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Middle East Press ( 23 Nov 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Middle East Press On Muslim Brotherhood, Freedom Of Speech And Trump's Deep State Theory: New Age Islam's Selection, 23 November 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

23 November 2020

• Why The Muslim Brotherhood Does Not Represent Islam

By Heba Yosry

• Freedom Of Speech Does Not Mean Freedom To Hurt

By Jonathan Gornall

• UAE Leaving OPEC? A Storm In An Oil Barrel

By Frank Kane

• The Time Has Come For A Reckoning On US Immigrant Abuse

By Azadeh Shahshahani And Sarah Paoletti

• Trump's Deep State Theory Will No Longer Find Takers

By A Sreenivasa Reddy


Why The Muslim Brotherhood Does Not Represent Islam

By Heba Yosry

19 November 2020



As an Egyptian Muslim woman who lived under the Muslim Brotherhood, I have seen the damage done by the organization first-hand. Saudi Arabia’s Council of Senior Scholars recently issued a statement announcing that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization, an announcement that Egyptians welcomed.

Saudi Arabia’s declaration confirmed that the Brotherhood does not represent Islam and that its actions are not motivated by Islam. It is this leadership that will help our region become free from religious extremism and terrorism.

While Saudi Arabia officially designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization in 2014, as did the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom’s Council of Senior Scholars has now also branded the group as terrorists, saying they run “contrary to the guidance of our graceful religion, while taking religion as a mask to disguise its purposes in order to practice the opposite such as sedition, wreaking havoc, committing violence and terrorism.”

This statement comes at a time when European countries are still floundering, trying to find a proper strategy to uproot homegrown extremism.

Some voices will grow louder calling for the Brotherhood’s right to exist, for their members’ right to retain their ideology. Those voices, who believe that they are upholding the values of equality and human dignity, are wrong.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s ascent to power in Egypt shows the organization’s danger. The Brotherhood came to power in June 2012, but was removed by July 2013, following widespread protests against its rule.

During their reign, the Brotherhood tried to suppress Egyptian women. We shouldn’t be distracted by the botched economic strategies that they employed, their failure to provide reliable utilities or the embarrassment they caused Egypt in mishandling our foreign relations, or even the general victimhood narrative and underground mentality that they couldn’t transcend, even though they held the highest office in the country.

Beyond all these aspects of the Brotherhood’s time in power, their women’s rights record is abysmal.

When the Brotherhood ruled Egypt, women’s rights regressed in two main areas: legislative and sociocultural. The Brotherhood sought to decriminalize Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a practice that is outlawed in Egypt and various Muslim countries. They argued that the matter should be decided within the family unit. In one case, in Al Minya, an Egyptian village, the Brotherhood circulated flyers offering subsidized female circumcision procedures as part of their 2012 election campaign. The Brotherhood, however, denied they did this.

The Brotherhood proposed legislation to lower the age of legal marriage from 18 to 13, but some clerics in the movement proposed that girls should be able to be married at 9.

Under the Brotherhood, women and girls are viewed as the private property of the family, rather than their own agents, and the state shouldn’t interfere because her father knows best.

On the social front, the Muslim Brotherhood emphasized that women in the public sphere was inappropriate, saying they “naturally belong in the home.”

Accordingly, under the auspices of the Brotherhood a systematic and systemic campaign of sexual harassment, and sometimes rape, was launched against female activists who dared to show up in Cairo’s Tahrir square and defy their rule.

Female activists weren’t the only targets of systemic sexual violence. In 2013, sexual violence was prevalent throughout Egypt. A 2013 poll by Reuters showed that Egypt was the worst country for women in the Middle East due to the spike in sexual harassment, increase of FGM and overall decay of women’s rights.

The Muslim Brotherhood has abused Islam for too long with their slogan “Islam is the solution!” The statement made by the Council of Senior Scholars further dissociates and distances Islam from their “solutions.” This statement is a triumph for enlightenment, progress, equality and most importantly a triumph for Islam.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Saudi Arabia was recognized as the top reformer regarding women’s rights by the World Bank in 2019, and they have made steady progress over the last decade regarding women’s rights. Denouncing the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization entails a rejection of their entire world view, including their perception of women, and this statement from Saudi Arabia is perhaps a step toward emancipating women from the patriarchal views that are enshrined in religious dictums.


