New Age Islam Edit Bureau
25 January 2016
English or Leave’ Policy Can Tear Families Apart
By Yara Al-Wazir
Crisis: a Priority, Not an Afterthought
Whither The Middle
East after the Iran Nuclear Deal
Spring Is Coming To Egypt
By Dr Mohamad
Compiled By New
Age Islam Edit Bureau
Britain’s ‘Learn English or Leave’
Policy Can Tear Families Apart
24 January 2016
Earlier this week, David Cameron announced
his latest policy toward immigrants. The policy, which comes into effect in
October 2016, requires all those arriving on a spousal resettlement visa to the
UK to sit an English-language exam 30 months upon their arrival. Should they
fail the test, they will not be guaranteed the right to stay in the UK.
In interviews that followed the
announcement, Cameron focussed on why this policy is needed for Muslim women,
as if the policy was designed and created due to a problem they have caused. He
also focussed on how this policy would counter radicalisation and terrorism.
Cameron’s biggest shortfall is his
continued attempts to make headlines with ludicrous buzzwords that end up
stigmatizing the Muslim community in the UK. This has been exacerbated by poor
attempts to justify the policy, claiming that if one cannot speak English, they
will “have challenges understanding what your identity is and therefore you
could be more susceptible to the extremist message”.
Tearing Families Apart
What David Cameron is missing is the impact
this policy would have on children and their families. If a child’s mother was
taken away because her English was not up to Cameron’s standards, the child is
left with one single parent to take care of them and guide them.
Considering that entering the country on a
spousal visa requires an income of £38,000 it means that the hosting spouse
must be in the top 20 percent of earners in the UK and therefore likely to work
long hours. Under these circumstances, the child is likely to barely have a
What David Cameron is missing is the impact
this policy would have on children and their families
With a parent taken away, children caught
in these circumstances might start to resent the government for this situation.
It will be even more difficult for a child who is bilingual because their
mother speaks broken English and is forced to converse in her mother tongue.
And what about a child who is not exposed to a motherly figure at all? Indeed
this policy has the potential to tear families apart.
Moreover, the removal of a parent from
their family for failing a language test can be considered a breach of the
Human Rights Act of 2010. Article 8 of this Act protects the right to private
and family life. It can be argued that the removal of a parent is damaging to
the children’s wellbeing.
While David Cameron addressed the impact of
understanding the local language and its relevance to cultural integration, it
is disappointing that, since 2011, he continues to use associate language
proficiency with extremism.
It is indeed true that language is key to
integration into the community; it builds bridges of understanding and
therefore allows individuals to enter the marketplace, thus contributing to the
economy and to greater economic well-being.
Could Britain’s growing labour force be the
real reason behind Cameron’s new policy? May be, but his obsession with making
the fight against terror seem like the be-all and end-all of his policies is
toxic and a misrepresentation of what really matters.
Evidence supporting the importance of
language integration and cultural assimilation exists when it comes to positive
influence on the economy and cultural cohesion. This is what the prime minister
should have lead with. There is no evidence linking a lack of English-language
understanding with radicalization.
English for All
Although Cameron’s efforts to launch a £20
million program to teach Muslim women English is commendable, one must question
why this fund is applied to Muslim women specifically. This is noteworthy
considering Cameron government’s withdrawal of funding for English for Speakers
of Other Languages (ESOL) fund in July 2015.
The message David Cameron is sending out is
vague – does the government want immigrants to learn English and integrate, or
does it want to continue to create policies that make immigrating to the UK
more and more difficult, all the while using buzzwords that stigmatize the
Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green
Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories.
Syria’s Humanitarian Crisis: a Priority,
Not an Afterthought
By Brooklyn Middleton
Days ago, the United Nations Children’s
Fund (UNICEF) released a statement urging all parties involved to make renewed
efforts to end the Syrian conflict and alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis
in the war-ravaged country. Signed by at least 120 humanitarian organizations,
the appeal called for several steps to be taken that would immediately address
the suffering “in the name of our shared humanity.”
