New Age Islam
Mon Oct 19 2020, 04:56 PM

Middle East Press ( 13 Apr 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Islamic Summit Must Not Fail the Ummah's Expectations: New Age Islam's Selection, 14 April 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

14 April 2016

Islamic Summit Must Not Fail the Ummah's Expectations

By Erlan Idrissov

Syrian Civil War: Negotiating In Bad Faith

By Sharif Nashashibi

Geneva Talks: Light In Syria’s Dark Tunnel?

By Maria Dubovikova

Obama’s Doctrine: Half-Friends?

By Turki Al-Dakhil

Saudi-Turkey Ties: A New Perspective

By Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi

Saudi Approach to Fight Extremism

By Sabria S. Jawhar

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Islamic Summit Must Not Fail the Ummah's Expectations

By Erlan Idrissov

13 Apr 2016

When the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) holds its highest-level meeting this week, there will sadly be no shortage of serious challenges to discuss. Indeed, the unusually tight security we can expect around the summit in Istanbul - a city that has been the victim of recent terrorist outrages - itself underlines the severe threat to stability and safety of member states and their citizens.

There were, of course, plenty of problems to address when the OIC heads of state last convened in Cairo three years ago. The summit expressed its deep concern over the continuing tragedy of Palestine, the threat posed by violent extremism and the rise of Islamophobia. But today, the horizon seems even darker.

101 East - Kazakhstan's Hard Sell

We are no nearer to the two-state solution, which is the only way to address the hopes and rights of the Palestinian people.

Hopes that all-out civil war in Syria could be avoided have been dashed as the country has plunged into chaos and barbarity and millions have been forced to flee their homes.

Violence in Syria

The violence in Syria has also helped fuel terrorism, which is a growing threat around the world. Pakistan, Turkey, Nigeria, Iraq, Belgium, France, Egypt, Ivory Coast, and Afghanistan are just some of the countries to have already felt its deadly impact this year.

The security situation in Afghanistan is again worsening. And far from a better understanding of the decent values of Islam, there is growing fear and suspicion.

It is why the Istanbul summit on Thursday, attended, among others, by Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, is so important.

No country, no matter how powerful, can hope to tackle these problems on its own.

No country, no matter how powerful, can hope to tackle these problems on its own. Only by increased cooperation and promoting dialogue both within the Ummah and beyond can we make progress.

Unfortunately, a lack of trust between states, including some Islamic countries, is preventing the world from focusing its combined energy and effort on resolving the current challenges.

It is not all bleak news: The agreement over Iran's nuclear programme - which Kazakhstan helped to broker by hosting two round of talks - was a historic breakthrough and shows what can be achieved with patience and determination.

It is now crucial that no time is wasted in dismantling the sanctions regime. Iran's re-entry into the global economy is a boost to the entire region.

The general ceasefire in Syria, agreed upon with the involvement of Russia and the US, and ISIL's forced retreat, are also the first tentative signs of a way out of Syria's catastrophe.

The Islamic and international community urgently need to work together to capitalise on these positive steps. Humanitarian aid to the Syrian people and those countries that are shouldering the highest burden of the refugee crisis must be stepped up.

Twisted Ideologies

Increased cooperation - from sharing intelligence to educating our young people - is also the only way to successfully tackle terrorism and root out the twisted ideologies on which it feeds.

I am sure we will again see a strong message from Istanbul that such attacks are against true Islamic values and a pledge to redouble our efforts to root out this cancer together.

But increased economic cooperation is also important to help create jobs and prosperity across the Islamic community. This will deny the extremists the despair they need to recruit our young people.

Hunger is also a powerful recruiter for the extremists. The new Islamic Organisation for Food Security, set up at our initiative and based in our capital, Astana, can play an important role in preventing food shortages across the Islamic world. It is exactly the kind of cooperation we need to see across a wide range of areas within the OIC and beyond.

We need to work harder as well to foster understanding and respect between different faiths and cultures. It is something upon which Kazakhstan - which prides itself on having forged a tolerant society of people from many different backgrounds -  places huge importance.

It is why we host the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, which has become an increasingly important platform to promote dialogue. We need to stress much more strongly that what unites the great faiths, including the shared decent values which underpin them, is far greater than anything that divides them.

At a practical level, as well, this unity can help counter the threat and appeal of violent extremism. We are hosting a major international conference next month to bring religious and political leaders together to agree upon new steps to stop faith from being hijacked by criminals.

Nuclear Weapons

There is an urgent need, as well, to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on nuclear weapons, which we know they are actively seeking and will not hesitate to use. We need increased cooperation on nuclear security but also bold steps to prevent the spread of these weapons. I hope the OIC will throw its full weight behind the creation of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. 

