learning how the elections are run, and are beginning to have an understanding of the whole process of registration, campaigning, voting and the announcement of results. They are now ready with their IDs and identification documents to enter polling booths. They will be presented with a list of impressive and capable candidates and each person will be allowed to vote once.

Executive Powers

It is also refreshing to note that the new municipal councils will have executive powers. The new regulations include radical amendments, such as prohibiting the adoption of a budget of any municipality before the approval of the municipal councils. The council’s new executive powers will include the adoption of plans and programs for municipal projects approved in the budget, adoption of municipality budgets, as well as overseeing implementation of operation and maintenance projects, and monitoring the performance of municipalities and their services.

Women on municipal councils can be more effective in addressing the needs of their districts. They can contribute with better detailed plans to create a safe and healthy environment. Women will represent all the concerned mothers who are eager to implement much needed safety measures and recreational facilities for their children. Issues related to safe roads, clean water, better houses and a beautiful landscape are part of a woman’s domain. Her surroundings are an extension of her home and as a woman she is more experienced in running the household and, therefore, hopefully she will be more capable of addressing major public needs and monitoring the implementation of public services that include, electricity delivery, water for household use and sewage and sanitation.

Saudi women have every reason to rejoice over their participation in the municipal elections. This development will usher in an era of moderation and an end to extremism and discrimination against women in our own society. It is a vital step toward recognizing the role of women in society and their inclusion in public life.

Hopefully, this municipal election that has been organized and supported by the government will provide a more positive direction in our community. It is time we raise awareness among citizens about their duties toward their community and inspire members of the community to be more involved in decisions that affect their lives.

Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”


Changing Scenario in Syria

By Hassan Barari

14 September 2015

President Vladimir Putin is taking a huge risk by embroiling his army in Syria to protect Assad from a defeat that is not far from certain.

Just a few days ago, Russia called for a military cooperation with the United States to avert unintended incidents that could result from Russia’s build-up in Syria. The Russian step has to do with a new reading in Moscow that Assad is losing ground and that the Iranians are pursuing different objectives in Syria. Hence, Russia will be better off if it sends boots on the ground so that its interest will be taken into consideration over time.

While the US has backed a key role for Russia in reaching a peaceful settlement in Syria, the new Russian step has changed the rules of the game. President Obama expressed his anger at the Russians for doubling down on forces in Syria. Obama made it perfectly clear that his country will “be engaging Russia to let them know that you can’t continue to double-down on a strategy that is doomed to failure.”

To be sure, Russia denies that it has been helping to build Assad’s army in the fight in Syria. Russia officials are adamant that their country is not part of the day-to-day fight in Syria. And yet, Moscow has been critical of the US strategy in battling Daesh. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on other countries to join Moscow in a more efficient strategy against Daesh. Not surprisingly, the Russians have been trying to have others buy into the argument that Assad’s forces are the most reliable and efficient in the fight against Daesh. That said, the Russians have a hard time explaining why Assad forces have not fought Daesh in the first place. The argument that Daesh has been a useful tool for Assad is, to say the least, obliquities in this part of the world.

Not a while ago, many observers thought that Putin was tired of Assad’s inability to make any difference in the conflict. Therefore, Moscow was looked at to lead a political process to remove Assad from power. Indeed, removing Assad can be useful for the purpose of battling terrorism. But far from doing that, it seems Russia is going to prop up Assad. Lavrov appeared defiant when he said that his country “will continue to supply it to the Syrian government in order to ensure its proper combat readiness in its fight against terrorism.”

Some in the US support confronting the Russians inside Syria while others advocate a kind of cooperation with Russia to fight Daesh. At the end, it is the administration’s objective to enlist as many states as possible to fight Daesh. But those who adopt the second position fail to take into account that Russia will take advantage of its presence in Syria to attack the opposition while using Daesh as a cover.

Over the last few weeks the Russians have shown their cards. Their top priority is to keep Assad in power and not to fight Daesh. It is hard to avoid the realization that Moscow would not have interfered in this negative way in the first place had the American administration showed determination to bring about a change in Syria.


Using Connectivity to Put the Horror of 9/11 Behind Us

By Meidyatama Suryodiningrat

September 13 2015

It was late Tuesday evening in Jakarta. “Change the channel, you should really be watching this!” I rushed in telling my colleagues to switch television stations.