There is not one sentence in the statement
that shouldn’t be immediately heeded by the barbaric Assad regime and its
backers as well as all rebel groups. The statement comes as the conflict nears
entering into its sixth year. According to Mercy Corps, half of the country’s
pre-war population has been killed or forced to flee their homes. European
states have tightened their borders while Arab states need to do far more to
tackle the crisis.
Reports suggest the Geneva talks have
already been derailed by Russia attempting to dictate who should attend
Over the last 72 hours, reports of at least
45 refugees – including 17 children – drowning to death in the Aegean Sea
emerged while dozens of civilians were killed by Russian strikes in eastern
Syria. As scores of refugees continue to die while trying to flee by boat and
children are getting killed, who will enforce the basic humanitarian norms the
world continues to call for in Syria?
Reports suggest the upcoming peace talks in
Geneva have already been derailed by Russia attempting to dictate who should
attend. It is worth noting that Moscow – which serves only to prop up the Assad
regime and secure its rule – should have no influence over which parties should
join upcoming negotiations and which should be barred from doing so.
Meanwhile, 48 hours before the talks were
set to begin, the Syrian opposition rightly pointed to the absurdity of
expecting negotiations to start, yet again, while massacres continue and
previous agreements are being ignored. But if the latest round of talks does
take place in the immediate term, they absolutely must focus on the concerns
outlined in the UNICEF appeal. It is all but certain that the talks will fail
to bring forth any long-term solution to the conflict at this stage.
The U.S. and U.N. representatives should
reset the agenda during the negotiations and prioritize immediately to focus on
ending the suffering. The four demands presented by UNICEF – that call for
humanitarian organizations to be able to operate freely in all areas of need as
well as for monitored ceasefires – should serve as an outline for broader
“There is no practical reason they could
not be implemented if there is the will to do so,” UNICEF noted. The upcoming
talks should seek to demonstrate this will and should focus on how to best
implement the objectives the organization has outlined. It remains to be seen
whether the talks will even take place on Monday in Geneva and, critically,
whether or not the most important parties will attend.
Irrespective of whether they take place or
not, previously adopted resolutions – including 2254 – should start to get
enforced. Possible long term solutions to the conflict can only be discussed
and implemented once these past agreements start to be honoured.
Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently
based in New York City. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama’s
policy in Syria as well as Bashar al-Assad’s continued crimes against his own
people. She recently finished her MA thesis on Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence
on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, completing her Master’s degree
in Middle Eastern Studies.
Whither The Middle East after the Iran
By Hisham Melhem
Those of us wordsmiths writing, thinking ,
wondering and obsessing about things Middle Eastern have a new phrase to
ponder; ‘Implementation day’. On January 16, 2016 you could hear many people
saying: rejoice, the day we have been waiting for is upon us, while others
denounced it as a day that shall live in infamy. After the International Atomic
Energy Agency or IAEA certified that Iran had delivered on its initial
commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the United
States and the P5+1 and the IAEA announced that the implementation of the
nuclear deal with Iran has begun on January 16, 2016.
In return for Iran’s dismantlement of more
than two-third of the centrifuges it once used to enrich uranium, shipping 98
percent of its low-enriched uranium stockpile to Russia and rendering its heavy
water reactor at Arak obsolete after removing its reactor and pouring concrete
into it, ‘implementation day’ also triggered the suspension of a complex web of
nuclear related sanctions the U.S. the European Union and the United Nations
have imposed on Iran in recent years. The nuclear accord will allow Iran, inter
alia, to retrieve at least $60 billion of its frozen assets and to return to
the international oil market as a major producer. The nuclear deal is not open
ended and does not eliminate Iran’s ability in the future to become a nuclear
power, but if it is fully implemented it will severely restrict Iran’s ability
to produce a nuclear device in the next 10 to 15 years.