Freedom Of Speech Does Not Mean Freedom To Hurt

By Jonathan Gornall

November 21, 2020

Freedom of speech is a right that comes with responsibilities. Those who would exercise it should also consider the virtues of simple common decency and respect for others.

Fifteen years on, the consequences of the decision by a Danish newspaper to print blashemous caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) continue to reverberate around the world. Recently, diplomats from France and other countries were the targets of an explosive device that was detonated during Armistice Day commemorations at the non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Fortunately, nobody died, although there were some injuries. A security guard stabbed outside the French consulate in Jeddah in October also escaped with his life. Three people attacked on the same day in a church in Nice, France, were not so lucky, however. They were killed in a knife attack carried out by a 21-year-old Tunisian.

Their deaths are added to the toll of hundreds of lives lost since September 2005, when the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten decided the best way to open a debate about the integration of Muslims in society was to shock and insult Muslims everywhere. With breath-taking disingenuity, the newspaper later said the cartoons “were not intended to be offensive … but they have indisputably offended many Muslims, for which we apologise.”

That was the cue for the French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, to reprint the cartoons, an act condemned by French President Jacques Chirac as an “overt provocation.”

In September 2012, 50 people died in protests around the world following the release of a trailer for an anti-Islamic film called Innocence of Muslims. Charlie Hebdo responded by publishing yet more cartoons of the Prophet. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius remarked that the magazine was in danger of undermining the principle of freedom of expression. “Strong emotions have been awakened in many Muslim countries,” he added. “Is it really sensible or intelligent to pour oil on the fire?”

No one in their right mind could do other than condemn the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, in which 12 staff members were killed, or the series of coordinated attacks that followed in Paris that November, in which 130 people died, or the brutal murder last month of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded by an 18-year-old Muslim refugee for showing the controversial cartoons in a lesson about freedom of speech.

On the other hand, how is one to justify the persistent provocation offered by those who insist on reusing the cartoons even though they know how much they offend Muslims? What is the value to any individual or society of abusing the “right” to free speech solely in order to deliberately goad and offend others?

One does not have to be a Muslim to understand how deeply Muslims feel about such representations of the holy prophet, or how seeing those representations recycled again and again serves as a constant reminder that Muslims and their faith are regarded as “other” in supposedly tolerant Western societies. So why would anybody – especially a teacher with a duty to create an atmosphere of inclusivity – consider it acceptable to continue to parade the cartoons that have already distressed so many and cost so many lives?

The justification offered by apologists from editors to presidents is that those who peddle the drawings are fearless champions of free speech, standing up to those seeking to silence their voices. Printing the cartoons – so goes the argument – strikes a vital blow in a battle between ideologies. But this is just dangerous nonsense that plays into the agendas of those who wish to win votes by peddling the “them and us” fiction of a great struggle for control between Islam and the secular nations of the West.

Those who respond to the cartoons with violence are not representatives of Islam, but disturbed, dispossessed individuals. The vast majority of Muslims simply shrug in sorrow at the evidence that they and their beliefs are disrespected. But in the West, the act of printing the cartoons and offending millions of Muslims around the world is framed as a courageous defense of the right of freedom of speech – the right to say whatever you like about anything or anyone, if you so choose.

This is dishonest. For one thing, in countries such as France and Denmark, free speech requires no such defense. It is perfectly safe – it cannot be “challenged” by outside forces, imaginary or otherwise.

And besides, there is no such thing as true freedom of speech, even in the most progressive of societies. Say the wrong thing about the wrong person, organisation or religion, and you might find yourself being punched on the nose, sued for libel or charged with hate speech. Depending on your target, that is. Offend the followers of Islam and one is a champion of free speech, celebrated and honoured.

In September, Charlie Hebdo republished the cartoons yet again, to mark the start of the trial of 14 suspects accused of complicity in the 2015 attack on the magazine and the murder of four hostages in a kosher grocery store in Paris. The editor-in-chief said doing so “seemed essential to us. All the reasons that could be opposed to us relate only to political or journalistic cowardice.”

But is it cowardly to refrain from offending the deeply held beliefs of fellow citizens, any more than it is an act of courage to mock them?

