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Middle East Press on OIC Initiative for Muslim Women Empowerment and Fight against Extremism in France: New Age Islam's Selection, 20 October 2020


By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

20 October 2020


• New OIC Initiative Aims To Empower Women in the Muslim World

By Maha Akeel

• Israeli-Arab Lawmakers Reject Normalization Deal with Emirates

By Afif Abu Much

• How France Can Boost Its Fight against Extremism

By Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib

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New OIC Initiative Aims To Empower Women in The Muslim World

By Maha Akeel

October 19, 2020

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is about to launch its own independent organization for women — a landmark achievement in its efforts to empower women in the Muslim world.

In August, OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen announced that the ratification quorum of the Statute of the OIC’s Women Development Organization (WDO) had been attained and thus entered into force, paving the way for this nascent specialized organization to start its activities and play a central role in promoting the OIC’s role in empowering women and advancing their status. This week, the first meeting of the WDO’s council will be held to discuss the structure and internal regulations.

The WDO was established by virtue of a resolution adopted by the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in 2009 as an international specialized organization based in Cairo. The statute of the organization was adopted in 2010. Since then, great efforts have been exerted by the OIC and Egypt, the host country of the WDO’s headquarters, to mobilize the ratification process, but world events during this period hampered the momentum. Nevertheless, the support and enthusiasm for establishing the organization was evident, as member states voiced the need for it in order to address common challenges in protecting and promoting women’s rights, which are recognized by Islam, and enhancing their cooperation and exchange of experiences toward advancing women’s status in society.

The WDO will work on developing the plans, programs and projects that are necessary to implement the policies, orientations and decisions of the OIC in the area of women’s development, welfare and empowerment in its member states. It is mandated to organize events, workshops, courses and training for capacity-building, as well as to carry out studies to enhance the role of women in society and ensure their full rights.

During an informal consultative ministerial meeting on women’s empowerment in the Muslim world, held last year in Cairo, the participants identified some of the topics the WDO will focus on once it commences its operations. Four main themes were highlighted: The role of women in combating extremism, women’s leadership and decision-making, protecting women against all forms of violence, and women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion.

Contemporary societies are facing a real challenge in combating extremism, and involving women in the measures and strategies developed at all stages is important. Terrorist organizations are increasingly interested in recruiting women for various reasons, and women are motivated or forced to join them for ideological, social, political or economic reasons. Since the reasons and motives are not the same, a single strategy cannot be applied in all countries, but rather the specificity of each region should be taken into account, as well as its political, social and cultural diversity.

On the other hand, there are some measures and policies on which all states concerned can agree on — in particular, the need to raise awareness about the existence of women’s terrorism and the possibility of women’s extremism, which may be comparable to or even more radical than that of men. In addition, there is a need to expand the circle of those concerned with countering extremism, especially women, by enabling them to play a proactive role in preventing and addressing the signs and indications that can appear in their children and social surroundings. There is also a need to involve women in the design, implementation and evaluation of all policies, laws, procedures, programs, plans, measures and researches pertaining to combating extremism and terrorism in all countries, whether Islamic or not.

On the issue of women in decision-making positions, although much progress has been achieved in the OIC member states on this front, more efforts are required to advance equal opportunities, promote gender justice, strengthen women’s role in national development, and engage the youth. The marginalization and discrimination of women, as well as the failure to integrate them into the decision-making process, constitute some of the main obstacles facing women, preventing them from having an effective role in the developmental process of their societies.

As for protecting women against violence, unfortunately women and girls continue to suffer from abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking, particularly in conflict zones and under occupation, as well as being subjected to harmful practices in some countries, such as child marriage, female genital mutilation and honor killing. Their suffering is mostly in silence due to societal pressures, economic conditions and a lack of access to protection and legal recourse or means of support. The role of religious leaders, judges and security personnel is important in these matters. With regards to economic empowerment, partnerships between the public sector, civil society organizations, the private sector, universities, research centers and the media are key to achieving women’s economic empowerment and involvement in the financial field.

Clearly, much is expected of this new OIC organization as it aims to address the challenges and obstacles facing women and help them reach their full potential in the Muslim world and live in dignity. The coronavirus disease crisis has compounded the social and economic burden on women and threatens to erode whatever gains had been made even in basic rights such as education. However, in order for this nascent organization to succeed in its objectives, it needs to be provided with the necessary resources, capacities and, most importantly, political will.

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Maha Akeel is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. Twitter: @MahaAkeel1

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1751186

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Israeli-Arab Lawmakers Reject Normalization Deal With Emirates

By Afif Abu Much

Oct 19, 2020

The Knesset approved Oct. 15 the normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with an overwhelming majority. In the final vote, 80 Knesset members voted in support of the agreement, 13 opposed it — all of them from the Arab Joint List — and 27 chose to absent themselves from the plenum. Now that the Knesset has approved the agreement, it will return to the Cabinet for its final approval. It will go into effect once the UAE ratifies it.