The nuclear deal does not signal the
emergence of Iran as the undisputed regional hegemon, for Iran lacks the
economic and military requisites for such status. However, it signals the
recognition of the United States and the other major powers of Iran’s rising
importance as a state and a regional power with clout and interests that cannot
be ignored or easily intimidated. What began as secret negotiations between the
United States and Iran then developed into open and multilateral negotiations,
remained restricted to the nuclear domain. And while American and Iranian
officials did informally discuss other issues on the sidelines of the official
talks, the U.S. and its allies, in a major concession to Iran did not seek to
link the nuclear talks to Iran’s blatant interventions in the internal affairs
of its neighbours, or for that matter, Iran’s blatant violations of the
fundamental rights of its own citizens. For all of President Obama’s claims
about supporting the struggles of the peoples of the Middle East for dignity,
and political empowerment, his administration repeatedly failed Arabs and
Iranians when they demanded these rights.
The Day After
The nuclear deal may have been a victory
for those Iranian ‘bridge-builders’, as analyst Karim Sadjadpour of the
Carnegie Endowment For International Peace calls them, ‘people like President
Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif that want to build bridges with the West,
with the United States,’ at the expense of ‘the saboteurs within the Revolutionary
Guards,’ who don’t have much popular support, but yield much ‘coercive power’,
but it remains a limited victory and not a panacea. The saboteurs and Iran’s
supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made it clear by actions and words that
the day after ‘implementation day’ of the nuclear deal does not signal a new
beginning with the United States.
Even if Iran uses a tiny portion of its
released frozen assets after ‘implementation day,’ it will be enough to sustain
the financial burdens of the operations of the Quds force and Hezbollah in
Missile tests were conducted in violation
of U.N. resolutions, and American sailors who accidentally entered Iranian
waters were publicly humiliated before they were freed. Recently, the Guardian
Council, supposedly the body of the stern custodians of the purity of the
revolution which is tasked with vetting candidates for next month's
parliamentary elections decimated the hopes of the ‘bridge builders’ by
disqualifying thousands of reformers. Finally, as if to extinguish any hope of
a détente with the U.S. Ayatollah Khamenei warned Iranian President Rouhani to
guard against American ‘deceptions’. To be sure, Iran has a large modern, war
weary and mostly youthful constituency for re-integrating Iran in a globalized
world, and ushering in a new beginning with the United States; but this
constituency of peace is not about to forcefully challenge the hardliners and
the ‘saboteurs’ who crushed the ideals of Iran’s Green Revolution in 2009.
Most states in the Middle East opposed
Iran’s nuclear program, most vociferously Israel, the only country in the
region with advanced nuclear weapons and delivery systems. A nuclear Iran would
enhance its deterrence against Israel, while maintaining a significantly armed
Hezbollah close to Israel’s borders. But for most of Iran’s Arab neighbors, the
immediate threat is not a potential nuclear arsenal that could be used against
them, but Iran’s considerable mastery of the art of conducting proxy wars to
spread its regional clout, and its growing ability to influence and exploits
the marginalized Shiite communities in Arab societies in its struggles with
Arab governments. It goes without saying that those Arab governments that
continue to alienate their Shiite populations end up pushing them deeper into
The day after the ‘implementation day’, is
essentially the beginning of President Obama’s last year in office, which is
likely to be the year of living more dangerously than in previous years for the
whole region. The nuclear deal with Iran, will renew the pre-existing real and
imagined fears among America’s allies that the Obama administration has begun
the long process of normalizing relations with an ascendant Iran, at a time
when the U.S. is doing enough to keep the faltering Iraqi state from
collapsing, and enough to ‘manage’ but not stop the wars in Syria, and Libya
while kicking the hot cans down the road to the next president. Those
Cassandras forecasting gloom and doom in 2016 and beyond can only point out to
the collapsing prices of oil to buttress their dark prophesies of the great
unwinding of the region.
Iraq, the Times of the Scavengers
The crashing oil prices, the mounting cost
of the war against the Islamic State (ISIS), continued conflict with the
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over oil revenues, and widespread
corruption will combine to create an economic perfect storm in Iraq this year,
even though the country is producing more than 4 million barrels of oil a day.