Freedom of speech is a right that comes with responsibilities. Those who would exercise it should also consider the virtues of simple common decency and respect for others. A society that tolerates contempt for and the abuse of the fundamental beliefs of any of its citizens is not only disrespectful of their basic rights, but also demonstrates that it does not regard all of its members as equal.


Jonathan Gornall is a British journalist, formerly with The Times, who has lived and worked in the Middle East and is now based in the UK.


UAE Leaving OPEC? A Storm In An Oil Barrel

By Frank Kane

November 23, 2020

The oil world was abuzz at the end of last week on speculation that the UAE might be on the verge of pulling out of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

It was an entertaining sideshow to the heavyweight meetings of the OPEC+ ministerial committee that monitors output and compliance earlier in the week, but ultimately seems likely to amount to little more than a storm in an oil barrel.

Reports that Abu Dhabi was considering withdrawal from OPEC, of which it was a founding member, were based on unattributed briefings from anonymous officials, but were reported by reputable media organizations, so you have to assume there was something substantial behind the lurid headlines of disputes, escalations and tensions.

According to the reports, withdrawal from OPEC was one of a series of scenarios being considered by the UAE as the organization pondered whether to press ahead with supply increases in January, as it committed to do in the historic April cuts agreement credited with getting the global oil market out of the biggest hole in its history.

The theory was that the UAE was becoming tired of having its supply constrained by the OPEC deal. As one of the lowest-cost producers in OPEC, it had a better chance of maximizing its revenue and satisfying strategic national interests outside the deal.

No time frame was mentioned, and — it should be stressed — withdrawal was only one possibility under consideration, and certainly not a done deal.

There was circumstantial evidence to back up the theory. Over the summer, the UAE had missed complying with its OPEC+ limits, saying it had to increase production largely to meet domestic demand, and mildly ticked off the OPEC+ hierarchy for doing so.

In response, the UAE reaffirmed its commitments to the OPEC+ deal, and pledged to compensate for the overproduction. UAE Minister of Energy Suhail Al-Mazrouei appeared in Riyadh alongside Saudi counterpart Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Salman, who is also co-chairman of the ministerial committee, in a demonstration of OPEC+ unity.

After the stories of a UAE withdrawal appeared, Al-Mazrouei again pledged UAE allegiance to OPEC, emphasizing its role as a “reliable and long-standing member” which had always been “open and transparent” in its deal with OPEC — therefore unlikely to be organizing a backdoor exit.

Some energy experts labeled the reports as exaggerated, even untrue, but that is to ignore the plain fact that somebody in a senior position within the UAE energy infrastructure was talking to journalists about the possibility of a UAE withdrawal, even at a very hypothetical level.

Other oil analysts thought that it was “unthinkable” that the UAE would leave OPEC, pointing out that to do so would cause great harm to the organization and, by extension, the global energy markets upon which the UAE depends, along with all other members of OPEC+.

These calmer voices also produced what they regarded as irrefutable proof that the UAE would remain committed to OPEC: The oil markets themselves apparently did not believe talk of a UAE withdrawal, judging by the sharp jump in crude prices in the days after the speculation surfaced.

Brent crude was trading back above $45 a barrel at the end of last week, despite the stories about OPEC’s demise and the bigger-than-expected supply from Libya. The traders do not appear to believe there is anything as cataclysmic as an OPEC breakup in the offing.

It is true that OPEC+ faces a critical few weeks. Whether or not to increase supply from January is a crucial decision that will determine the health or otherwise of oil markets as they move into recovery mode in 2021 on the back of COVID-19 vaccines and a resulting economic rebound.

But it seems very unlikely that the energy policymakers of Saudi Arabia and Russia, the two leading forces within the OPEC+ alliance, will also have to deal with any imminent threat to the organization’s unity from the UAE.


Frank Kane is an award-winning business journalist based in Dubai.


The Time Has Come For A Reckoning On US Immigrant Abuse

By Azadeh Shahshahani And Sarah Paoletti

22 Nov 2020

In mid-September, several organisations including Project South filed a complaint with the inspector-general of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS OIG) about medical abuse immigrants were facing at the Irwin County Detention Center in the US state of Georgia. It provided shocking details of medical malpractice including a high number of invasive gynaecological procedures with dubious consent procedures, in some cases leading to sterilisation. The complaint was based in part on revelations by Dawn Wooten, a whistleblower nurse employed at the centre.