What is troubling is that rather than new efforts to bring our world together, we are seeing old divisions - including within the Islamic community - revived and widened. These divisions risk severely damaging all our hopes of peace and progress. 

Kazakhstan, since its earliest days as an independent nation, has worked tirelessly to foster dialogue and cooperation. We hope that if we are successful in gaining a non- permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2017 and 2018, we can bring new impetus to the search for agreed peaceful solutions to the world's challenges.

They are certainly needed. Our world is facing very difficult times. But through increased cooperation and by resisting those who try to divide us, we can build a better future for all our citizens. I am confident that the Islamic summit in Istanbul will be another important milestone in this journey.

Erlan Idrissov is the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan.



Syrian Civil War: Negotiating In Bad Faith

By Sharif Nashashibi

13 Apr 2016

On April 10, United Nations Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura arrived in Damascus for meetings with regime officials in the run-up to the resumption of peace talks in Geneva on April 13. That very day, Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi said regime troops were preparing a major offensive to retake Syria's largest city Aleppo.

This represents a clear rejection of De Mistura's call for the "cessation of hostilities" to be maintained, and is yet another indication of the regime's disdain for a negotiated settlement to the Syrian conflict.

It is unsurprising that Damascus would want to scupper the latest round of talks, because the focus is supposed to be a political transition that it has repeatedly rejected.

Despite ceasefire, fighting continues in Syria

Not really a ceasefire

It has become a hallmark of the regime to do and say inflammatory things prior to and during diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict, so it can be seen to participate in them while ensuring they do not progress.

Just days after the first round of talks in Vienna late last year, Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said: "We are not at all talking about what is called a transitional period. There is no alternative to [Assad's] leadership."

In February this year, the president vowed to retake all of Syria amid efforts by his ally Russia and Western powers to secure the current "cessation of hostilities", leading to a rebuke from Moscow.

In addition, Damascus entered last month's Geneva talks reiterating that Bashar al-Assad's fate - the biggest, most persistent obstacle to a negotiated solution to the conflict - is a "red line" that it will not discuss.

The fact that the Geneva talks are going ahead despite all this should not be cause for optimism, but a sign of the determination to continue the facade of a peace process.

The regime has repeatedly violated the "cessation of hostilities", with the opposition saying on Sunday that it is close to collapse following the renewed use of barrel bombs.

Dozens of them were reported on Monday to have been dropped on civilian areas of Aleppo, only two days before peace talks began on Wednesday.

One of the main aims of the "cessation of hostilities" was to allow humanitarian aid to besieged areas. However, the UN and NGOs have said the regime is blocking access, delaying convoys, removing medical equipment and forbidding evacuations, violating international law and worsening the humanitarian crisis.

On March 31, Jan Egeland - the UN-appointed chairman of a task force on humanitarian aid - said Damascus had become less responsive to requests for aid convoys than it was immediately after world powers agreed on the "cessation of hostilities" in early February.

The previous day, senior UN official Stephen O'Brien described the situation in regime-besieged areas - "mere minutes' drive away from UN warehouses in Damascus" - as dreadful.

In one of those areas, Daraya - besieged for more than three years - women last week wrote an open letter warning that they were "on the verge of witnessing" their children and relatives starve to death if aid does not reach them soon.

In one incident last month, three children in regime-besieged Madaya bled to death because they could not be evacuated for medical treatment after a bomb explosion.

Diversion Tactics

These are not the actions and statements of a party that is willing to negotiate in good faith. On the contrary, the regime is using the peace process as a diversionary tactic, buoyed by recent battlefield gains such as Palmyra thanks to Russia's direct military intervention, an increase in Iranian forces, and foreign militias such as Hezbollah.

However, it is precisely the regime's reliance on foreign forces that makes its self-confidence so misplaced, because it is unable to take or keep hold of territory without them, and their presence in Syria will not be indefinite.

Indeed, Russia has partially withdrawn its forces, with many observers ascribing this, at least partly, to frustration with the regime's belligerence at the negotiating table. Furthermore, the day after Halqi's statement about the regime's upcoming Aleppo offensive, Russia denied claims that it planned to storm the city.

Perhaps Assad has forgotten his admission last summer that his army is suffering from manpower shortages. He should also be mindful of reports of increasing disaffection within his own Alawite community, including once-unthinkable street protests, and the release this month of a document by Alawite leaders distancing themselves from his regime, a move some described as "deeply unusual".