Politically and militarily the picture is grimmer. Turkey has informed the
United States that it will not withdraw its military forces from Northern Iraq,
a deployment ostensibly to fight ISIS is in fact designed to check potential
greater Iranian encroachment into the Mosul region an area that was for
centuries part of the Ottoman Empire. Northern Iraq is being treated by the
claimants of the Ottoman and Persian Empires as a buffer zone under the nominal
suzerainty of a weak authority in Baghdad.
Both Turkey and the KRG see Baghdad
drifting further and further into Iran’s universe. Turkish, Kurdish and Gulf
Arab officials believe that those who control whatever leavers of power left in
Iraqi hands are the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), or al-Hashd al-Sha’abi,
the Shiite paramilitary formations established in June 2014 to fight ISIS
following its occupation of Mosul. While these units are nominally an integral
part of the Iraqi security forces (ISF) joint command in Baghdad, they are
answerable to Iraqi groups beholden to Iran, and ultimately controlled by the
Quds Force, a branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a division
tasked with external military and clandestine operations, and led by the
ubiquitous General Qasem Soleimani.
The assessment of American diplomats and
senior military officers in Baghdad and Erbil, regarding Iran’s grip on Iraq,
is not that far from the assessment of the weary neighbours, according to
recent visitors to Iraq. That gloomy American assessment of Iraq’s future from
the heart of Baghdad is not reflected in the more upbeat and deceptive
assessments one hears from officials in Washington in charge of what goes for
U.S. policy in Iraq.
Ramadi as a Metaphor for Iraq
For all the talk about liberating Mosul
from ISIS following the military campaign to oust ISIS from Ramadi, no serious
analyst of Iraq expects that battle any time soon, and probably not this year,
which means that Obama will leave Washington while Iraq’s second largest city
which fell into the pretend Caliph al-Baghdadi’s hand on his watch, will remain
in that twilight zone they call the Islamic Caliphate, with the Kurdish North
under the control of the KRG, and Western Iraq under the beleaguered Sunni
tribes, and a ‘central’ government with a weak writ over the Shiite lands
stretching from Baghdad to Basra in the south. Long after Obama departs the
White House and forgets his eloquent speeches about Iraq and the rest of the
Middle East the scavengers of ISIS and the PMUs will continue to feed on Iraq’s
U.S. officials concede now that the battle
for Ramadi was from planning to execution a wholly American controlled and
directed operation. The battle’s outcome, which led to the ultimate destruction
of the city, highlights America’s dilemma in trying to get regular Iraqi army
ground units that include Sunni Arabs to fight and coordinate effectively with
U.S. advisors and air power against ISIS controlled cities without relying
heavily on the PMUs. In fact there were credible press reports that elements of
the PMUs, the same elements that slaughtered Sunni civilians after routing ISIS
fighters from cities like Tikrit, were involved in the fierce fighting at
Ramadi. The liberated Ramadi is uninhabitable; it is estimated that rebuilding
the city will cost $10 billion. To paraphrase that infamous quote from the
Vietnam War; it became necessary to destroy Ramadi in order to save it.
Syria, the Perfect Storm Is Upon Us
The methodical killing of the Syrian state
and society mostly at the hands of the Assad regime, before it was joined by
ISIS and other radical Islamists, could not have been done so thoroughly and
systematically without Iran’s active and direct involvement along with its
sectarian Shiite proxies, particularly the Lebanese Hezbollah and other lesser
known Shiite militias and non-Arab Shiite ‘volunteers’. With each phase of what
American officials call the Syrian Peace Process, Iran and its proxies have deepened
their grip on Syria. Long before Russia’s recent military intervention, it was
Iran and its Shiite Lebanese Janissaries that saved the Assad regime from
Even if Iran uses a tiny portion of its
released frozen assets after ‘implementation day’ it will be enough to sustain
the financial burdens of the operations of the Quds force and Hezbollah in
Syria. Russia’s military intervention has so far widened the Syrian war, and
made its resolution the more difficult, but Iran was and is the outside force
with the most at stake in Syria, and the ultimate arbiter when it comes to the
future of the Syrian despot Assad. Short of a fundamental shift in Iran’s
policy towards Syria, and to a lesser extent that of Russia (such as dumping
Assad and accepting a transition towards a more inclusive form of governance
acceptable to most opposition groups outside ISIS and al-Nusra Front) the war
will continue, no matter what happens at the peace fora at comfortable European
hotels. And short of an equally fundamental shift in the policy of the United
States towards ISIS (such as adopting a unified strategy to defeat the
Caliphate in both Syria and Iraq, through the deployment of more U.S. special
forces and limited ground units working with allied special forces moving up
the Euphrates valley to retake Raqqa in Syria, as a prelude to routing ISIS
from Mosul) ISIS will remain capable of bleeding Syria beyond the Obama years.