According to media reports, at least 57 women have come forward with complaints of forced and harmful gynaecological procedures endured at the hands of the doctor contracted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to provide medical care and some have faced retaliation by the authorities for speaking up. The medical abuse at the detention centre has once again brought to light the need for the international community to investigate the practices of the DHS and its agency, ICE.

Several weeks after the complaint was filed, on October 23, House Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley sent a letter to the United Nations, calling for a thorough, impartial and transparent investigation by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) into the numerous, persistent and grave violations committed with impunity by DHS against immigrants detained in its custody.

Shortly after, several civil society organisations, including Project South, submitted a communication to the OHCHR Special Procedures Office with the relevant mandates, also requesting an investigation. The document also calls on the UN to urge the US government to take all necessary measures to end the abuse, and to provide full redress and reparations to those who have suffered in ICE custody at the Irwin County Detention Center, and immigrant detention centres across the country.

The different mandate holders will make decisions about what follow-up is necessary. They may issue a statement of concern urging an end to abusive practices within immigrant detention, protection and redress for those women who have come forward; request an invitation from the US to conduct a site visit to allow for an independent investigation and consultations with affected parties, other stakeholders, and US government representatives; and can ultimately issue a formal communication of their findings and recommendations, including urging an end to immigrant detention except in extremely limited circumstances and only as a matter of last resort, consistent with international law.

A statement or communication from the UN Human Rights mechanisms can then form the basis of advocacy within the US, especially with the incoming Biden administration and within the international community, including countries whose nationals have been directly harmed.

These formal requests submitted to the UN are a recognition of the failure of all three branches of the US government to bring an end to a history of abuse within immigrant detention. This is not just a failure of the Trump administration, but of successive administrations which have continued to pursue immigration policies that violate basic human rights and dignity and enrich private prison corporations.

Violations carried out by ICE officials have persisted and so has abuse in private detention centres. ICE has continued and expanded contracts with such institutions. including LaSalle Corrections, which operates the Irwin County Detention Center. Last year, ICE’s own inspector general issued a report detailing various violations by detention centres, including the inadequate provision of food and medical services.

Human rights organisations have also found evidence of various forms of abuse, including deprivations of the right to freedom of religion; medical neglect with fatal consequences; unsanitary and inhumane conditions of detention; forcible separation of children from their parents; deaths of immigrants at the hands of US Customs and Border Patrol; and retaliation against whistleblowers and others seeking redress for abuses in detention.

For years, immigrants at the centre and human rights advocates have been calling for recognition of their right to dignity and to be treated humanely, but with little success.

Having witnessed for a long time the refusal of the US authorities to hold themselves accountable for these grave abuses, we, as legal experts, have worked together in pursuit of accountability through international institutions.

In May 2018, Project South and the Penn Law Transnational Legal Clinic sent a letter to the OHCHR, which detailed numerous violations suffered by immigrants detained at both Irwin and Stewart, including the rampant use of solitary confinement as a form of punishment and control; forced labour and exploitation of immigrants’ labour; alarmingly inadequate, neglectful and negligent medical care, as well as the provision of unsanitary food and water; a disregard for immigrants’ cultural and religious beliefs and race-based discrimination; denial of due process; and interference in the right to family life.

In October 2018, 11 separate independent human rights monitoring bodies operating under the auspices of the OHCHR sent a formal communication to the US government expressing grave concern over reported rights abuses committed against individuals held in immigration detention at the Irwin County Detention Center and the Stewart Detention Center, also in Georgia and run by the for-profit corporation, CoreCivic.

In the two years since we sent this letter, we have repeatedly called upon the US government to end these abuses, yet instead, they have persisted. Between October 2018 and now, 30 immigrants are reported to have died in immigrant custody, four of whom were detained at Stewart.

The time has come for DHS and ICE to have their reckoning. The international community must respond by leading an independent, thorough and transparent investigation that ultimately results in accountability and redress for the untold number of immigrants and their family members who have suffered at the hands of ICE and the contractors profiting from their detention and abuse.


