New Age Islam Edit Bureau
24 April 2018
Creating Our Own Cinema Content
By Mahmoud Ahmad
How Egypt Can Win Over the Western Doubters
By Mohammed Nosseir
Enlightening Conquest of ‘Legendary’ Iraqi, Syrian Snipers
By Mashari Althaydi
In Iraq, We Fight Corruption But Elect The Corrupt
By Adnan Hussein
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
23 April 2018
Last week, history was made following the reintroduction of cinema in our country after more than three decades of being off screen for whatever cultural or religious reasons.
The joy of Saudi people following the decision by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, to bring back cinema as a key component in the shaping of the Saudi entertainment industry knew no bounds. A great segment of our society was finally relieved, and saw the decision implemented with the screening of the film Black Panther in Riyadh.
There are a good percentage of our society who still see cinema as a medium of cultural invasion and a threat to our values. There were naysayers everywhere for every change citing this very reason to sustain the status quo without caring to join the march of progress or a global norm.
In every case there are those who will agree or disagree with any introduction of anything in our society, and each will have their own reasons. But when the interest of the majority in the society is in the affirmative, then it would be logical to assent to their wishes after a thorough study.
I have to admit here that I am an addict of cinema and see absolutely no problem with its reintroduction as I see that it will do more good than harm, especially if we are going to create our own cinema content and export it, which I will elaborate later in this article. Saudis have been hankering for cinema and it is evident when we even travel abroad, especially to Dubai, just for the cinematic experience.
During vacation when Saudis flock to Dubai, or any other destination, the overwhelming majority of them spend a good time of their holidays watching movies. I must confess, I too am guilty of this practice, and sometimes find it funny to find a mini Saudi Arabia in the theaters in Dubai, as most of the moviegoers are Saudis.
My Emirati friends and some of my expat friends, who live and work in Dubai, always tell me that we leave the cinema to Saudis during vacation as it gets over crowded.
I also know some of my Saudi friends, who exhibit a split personality when it comes to their opinion about cinema, as I always get into an argument with them over their seemingly double-faced attitude toward cinema — they see it as forbidden to open cinema in Saudi Arabia and yet they would be the first ones in line in Dubai or Emirates malls buying the latest movie tickets.
Their argument always is that it is OK to see it abroad, but not in our country. Although I find this claim inane, but there was no way to argue with them on this issue, for they would stubbornly and repeatedly profess this reason in their comments in the past and it would get you nowhere.
For all the stonewalling by my friends in the past, I’m eagerly waiting now for their comments and opinion with the opening of cinema in our country and how normal and smooth the screening has been. What they think now would be something I would relish to listen, but knowing them they are sure to come up with another frivolous reason and repeat it bald-faced.
The pros and cons, the dos and don’ts, and the nuts and bolts of setting up the cinema and systemizing it will always be a topic of discussion. But today, after expressing my wholehearted support for the reintroduction of cinema here, my main talking point is now that the start has been made, we need to grow this medium.
We need to invest in our own content creation and work on exporting it. The United States through Hollywood and India through Bollywood and a whole lot of regional ‘woods’ are doing an excellent job in content creation to a level that they are exporting their culture and heritage through cinema to other countries.
I know, during the 80s, when Bollywood, through its exports of its films in videocassettes had a strong presence in the region. We were influenced heavily by Indian movies, which could be viewed along with family in homes, as it was very popular during that time. I know of Saudis, in the 80s and 90s, who were able to sing a whole song from an Indian movie in pure Hindi, without understanding a single word and its meaning while being very clear in the pronunciation of the lyrics.
The same thing can be said of American movies, who focused and trialed on every genre in their projections, as they worked hard to reach that level of international domination and recognition. Today Hollywood is a byword for cinematic excellence. Let us look to our region too and see how Egypt through more than 100 years in cinema content creation has dominated culturally and managed to export their culture and literature to the rest of the Arab world.
With the majority in our society being youth and with the continuous perfect support from our authorities, we can turn this industry into something profitable by not only basking in the entertainment value but by creating our own content. We have Saudi male and female actors and young Saudi directors with promising future if given the needed support.
The image of an Arab or a Muslim in Hollywood as a backward bloodthirsty terrorist, which is a fake, and a stereotypical image and the product of others’ imagination now can be challenged. We need to correct these misconceptions and export our own image. In the long run, this will reflect positively on our culture.