While the physical destruction visited on
Syrian cities and infrastructures is immense – a testimony to the efficient
brutality of the Syrian regime and its allies, including Russia- the
pulverization of Syrian society, the murder of Syria’s best and brightest, the
transformation of more than 4 million Syrians into refugees and double that number
into internal exile is the real calamity that befell Syria in the last five
years. Bridges, roads and schools can be rebuilt, but is it possible to rebuild
the social and cultural bonds among Syria’s once rich and largely welcoming
mosaic of religious and ethnic communities? Can the beasts of sectarianism and
demonization be tamed any time soon, especially in the absence of a potential
clear victor that will not exact retribution from the vanquished?
With Iran in a better position to support
its Syrian satrapy centered on Damascus and the coastal region, the Syria we
have known for most of the last century will continue to disintegrate into
warring regions and factions. The perfect storm is upon us in Syria. Unless
ISIS is defeated, and unless Iran’s ability to wreak havoc in Syria, Iraq and
Lebanon is checked, the unravelling of the Levant and Mesopotamia will
continue, but its reverberations will not be limited to a broken Middle East,
and in the era of globalized sacred terror no one can be immune.
Hisham Melhem is a columnist and analyst for Al Arabiya News Channel in
Washington, DC. Melhem has interviewed many American and international public
figures, including Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Secretaries of
State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, among others. He is
also the correspondent for Annahar, the leading Lebanese daily. For four years
he hosted "Across the Ocean," a weekly current affairs program on
U.S.-Arab relations for Al Arabiya.
Another Arab Spring Is Coming To Egypt
By Dr Mohamad Elmasry
24 Jan 2016
Egypt's January 25, 2011 uprising is
history, and - depending on how upcoming five-year anniversary protests play
out - so may be the uprising's aspirations for "bread, freedom, and social
Following the February 2011 ousting of
dictator Hosni Mubarak, Egypt entered into a promising - albeit tenuous and
difficult - democratic transition. Although the old political order maintained
its essential character, several democratic elections and referendums, a new
constitution, and unprecedented political inclusion and participation
threatened Egypt's 60-year military dictatorship. The June 2012 election of a
civilian president - the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi - was a significant
But Egypt's most deeply entrenched state
institutions - the military, police, judiciary, and media - were never onboard
with the 2011 uprising. Each institution worked to derail the democratic
transition, aided at times by clumsy transitional governance by the Muslim
Brotherhood, the group that swept Egypt's 2011-2012 election season, and an
arguably anti-democratic liberal opposition.
Upfront - Arena: Is Egypt Better Off
On July 3, 2013 - and with the support of
large anti-Morsi protests - the Egyptian military, led by Defense Minister
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, carried out a military coup, arresting Morsi and assuming
formal control of the state. Roughly one year after the coup, Sisi was elected
president in a sham election.
Now five years removed from a democratic
uprising, Egypt finds itself once again mired in authoritarianism. Perhaps
remarkably, the state has managed to control public discontent enough to
prevent the kind of mass protests that could put Sisi at risk.
How has Sisi managed to re-solidify an
authoritarian order? How has he managed to subdue a motivated citizenry that
has, in the past, appeared willing to die for freedom? Finally, how long will
he be able to survive amid growing discontent?