The fact that the Geneva talks are going ahead despite all this should not be cause for optimism, but a sign of the determination to continue the facade of a peace process.

And all this is happening while the regime tries to ensure that the focus is diverted away from the core issues of the conflict - a transition of power and Assad's fate - to security and "terrorism", meaning any opposition to the regime.

And why not, when such diversionary tactics have worked for neighbouring Israel, at the Palestinians' expense, for almost a quarter of a century? "All process and no peace" is a tried and tested formula.

Sharif Nashashibi is an award-winning journalist and analyst on Arab affairs.



Geneva Talks: Light in Syria’s Dark Tunnel?

By Maria Dubovikova

14 April 2016

A new round of Geneva talks started on Wednesday, with the general environment more or less positive. Increased ceasefire violations have not disrupted the peace process until now - hopefully, neither will the provocative offensives of Jabhat al-Nusra and rebel groups linked to it. However there are deep concerns over the rumors that Damascus is preparing for the offensive on the rebel stronghold of Aleppo.

Ahead of the talks, UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and his Iranian counterpart to ensure the successful continuation of the peace process. The envoy has described the talks starting today as “crucially important,” focusing on a political transition.

The Syrian government has said it is ready to negotiate without preconditions. This is a significant breakthrough although if parliamentary elections doesn’t go alongside negotiations, it will arouse bewilderment. These elections are not recognized by the international community, and will obviously be meaningless if a deal is indeed reached in Geneva.

 The opposition and government in Syria should decide who will work on a post-war constitution, and how a system of checks and balances will function to avoid a repetition of mistakes

Much hopes and expectations are pinned on the new round of negotiations which hopefully will focus on political transition and a stable political process in Syria. Wednesday evening Steffan de Mistura announced that Amman, Damascus, Moscow, Tehran have indicated support for talks aimed at political transition in Syria.

However, it should be admitted that even managing to get the opposing sides to talk directly would already be a great achievement. To expect negotiators to lead to a breakthrough is to ignore the extreme complexity of the issues they are obliged to tackle. Devil is in the detail and the process of political transition is all about details.


The biggest problem, and a matter of extreme sensitivity, is the fate of President Bashar al-Assad. The overwhelming majority of opposition activists and supporters will not accept him staying in power. However, stepping down without a popular vote is unacceptable to Damascus, though it has started to show some flexibility.

Another problem that will have to be tackled is the legal basis of the transition, which concerns the constitution. The opposition and government in Syria should decide who will work on a post-war constitution, and how a system of checks and balances will function to avoid a repetition of mistakes.

They should decide what kind of document will regulate the transition process. Which bodies will have executive and legislative powers, and how will they be formed? Even at a glance, the possibilities and variants are enormous, and choosing which ones will be difficult given the extent of distrust between the opposing sides.

Transitional justice is another issue of vital importance, especially for the opposition, which would apparently not accept a new Syria without punishment for those guilty of war crimes. This is dramatically complicated by the issue of Syrians who support Islamist groups.

How will they be dealt with, and how can their presence be squared with the desire to build a democratic, non-sectarian country? Islamists’ exclusion from the political process will lead to their marginalization, thus jeopardizing the foundations of the new Syria from the start. The issues of Kurds and Kurdish militias, and inclusive citizenship for all minorities, are also tough. How will their rights be guaranteed and protected, and through what mechanisms?

Overcoming mutual distrust is crucial to solving these matters, but common rejection of Syria’s federalization provides hope that the opposing sides will find a way to work together to preserve the future of a united country.

Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy.



Obama’s Doctrine: Half-Friends?

By Turki Al-Dakhil

 13 April 2016

Notwithstanding his administration and his advisors, US President Barack Obama has not been convinced of real cooperation between the US and Gulf countries. From day one, he wanted a rapprochement with Iran. He had warmed up to the idea and was fascinated by it to the extent of addiction.

Obama considered the nuclear agreement which he sealed with Tehran as a historical achievement which will top the achievements of his presidential era. What’s certain is that although his era achieved some economic success, it did not achieve any political success.

Obama’s era marked miserable failures in the region, withdrawal from all of the US influential posts besides leaving the arena for terrorists from al-Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah and Iran’s proxies.

Obama’s recent interview with The Atlantic gave a glimpse of his political doctrine. The interview was clear and frank and exposed his real mindset during the two presidential terms, and which led the US to its lowest levels of popularity. The US failed on the Syrian front, Arab revolutions and almost on all political matters.

In The Atlantic interview, Obama said the Gulf region should be seen differently from Iran. He also implied that Saudi Arabia is among “free rider” countries who put many conditions. Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal responded to these comments with information that refutes Obama’s claims. He said that Saudi Arabia is not a “free rider” as it has efficiently contributed toward resolving the region’s crises and is the partner of major countries in terms of fighting terrorism.