One thing that stuck out in the Knesset vote was the unanimous opposition to the agreement by all members of the Joint List who were present in the plenum. Chairman Ayman Odeh was absent due to his infection with the coronavirus, while Knesset member Jabar Asakla missed the vote because he was recovering from surgery. Nevertheless, the party’s public statements before the vote — linking their consent to progress on the Palestinian front — clarified well ahead that they were going to reject the deal. The irony is that their opposition happened just as Israeli-Arab soccer player Dia Saba made history by playing in the opening minutes of the game for Al-Nasr Dubai. Saba would never have been signed by the team were it not for the normalization agreement.

This raises an important question. Does the Joint List’s opposition to the normalization agreement with the Emirates really represent Arab attitudes toward it? The answer, I believe, is a resounding no.

Although the agreement put an end to Israeli plans to annex Palestinian territory and opened Al-Aqsa Mosque to all Muslims arriving via the UAE — something that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu avoids mentioning — I already noted in a previous article that opinions in the Arab public are divided on the issue. Some Israeli Arabs oppose normalization without first resolving the Palestinian issue out of fear that it will perpetuate the occupation and stop the creation of a Palestinian state in the foreseeable future. But there is also a significant number of Israeli Arabs who support the agreement, believing that it will afford them an opportunity to build bridges and establish ties with the Arab world, something that has been denied them until now because of their Israeli citizenship and passports.

In a conversation with Al-Monitor, Knesset member Sondos Saleh of the Joint List explained her opposition to the agreement. She told Al-Monitor, “We are part of the Palestinian people, so we will not support any agreement that would harm the Palestinians, even if it is called a ‘peace agreement.’ I’m here to stay. The Palestinians are here to stay. They aren’t afraid, and they haven’t given up, even after expulsions, oppression and years of violent occupation and military rule. One day the occupation will be over, and peace will come.”

Obviously, the Israeli right would not miss this chance to attack the Joint List for its opposition to the agreement. Likud Knesset member Sharren Haskel told them, “When you vote against [the agreement], you are voting against security and stability in the State of Israel, and against economic growth for Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens.”

Then there was the reaction by the Derech Eretz faction, made up of Knesset members Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel, who prevented after the last elections Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz from forming a minority government with the Joint List. They tweeted, “The members of the Joint List are not opposed to a peace agreement with the UAE. They are opposed to a peace agreement with Israel.”

Obviously, the attack from the government benches is hypocritical, and not really motivated by the desire to preserve and advance the agreement with the Emirates. In effect, it is all part of the political exploitation of the vote to attack any future partnership between the Joint List and the anti-Netanyahu camp. It is also part of a larger campaign to delegitimize the Arab vote. After all, in the distant past, more than a few Knesset members from the Likud and other Jewish parties voted against the peace agreement with Egypt, and three Knesset members from the defunct right-wing Moledet party even voted against the peace treaty with Jordan.

Why, then, is it so difficult for Israelis to accept the Joint List’s opposition to the normalization agreement?

Ambassador Daniel Carmon — who also served in Israel’s mission to the United Nations — is familiar with the Israeli-Arab diplomatic arena. Now retired, he is an astound supporter of the UAE agreement, and also of Israeli-Jewish cooperation in the Knesset. Carmon told Al-Monitor, “I was disappointed by the Joint List’s vote against this important agreement with the UAE. Their vote sends a political message that they oppose a process that is absolutely vital to all citizens of Israel, in that it brings Jewish and Arab societies closer together. I do not believe that their vote reflects the real state of mind in the Israeli-Arab street. It just furthers the argument that there is no chance for any political partnership with the Arab parties. Support for this agreement in no way means foregoing a solution to the Palestinian issue. Taken together with the agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and the enormous economic potential it entails, it frees us from the deadlock of the past — and that is a good thing.”

Along with the 13 no-votes from the Joint List, there were 27 Knesset members who were absent from the plenum at the time of the vote. The most prominent of these was former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. He boycotted the vote, claiming that the full scope of the agreement was not shared with the members of Knesset. Isn’t this a vote against the agreement? And if so, why is no one condemning or attacking them? Why is everyone reserving their anger for the Knesset members from the Joint List?

Knesset member Said al-Harumi from the Joint List told Al-Monitor, “There were 80 Knesset members who supported the agreement, 13 who opposed it and 27 who were absent. But the press doesn’t talk about the 27 who walked out before the vote, even if some of them had already addressed the plenum about it. They preferred not to support the agreement, and they expressed that by leaving, which is a form of taking a position."