In addition to the youth being the standard-bearers of our culture, it would also open up new vistas for honing their creativity. They with their creative initiatives would be the soft ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, enabling a connect with others in the global village, while giving life to their creative juices that could over time even transcend cultural boundaries.
Let us embrace this new experience and turn it to our benefit. For sure it will create jobs for young Saudis and, for sure youth who were segregated in the past and had nowhere to go, can now find relief in watching movies just like they do when they are abroad.
Let us waste no time and start quickly innovating and creating our own content and use whatever positivity that comes from it to improve our country by discussing our own problems and finding ways to solve them. A whole new experience awaits us.
April 24, 2018
Egypt became a focal point for the West after it dubbed our Jan. 25, 2011, revolution, along with other Arab uprisings, the “Arab Spring.” Many Western diplomats and journalists now give more attention to Egypt, focusing in particular on the inspirations of our youth, who were the driving force behind the revolution. Meanwhile, the Egyptian state’s attachment to the stability factor has been widening the mental gap between the state’s policy and the West, which is often accused of interfering in our national affairs.
Egypt’s foreign relations, similar to those of any other nation, are conducted through two major communication channels: The official diplomatic channel and the media channel. In my opinion, the Egyptian state often has difficulty convincing these channels of its political outlook because of our ungrounded political dynamics and our inconsistent foreign relations tactics. We are weakening our political stance on many issues by attempting to redefine and debate a number of common universal values that have been agreed upon for centuries.
The Egyptian state often misreads and undermines the Western diplomatic channel. Western culture has a tendency to express opinions implicitly, leaving us to interpret their meaning by reading between the lines. Westerners often begin by voicing approval of a given non-debatable issue, such as combating terrorism, and follow with a few remarks couched in the form of suggestions. Our media highlight their approval and admiration and ignore their remarks; inevitably, the meaning of the message is missed by the Egyptian state and its citizens.
The Western media, which naturally sees Egypt through its Western eyes, has been criticizing our country’s political propositions consistently and intensely. Since the Egyptian state knows that the Western media is quite influential and can impact their nations’ political decisions to a certain degree, we initially attempt to persuade them with our arguments (which they often don’t acknowledge), then we switch gears and request them to distance themselves from our internal affairs.
For international journalists, Egypt’s political development provides good material to highlight in their media outlets — not because they are conspiring against our country as many Egyptian statesmen believe, but because our provocative and reckless political approach to many issues prompts them to write about these topics, and to excel at their jobs. Blocking access to a number of websites and preventing a few journalists from expressing their opinions freely (just two of many examples) provide international journalists with sufficient grounds for criticizing our government.
The West tends to measure the progress of developing nations based on three criteria that counterbalance one another: Freedom, peace and prosperity. It is not interested in a nation’s progress or retreat. Meanwhile, our tendency to focus on a few selected economic developments and to alter the facts concerning many others has broadened the gap between Western nations and the Egyptian state. We have been attempting to persuade the West using the same arguments that we use internally — arguments that Western society will never recognize.
It is quite difficult for the Western media to acknowledge that the recent presidential election in which incumbent President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi won 97 percent of the vote was free and fair, as stated by our government. In the view of Western society, one of the essential ingredients of an election is competitiveness, which was totally absent in our latest election. Additional justification of the election by the Egyptian state won’t change a single Westerner’s mind; however, exerting constructive efforts in other areas could convince a few to talk about other positive developments, but we decline to do so.
The Egyptian state could do a better job of winning over the West by simply acknowledging and declaring the shortfalls that exist in our ruling mechanism and by offering a clear plan for overcoming these deficiencies in the coming years. Arguing that Egypt is a solid democracy and that the entire world is misperceiving us is a false track that Westerners will never buy. Our current policy of warning the West against interfering in our internal affairs and simultaneously urging it to continue providing us with economic aid is simply unsustainable.
The very “limited” American-French-British airstrikes on targets that are linked to Syrian chemical weapons were not deterred by Russian rockets or Iranian or Assad defense systems. This is a clear truth.
But wait a minute. We forgot about the rifle of a “legendary” Syrian citizen who downed a smart American rocket. I do not know though how he could tell it was American, and not a French or a British missile!
The Syrian Sniper
Lebanese journalist Hazem al-Amin’s reported in al-Hayat newspaper: “A Lebanese spokesman for the Syrian regime narrated on a Lebanese television channel how a Syrian soldier used his rifle to down a missile that American jets fired during the airstrikes launched at the end of last week on Syrian regime bases in Damascus and Homs.”