Since the US-Gulf Camp David meeting, Gulf countries, primarily Saudi Arabia, have depended on themselves, fighting wars on their own and using their own diplomatic channels

It has also contributed to curbing the negative repercussions of Arab revolutions, spent billions of dollars from its budget to help the needy in Afghanistan for three decades and extinguished the flames of wars in several regions across the world.

“We offered boots on the ground to make that coalition more effective in eliminating the terrorists,” Turki al-Faisal wrote.

“We initiated the support – military, political and humanitarian – that is helping the Yemeni people reclaim their country from the murderous militia, the Houthis, who, with the support of the Iranian leadership, tried to occupy Yemen; without calling for American forces,” the prince said.

“We established a coalition of more than thirty Muslim countries to fight all shades of terrorism in the world. We are the biggest contributors to the humanitarian relief efforts to help refugees from Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Your secretaries of state and defence have often publicly praised the level of cooperation between our two countries. Your treasury department officials have publicly praised Saudi Arabia’s measures to curtail any financing that might reach terrorists,” he added.

'Thoughts On Obama Doctrine'

Commenting on Obama’s interview with The Atlantic, Daniel W. Drezner, a commentator in the Washington Post, wrote an op-ed entitled “Five thoughts on Obama Doctrine,” and summarized what surprised him most in the interview, and which are simply the following: “Obama does not respect America’s foreign policy community. Obama respects Arab Middle East leaders even less. There’s a little bit of Donald Trump in Barack Obama. Obama’s biggest foreign policy failure has been domestic in nature. The United States has clearly been a force for good in the world.”

Obama bragged that he backed down on attacking the Assad regime and also spoke about the importance of stopping that “political doctrine in the US State Department” that’s based on defending Saudi Arabia. He also considered that his war fleets only mobilize to suppress terrorism or defend Israel against any possible nuclear attack.

Obama wants to turn his back to historical relations with all their economic and political dimensions. Everyone noticed that ever since the US-Gulf Camp David meeting, Gulf countries, primarily Saudi Arabia, have depended on themselves, fighting wars on their own and used their own diplomatic channels, establishing alliances and deterring opponents.

The present US situation may be good for us as we’d continue to balance our political and security crises to protect our borders and our people’s well-being. Betting on the Eisenhower Doctrine which defends Saudi Arabia makes us more negligent.

The US “withdrawal” from this region, and its subsequent denial, is not the end of the world but actually the right beginning for Gulf countries to depend on themselves and distinguish between true friends and half-friends!

Turki Al-Dakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honours, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies.




Saudi-Turkey Ties: A New Perspective

By Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi

14 April 2016

Turkey laid out the red carpet for Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman on his official state visit, indicative of the importance talks between the two nations’ leaders had for peace, security and mutual economic benefit.

This precedes the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Istanbul and comes after King Salman’s crucial visit to Egypt, which resulted in the two old allies cementing political, military and trade tries.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia need each other to ensure stability across the region, reflecting the situation in the Gulf States. On the economic front, Ankara is looking for access to strategic markets, and to benefit from investments and tourism, not only from the Kingdom but also other regional economies.

From the Kingdom’s point of view, Turkey is a major power in the region that does not have neo-imperialist ambitions. Like Saudi Arabia, it is a country prioritizing the security of its own and other peoples, and seeking peace with everyone.

This common approach will make it easier for the two countries to formulate a workable joint political strategy. For example, it is already clear that Turkey is increasingly anxious and dissatisfied with Iran’s interference in Arab countries.

Many Turks believe Iran is the common denominator in the region’s problems. As part of King Salman’s delegation, this newspaper participated in discussions held in Istanbul at a Turkish think-tank, the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, where Turkish intellectuals expressed their concerns about Iran’s belligerence.

Muheddin Ataman, deputy general manager of the centre, said that it was vital for Turkey and Saudi Arabia to form a solid alliance that would counter Iran’s manoeuvres in the region, which he argued had escalated problems in Syria.

There is little doubt that Turkey has political and geographical importance, as expressed in its good relations with the United States and the European Union, and the membership of NATO, the European Council and the G-20.

Saudi Arabia, with its new foreign policy of building relations and partnerships with countries across the world, is putting aside disagreements in order to develop a solid relationship with Ankara.

There is somewhat of a divergence of views on Egypt, but there are many voices in the Turkish Parliament raising calls for a Riyadh-Cairo-Ankara axis. This is a realistic approach because it takes into account the diminishing role internationally of the United States, and the complications caused by Tehran’s attempt to exploit this situation.