We watched in disbelief as smoke billowed from one of the twin towers into the morning skyline of New York. Then another plane hit the second tower, and the iconic landmarks were soon no more.

 Like millions around the world, it was one of those surreal moments that would last a lifetime. The ethereal feeling of not believing one’s own eyes.

 “They want America to know the same fear they’ve felt all this while,” was my kneejerk comment when someone asked why anyone would commit such a heinous act.

 Like billions around this planet, it was the day the Earth stood still. That all too rare flash in time when humanity is one in sympathy, in grief, in compassion and angst.

Prior to 2001, the term “Nine-Eleven” conjured virile passions in the form of the iconic Porsche sports coupe.

Post 2001, 9/11 became a synonym for fear and radicalism.

In the ensuing years, the goodwill that united the world that fateful Tuesday turned into alienation, angst morphed as cultural and nationalist chauvinism and faith became an axis of deception.

 Humans fear what they do not understand. And being a male Muslim when entering the West one felt like the carrier of a disease: “Us and them. With us, or against us”.

 For much of the 9/11 decade, accommodation and integration became problematic. Ignorance spread the perception of Islam as inherently feral and foul, while America and its allies became lightning rods for malice and retaliation.

The casualties of 9/11 go beyond the 2,975 lives lost that day.

In a world where one-seventh of the population still lives below a poverty line of US$1.25 per day, so many resources are still being allocated for destruction. In the 2015 fiscal year alone, President Barak Obama’s administration earmarked $64.3 billion to support the US military presence in Afghanistan, Iraq and other international terrorism-combat activities.

Mental attitudes have changed too. Mindsets that have undermined our humanity, if we fight them, can be forged to build a new consciousness to better ourselves.

The war on terror has made citizens around the world — whether in Washington DC, the Middle East, or even Indonesia, more suspicious of established government institutions. In varying degrees, people have become more skeptical of government, particularly regarding freedom of information, individual rights and security.

“WMD” the lexicon for high-minded deceit is ingrained in our psyche.

Governments now understand that they must make an extra effort to convince their constituency. No longer do they have a monopoly on opinion and right.

There will never be complete transparency in governance, especially relating to security issues. But hopefully the lessons of the past decade will erode the attempt at such blatant deception.

Issues of modernity that had been brewing underneath the rising clash of cultural and political tensions spilt over post 9/11. As former British parliamentarian George Galloway so aptly put it, “The planes didn’t come out of a clear blue sky but emerged from the swamp of hatred the West had sown over many years”.

What we learned is that the hard-power ways of might and even the most sophisticated weapons cannot win the kind of war being waged in the 21st century.

A struggle that involves hearts and minds, ideas and beliefs.

That antithesis to the spread of terrorism in itself is not new, just forgotten as we became enthralled with drones and smart bombs.

It was the great Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru who told us that “logic and cold reason are poor weapons to fight fear and distrust. Only faith and generosity can overcome them”.

The grievances that fomented the disillusioned antagonism had nothing to do with any faith-based notions but rather stemmed from poverty, alienation from modernity, annihilation of the traditional, loss of identity and a lack of avenues to address them.

An alarming sense of vulnerability swept the dark corners of urban disillusionment, the isolated jungles and deserts of poor developing communities.

The post-9/11 era also coincided with the expansion of connectivity as the Internet and wireless technology matured from novelties to become daily staples of life.

To some this openness increased their vulnerability. No longer were walls and isolation barriers sufficient.

With 9/11 America lost the psychological security blanket of being walled behind two vast oceans. The rest of us too felt our physical immunity swept away by the glut of information, which never before streamed with such rapidity in human history.

Interconnectivity moved from abstraction to reality.

The virtual world is still evolving. In all likelihood we are still in the pre-Cenozoic era of the digital revolution.

Slowly we have come to grips with it. And like evolution itself, some will become extinct because of it. The task of mankind now is to ensure that these developments are used for the betterment of humanity, and that freedom and access to information and connectivity are valued. The same positive values have served us all well in the past.

And thus the post-9/11 battle still wages on. A battle to do good, not simply to destroy.