Harumi also refers specifically to the vote of the Joint List. "It is worth remembering that the agreement presented to the Knesset was just an outline and not the real agreement with all of its addenda, which is being kept secret. Since what was released is an agreement based on President Donald Trump’s vision for the Middle East, and that vision is based on the 'deal of the century.' What it means is perpetuating Jerusalem’s status as the capital of Israel and continuing the occupation in those sites sacred to Muslims and Christians, along with the transfer of the Triangle. That is why we cannot support this agreement," he concluded.

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/10/israel-uae-us-palestinians-donald-trump-ayman-odeh-jerusalem.html

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How France Can Boost Its Fight against Extremism

By Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib

October 19, 2020

The gruesome murder of teacher Samuel Paty in Paris on Friday has contributed to the demonization of the Muslim community in France. Muslims inside and outside France have denounced the act. Tareq Oubrou, the imam of a Bordeaux mosque, told France Inter radio: “Every day that passes without incident we give thanks.” He added: “We are between hammer and anvil. It attacks the Republic, society, peace and the very essence of religion, which is about togetherness.”

Despite the condemnations by Muslim leaders and public figures, who realize how harmful such acts of terrorism are to the community at large, it is important to analyze what drives this behavior, which basically contributes to the stigmatizing and marginalization of Muslims.

Attacks like this one and the shootings at the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015 are the worst enemies of Muslim communities in the West. Right-wing politicians use them to stigmatize all Muslims, which puts them on the defensive, increases resentment at their presence and adds to their feelings of estrangement from society at large. The French system is particularly fertile ground for this dynamic because of the constitutional principle of “laicite” (secularism). This is why the hijab is banned in public schools.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that communities do not have rights. The French constitution gives the right to blaspheme, but at the same time it protects the right of individuals to practice their faith. In short, you can insult Islam but you cannot insult Muslims. In 2008, the famous French actress Brigitte Bardot was fined €15,000 ($17,650) for accusing the Muslim community of destroying the country and “imposing its acts.”

When I see the Muslim community in France struggling to get accepted in a hard-core secular society, I cannot help but think of the essay “Anti-Semite and Jew,” written by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and published in the late 1940s. In it, Sartre described the ordeals of the Jewish community in France. His conclusion was that Jews should not shy away from the system; rather they should be a part of it. Today, Jews are well integrated into French society without losing their identity.

Muslims are now on the same journey and experiencing the same struggles as they seek to reach a state of integration without assimilation. Muslims should have a strategy — they need to follow the advice of Sartre and use the system to claim their rights and garner acceptance. They need to contribute to public life and use the legal system to defend their right to practice their religion, as well as to compel others to respect them.

In the wake of Friday’s attack, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo retweeted a picture that showed a message from Lea, a six-year-old, which says that if you don’t like a drawing someone drew, you don’t kill him, you just draw a nicer one. This message, as simple as it sounds, carries a lot of wisdom. In fact, it is similar to the complex reflections of Sartre. Muslims need to draw a nice picture of Islam: A picture in a French frame.

The Muslim community needs a strategy to break the vicious cycle of discrimination creating resentment and isolation, which in turn creates a fertile ground for extremist ideology. The key to breaking this cycle is the feeling of belonging. Muslims in France should feel that they belong to the system because they are French and because they are accepted by the system as Muslim.

First and foremost, Muslim community leaders should work with the authorities to boost Muslim participation in public life. A 2018 study published in Foreign Affairs magazine provided evidence that feelings of national pride and belonging are fueled by political representation. The feeling of not being represented — or, worse, not being accepted — makes Muslim immigrants feel like they do not belong to the larger community. As research on group behavior suggests, such sentiments leave people reluctant to make any effort to be integrated. They will also tend to look for alternative sources of belonging, resulting in further group polarization. Resorting to extremism and rejecting their new society is one way to affirm an identity, and it is also an expression of revenge on an environment that is rejecting them.

Muslim participation in public life should go hand in hand with fighting Islamophobia. So there should be a collective effort by the Muslim community to fight Islamophobia using France’s legal framework, which denounces racism and discrimination. It should also look for allies in the wider French society and raise awareness that Islamophobia causes polarization, leading to extremism. Such an endeavor should not be portrayed as an exclusively Muslim project but as a French one that will ensure Muslims can enjoy their rights as French citizens, meaning they can enjoy liberty, equality and fraternity.

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Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib is a specialist in US-Arab relations with a focus on lobbying. She is the co-founder of the Research Center for Cooperation and Peace Building (RCCP), a Lebanese NGO focused on Track II. She is also an affiliated scholar with the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1751211

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