Azadeh Shahshahani is Legal and Advocacy Director with Project South and a past President of the National Lawyers Guild.

Sarah Paoletti is a Practice Professor of Law and the founding Director of the Transnational Legal Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.


Trump's Deep State Theory Will No Longer Find Takers

By A Sreenivasa Reddy

November 21, 2020

Is it right to raise the phantom of deep state whenever you find yourself on a weak wicket?

Deep state as a concept has become a popular jargon to describe a variety of situations. The present usage appears to vary greatly from the original one used in Turkey some decades ago.

What is deep state? It refers to a set of well-entrenched people and interests who ultimately call the shots in a system irrespective of who appears to be ruling. They are the invisible people who wield the actual power. Any policy or action that may threaten their authority or interests will be sabotaged through covert and sometimes overt actions.

Why has it become popular in the Trump era? The unconventional Republican President saw himself as an insurgent leader. He viewed the American political system as an enemy against which he needs to wage a war. When the realtor-cum-reality show star was campaigning for his first term, he declared he would drain the swamp in Washington.

Trump saw the intelligence and administrative establishment as a hurdle to his grand designs. He saw them as a sort of deep state elite who will spare no effort to stymie his plans to shake up the system. His public spats with intelligence community and national security establishment during his four years of rule are well known. He saw some well-entrenched interests working against his bid to repair ties with Russia. The whole Robert Mueller investigation into his campaign’s Russia links was viewed as part of the grand plan of the deep state.

Trump saw himself as a successful leader as he weathered many a storm created by the privileged establishment, including the long-winding and rancorous impeachment proceedings. He survived the four long years without appearing to give into the demands of his opponents. He kept a connect with his base and worked up their baser emotions in the run-up to the elections. But his opponents and their supporters proved to be too big in number and too smart this time to let him run away with an outright win.

His core group of supporters remain charged up until this day even after their leader’s defeat is conclusively established. They are waiting for a word from their leader. As many commentators rightly said, Trumpism will survive as a political ideology even after his defeat. Already there are reports his supporters are egging on him to have another shot at presidency in 2024. That may well turn out to be true. During the next four years of Joe Biden’s presidency, Trump will present himself as a leader of resistance to keep his support base intact and ready for the next battle.

So it pays to be a leader resisting the machinations of deep state actors. But who is Trump fighting for? He said America first is the corner stone of his philosophy. Who are the identifiable group whom he is trying to cultivate? It is certain the objective of his politics has always been to cultivate a constituency of White conservative rural voters.

But is it right to raise the phantom of deep state whenever you find yourself on a weak wicket? The American system is based on a system of checks and balances. They are designed to curb the arbitrary exercise of authority and ensure transparency in decision making. You have to play by the rules. You cannot make the system a scapegoat when it limits your authority and makes you accountable. But Trump would have none of it.

In Turkey, the term deep state was originally used to describe a close-knit group of military officials, businessmen and civil servants who were out to jealously safeguard the secular character of the country forged by its founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. But now the term deep state is being used to describe any clique that is keen to maintain its hegemony over a system through any means — both legitimate and illegitimate.

In the UAE, in office settings, there are loose networks who appear to maintain some dominance. It could be Indians or Pakistanis or Malayalis who forge close ties among themselves and maintain control over their organisations. Such groups may scuttle the plans of any new leader who threatens their hegemony. We have a sort of deep state present in most of these situations.

In my home states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in India, there has been an allegation that power stays with a select group of caste elites. Reddy, Kamma, Kapu, Velema and Raju castes play a determining role in decision-making no matter which party is in power. The same set of caste elites have been ruling the states continuously and will thwart the plans of any insurgent leader who might be keen to upset these long-established power equations. These elites can be described as a sort of deep state who will do whatever it takes to stop any revolutionary transformation.

So deep state has varied hues and is used rather loosely to describe the well-entrenched status quoist elites. But Trump’s complaints against the system often appear to be self-serving. He is cultivating a radical fringe constituency consumed by hostility to coloured people. Former president Barack Obama rightly said it is a cynical game played by the incumbent president to help himself politically. But there might come a situation when Trump may find it difficult to get off the tiger he is riding without being eaten by it.



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