Many people are betting that the decision to establish the Saudi-Turkish Coordination Council will have a positive outcome for mutual benefit, particularly after the success of the Egyptian-Saudi Coordination Council that was able to solve myriad problems and implement major projects in less than eight months.

Turkey has already been working with Riyadh by supporting Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen, and took part in the Saudi-led Islamic alliance against terrorism. It has also stated categorically that Iran has become more aggressive after signing a nuclear deal with the United States.

Khalil Ozcan, a Turkish parliamentarian and head of the Turkish-Saudi Association, who is also a graduate of King Saud university, said that Ankara sees the Kingdom as a trusted strategic partner, with which it has more in common than Iran. Turks also have a special place in their hearts for the Kingdom because it hosts Islam’s holiest sites, he said.

This attempt for more harmonious relations with Turkey is being made at the highest possible level. The royal visit sends a message to everyone that the Kingdom is seeking stability and peace based on a policy of openness, partnerships and the prioritization of economic benefits over politics.



Saudi Approach to Fight Extremism

By Sabria S. Jawhar

14 April 2016

This week Saudi Arabia is at the centre of two important conferences that focus on promoting peace and addressing the issue of religious extremism now plaguing most of the world.

The first event in Vienna, Austria, at the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue focuses on the misuse of religion to justify political violence and to create divisions between religious communities. The second event in Prague is sponsored by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). It addresses intercultural dialogue to create lasting stability and peace.

Don’t expect a lot of media coverage of either event because the topics don’t fit in the current theme among western governments and in the press. If anything, the western media is consistent in presenting one side of a very complex picture of geopolitics.

Muslims and non-Muslims alike are faced with an interesting dilemma in 2016: Promote peace and unity or demonize a specific religious and cultural group and create divisions. The latter is much easier to pursue than the former because it requires little effort other than to find a platform to deliver a message. Promoting peace is hard work and requires specific skills that today — as displayed daily in the Republican presidential primaries in the United States —is sadly lacking in political leaders.

Promoting peace is unfashionable, naive and dangerous if political pundits and conservative political party leaders are to be believed. Peace is seen as complacency, weakness and capitulation to terrorists. Peace is a concept that is abused by governments who pay lip service to it while closing the door on civil liberties. There’s an attitude that peace activists are part of the lunatic fringe.

The work of Palestinian peace activist Ali Abu Awwad or former US President Jimmy Carter is dismissed. They receive considerably less coverage than Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or Donald Trump who urge violence to solve global ills. Advocating war, using violent rhetoric and urging governments to marginalize ethnic and religious groups are mistaken for projecting strength when in reality such an approach increases the threat of terrorism and prolongs the wars in Syria and Iraq.

So from a western perspective what authority does a Saudi possess to speak about peace and the rejection of war? First, Saudis reject any suggestion that Saudi Arabia is the “exporter of terrorism.”

Saudi Arabia is a member of the international community and as such shares collective responsibility for the state of affairs today. The United States must step up and acknowledge that Daesh was born from the ashes of the Iraq war, perhaps the biggest military blunder in the last 100 years that served as a breeding ground for extremism. Europe should accept responsibility for marginalizing ethnic and religious minorities by practicing housing and employment discrimination.

Restrictions on building mosques and wearing the Hijab further marginalizes Muslims and fuels the bloodlust of Daesh.

We know the standard operating procedure of Saudi Arabia’s critics is to lay blame on “Wahhabi” Islam, a convenient explanation without really understanding what Wahhabi means or where it fits in Islamic history and Saudi culture. But let’s take a moment to explore the allegation that Saudi Arabia exports Wahhabi Islam that has led “to the creation of Daesh.”

Saudi Arabia does indeed export textbooks worldwide for the purposes of Dawah (preaching). Teaching materials focus on the strict word of God. Muhammad bin Abdul Al-Wahhab, who is given brief attention in Saudi textbooks, was influential in returning Muslims to the original teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the word of God and eliminating pagan rituals and the worship of false idols. No more, no less.

One of the problems in teaching Islam to impressionable young students is the lack of supervision, both on the local level and through organizations that perform Dawah, of Muslims unqualified to teach Islamic studies and to run madrassas.

What makes Saudi Arabia stand apart from most other nations that we balance the show of military strength to crush extremism with programs on interfaith dialogue through the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue and government support of the OIC. Certainly few western governments can lay claim that they have established government institutions created solely to promote peace.

But why would they? Military aggression is a good sell to the public. Peace centres are not.