Sisi has governed Egypt with a proverbial
iron fist, intimidating, jailing and killing dissenters and manufacturing
loyalty through fear. The police, military, judiciary and media have all played
Egypt's security forces, embarrassed during
the country's 2011 uprising, seem to have taken one important lesson from their
experiences - that the force they employed to protect Mubarak wasn't enough.
Following the 2013 coup, security forces
arrested more than 40,000 people and committed several mass killings, killing
more than 2,500 people in all.
The violence seems to have worked - fear
has reduced the size and frequency of anti-coup protests. Even when protests
have been launched, security forces have set up security walls to prevent
dissenters from gathering in large squares, and the government has effectively
banned television coverage of marches. These measures ensure that a spectacle -
the kind that galvanised the opposition in 2011 - doesn't take place.
The state has also used forced
disappearance and torture as methods of intimidation. Amnesty International
says torture has been "rampant" since the coup, while more than 300
cases of forced disappearance were documented over a recent two-month period.
Rather than investigate police and military
abuses, the state has appeased both entities. Sisi has given multiple pay
raises to military and police officers; erected a statue honouring police at
Cairo's Rabaa Square, the site of the largest police-perpetrated massacre; and
awarded the military a multi-billion dollar business contract.
The state has also unleashed a fierce
hyper-nationalist propaganda campaign that frames police and military as
victims, heroes and protectors.
Egypt has also passed dozens of draconian
laws, including a law that criminalises protests. A new rubber-stamps
parliament has already pledged loyalty to Sisi and the judiciary has aided Sisi
at nearly every step. Judges have issued several mass death sentences,
including one sentence against 529 people for the alleged killing of a single
Upcoming Anniversary Protests
Sisi has successfully crushed dissent in
the short-term, but it is doubtful that his brand of governance can completely
subdue opposition in the long-term.
Harsh brands of authoritarianism tend to
give rise to violent resistance. Perhaps unsurprisingly, terrorist attacks have
increased dramatically in the Sisi era and Egypt is now an ISIL recruiting
There are signs that Egyptians are growing
increasingly discontent. Although the state projects the president as
universally popular, polls show Morsi's popularity on par with Sisi's, and that
about half of Egyptians disapprove of the 2013 military takeover.
Sisi's government is clearly concerned
about upcoming protests planned for January 25. An Egyptian security official
told Reuters that the government has "taken several measures to ensure
activists don't have breathing space and are unable to gather".
The government has recently arrested
several dozen Facebook page administrators for allegedly "inciting
protests", and sent directives to religious leaders to deliver sermons
about patriotism and security. The security forces have also raided random
homes to check Facebook accounts for signs of dissent.
Sisi is likely safe for now, but for how
long? History and political science both suggest that another uprising is a
matter of when, not if.
Mohamad Elmasry is an assistant professor in the Department of
Communications at the University of North Alabama.
Mishandling Of Syrian Crisis
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Any refugee living on only $13 a month, as
is the case for many Syrians in Lebanon, would want to immigrate to Europe,
former UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband said at the World Economic Forum in
He added that the solution to the Syrian
refugee crisis was not to increase aid to refugees, but to find a permanent
solution to help them go back home. The price of this tragedy is greater than
money — whole societies and political systems are involved.
Unless massacres are stopped, millions of
Syrians will keep looking for safe havens.
They are escaping murder, hunger and cold.
Lives are suspended in inhuman refugee camps.
This will not be solved soon because some
politicians have concocted a solution satisfying Iran and Russia in Vienna and
The enormous sums spent on security and
care of Syrian refugees worldwide could have been saved if the international
community had intervened against the Syrian regime in the last five bloody
Every time we criticize the international
community’s inaction, some think we are calling for western troops in Syria,
but our sole demand has been to let Syrians buy defensive weapons to counter
The international community has rejected
military intervention and the provision of such weapons. With such a weak
stand, it is normal that the crisis expanded regionally and even into Europe,
which is separated from Syria only by Turkey.
Millions of Syrians are scattered across
the region and beyond, and millions more displaced inside their country. The
mishandling of the Syrian tragedy led to the rise of Daesh. There is currently
no hope for a political solution despite all the talk of diplomacy.