“The spokesman said that the Syrian soldier received orders to resist the missiles using his rifle so he hit the missile’s engine which made the missile fall without exploding. The Syrian army then gifted the missile to the Russian army to detect the ‘intelligence’ of the missiles which Donald Trump spoke of,” Amin added.
It seems that this skilled Syrian sniper has surpassed the Iraqi sniper Abi Minqash, a peasant who used a Brno rifle to down a frightening American Apache fighter in 2003 during the war to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The Iranian Sniper
Back then, Saddam’s Baathist media outlets marketed this incident as a semi-divine, pure and natural heroism - later on all wars became purely divine with Nasrallah’s group - and a bunch of Arabs and Muslims received the story with plenty of enthusiasm.
At the time, I remember, the famous Saudi preacher Dr. Aid al-Qarni wrote an excellent poem about the Iraqi farmer, the owner of the scorching, miraculous Brno rifle, and commended him.
The poem read:
Abu Minqash, well done so keep going
Your deed O son of honour is an act of a lion
You downed the Apache with bullets like hailstone
Load your rifle with fire and do not fear death as this is very serious
Slaughter the uluj, much to their disappointment
Then chant: He is Allah, who is one
According to the Assad Baathist media that’s blended with the resistant Khomeini media touch, the Syrian sniper has surpassed himself as he accurately hit the engine of the “smart” missile and not the missile’s body or warhead. Something that was much smarter than what the Iraqi Abu Minqash did.
These rare human capabilities, like those of the American Tomahawk hunter, must be well-preserved, just as well-preserved as that downed missile. These “capabilities” must also not decay in the usual sea of Arab ingratitude!
One Arab nation, with one immortal rifle.
Finally, and thanks to the upcoming elections it seems, the machine has begun working, and we now hope that it will not break down again or suffer any damages that burn out its engine as soon as the ballot boxes close on the evening of the 12th of May.
By the machine, I mean the one fighting administrative and financial corruption.
Fighting Corrupt Leaders
In the past few months, Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi escalated his tone while speaking out on fighting corruption and pledging to act against it. Meanwhile, the Commission of Integrity is no longer ‘shy’ or ‘hesitant’ like it was in the past in terms of announcing the details of the corrupt and the corruptors who are pursued or transferred to the judiciary or convicted.
Two of the corruption tycoons, Abdel Falah al-Sudani and Ziad al-Qattan, were both extradited to Baghdad. Some have voiced fears that their cases will be settled like what happened with other figures including governors and heads of provincial councils who were part of the amnesty law. Some of these latter figures have been so impertinent to the point that they are running for the upcoming elections within the electoral lists of powerful parties, which are the main sponsors of corruption!
Meanwhile, other corrupt figures are still free, both inside and outside the country. Ministries and departments went with the flow and began competing to announce the corruption cases they’ve exposed. However, those exposed are not major figures as the latter are protected by the government as well as by religious groups.
Ministries, departments and banks announce their “achievements” in terms of exposing corruption on almost a daily basis. This certainly makes us happy; however, it’s also worrisome and painful as it’s the same feeling you’d have when you are in a ship in the middle of the sea and you suddenly realize that there is a hole leaking water.
Corruption and Chaos
From what we can tell from these announcements about corruption - which do not have a lot of details - we are in a country where everything is violated: the state’s money, constitution, laws, dignity, sovereignty and independence. We are in a society where everything is also violated: morals, values, traditions, customs and higher interests.
This administrative and financial chaos would not have been if it hadn’t been supported by influential parties and forces, and their leaders. It would not have continued and worsened if effective control measures had been timely.
What is also terrifying is that the light in the end of the tunnel seems dim and very pale. This is what we can tell from the photos showing the campaign posters for candidates for the upcoming elections. These posters have filled the country’s streets and squares.
There are dozens and perhaps hundreds of candidates, especially on the lists of influential parties, blocs and coalitions, who are corrupt par excellence. The problem is that these people’s victory is guaranteed thanks to the “Haram” earnings they, along with their parties and blocs, made from looting annual budgets or other sources and thanks to the political support they have from the leaders of these parties and blocs!
How do we fight corruption when we open the doors of the most important and supreme authority in the state for the corrupt?