New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Saudi crown prince is a force
for moderation, unlike Tehran
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
The New York attack shows
America still has no idea how to fight home-grown extremism
Haras Rafiq And Muna Adil
On sexual harassment we men
need to be clear: the problem is not women, it’s us
Rescuing society from the
hijacking of enlightenment
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran
The wrong question of when will
a ‘Muslim Luther’ come
Has ‘Sahwa’ ended in Saudi
Arms and empowerment: Why
Canada’s feminism falls short
Israel beats the drums of war
Publicising the plight of
Compiled by New Age Islam Edit
Demise of ISIS, new Syrian
constitution and future proxy wars
By Shehab Al-Makahleh
light of the fact that ISIS will be wiped out by the end of 2017 in Syria and
Iraq – as confirmed by Vladimir Shamanov, former Russian Airborne Force
commander and Chairman of the State Duma’s defense committee – the Middle East
will enter a critical phase as it will come under international attention,
which will have a huge impact on contemporary international politics and the
existing global order.
and Russia have been holding secret talks regarding the future of Syria since
2015 over the question of the dispensation in that country during the
transitional phase – questions relating to the country’s president, the
governing body as well as other matters.
Draft constitution for Syria
seems to be an agreement that the president and transitional governing body
shall exercise executive authority on behalf of the people, but in line with a
constitutional framework. As for the president, he may have one or more vice
presidents and may delegate some of his powers to them. This draft will be
proposed at the Geneva Conference to be held by the end of November.
the transitional governing body, it shall be the supreme authority in the
country during the transitional phase. It comprises of 30 members: 10 appointed
by the government, 10 from independent individuals named by the UN secretary
general and 10 by the opposition.
chairman will be elected from among the independent members by simple majority.
This explains why officials from the European Union, Russia and the United
States recently visited Damascus.
to US sources, the most important provision of the new constitution would be
Article 49 (1): “The President of the Syrian Republic shall be elected for
seven calendar years by Syrian citizens in general after free and integral elections.
The president might be re-elected only for another term”.
sources added that as per the draft constitution: “No person has the right to
run for presidency in Syria unless he is 40 years of age and has Syrian
citizenship. This means that the phrases which reads ‘the candidate is of
Syrian parents by birth’ or ‘is not married to a non-Syrian’,” have been
goes in line with what former US ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford stressed in
an article published at the Foreign Affairs that the “Syrian civil war has
entered a new phase. President Bashar al-Assad’s government has consolidated
its grip on western half of the country, and in the east.
now, hopes of getting rid of Assad or securing a reformed government are
far-fetched fantasies, and so support for anti-government factions should be
off the table. The Syrian government is determined to take back the entire
country and will probably succeed in doing so.”
Geostrategic and pivotal states
ISIS was given one last chance to leave central Syria before the Syrian Army
closed the 5 kilometer gap between Al-Raqqa and Homs governorates last month.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Syrian government forces,
supported by the Russian Air Force, had liberated over 90 percent of the
question is what comes after the end of ISIS in Syria and Iraq? It is known
that major political trends in the Middle East emerge because of conflicts by
geopolitical pivots against regional powers known as “geostrategic players”.
book The Grand Chessboard, Zbigniew Brzezinski stated, “Geopolitical pivots are
the states whose importance is derived not from their power and motivation but
rather from their sensitive location… which in some cases gives them a special
role in either defining access to important areas or in denying resources to a
words of Paul Kennedy these states have a “location that determines the fate
and future of the territory and the stability of the world”.
the concept points to the inevitability of conflict in the Middle East between
players representing geostrategic states, “countries that aspire to hegemony
and power” having a nationalist orientation, ideological outlook, religious
message or economic objectives aimed at gaining regional control or global
of these states in the region are also called pivotal states as they become
“major regional powers with pivotal geographies", with keys to access and
authority in the region. Such conflicts are prone to drawn in a heterogeneous
mix of players.
other words, countries that represent such geostrategic players aspire to
change the geopolitical situation without entering conflicts to the extent that
it improves their strategic position and enables them to gain bargaining chips
in the region to secure their multifarious goals and ambitions through the use
of political, economic, military and soft power.
leads to the phenomenon of proxy wars such as in Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon, in
North Africa and in south of the Arabian Peninsula — as any prospective
economic and political power cannot achieve its goals without having full
control of the Bab Al Mandeb Strait, which is not just a strategic chokepoint
between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean but also a gateway to Africa
which is rich in natural resources.
read: Russians have mastered how to wage war in the 21st Century
changes are triggered by random political events such as military coups, mass
protests, continuous wars, economic crises and the weakening of central
government control. Often pivotal or key regional players refuse to follow the
diktats of big players.
other words, ‘geostrategic’ states emerge from the crucible of the global
system, which is controlled by the world’s major powers such as the United
States and Russia as well as pivotal states in the region. Such regional powers
are motivated by thoughts of protecting and securing their own national
interests and security concerns, thereby refusing to give a carte blanche to
major world powers.
the policies and agendas of various players are thwarted through the
intervention of countries of the region in the affairs of the other by means of
various soft or hard power options. These options include military and
intelligence interventions, the export of revolutions, economic warfare and
fomenting chaos aimed at influencing areas close to the rivals borders.
Shehab Al-Makahleh is Director of Geostrategic
Media Center, senior media and political analyst in the Middle East, adviser to
many international consultancies. He can be reached at: @shehabmakahleh and
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
week, Iran’s state-owned media hailed the regime for supposedly being a
constructive player in the region and creating hope for the younger generation.
Tehran claims that President Hassan Rouhani, with the blessing of Supreme
Leader Ali Khamenei — who has long seen himself as leader of the Muslim world —
is the force of moderation in the Middle East and North Africa.
aside this self-promotional praise, a nuanced examination of Iran’s economic,
political, religious and social landscapes reveals no sign that the regime is
promoting moderation or fighting terrorism in the region.
significant portion of Iran’s budget and revenues is spent on the Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its elite branch, the Quds Force, to
support violent militias and proxies, and to export and advance the ruling
mullahs’ revolutionary ideals.
sectarian agenda in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen has dashed young
people’s hopes for stability and prosperity. Its relentless pursuit of regional
hegemony has radicalized and militarized more people, hence intensifying
world has yet to see an Iranian leader engaged in humanitarian and
philanthropic initiatives that seek to help ordinary people, create jobs, fight
terrorism and promote peace, stability, the rule of law and justice in the
region. The Middle East is not devoid of people who genuinely seek a peaceful
environment for everyone to prosper. One individual from whom every Iranian
leader should learn is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“has moved quickly to revolutionize his country’s economy in ways that offer
tantalizing hints at even broader reforms,” wrote the New York Times. He
introduced Vision 2030, a powerful platform to create more jobs for the younger
generation and free the country from oil dependence.
Tehran maintains a closed economy with an iron fist in order to monopolize
Iran’s wealth, Prince Mohammed is pursuing initiatives to diversity and
privatize the Saudi economy in order to benefit more people. As part of Vision
2030, he recently offered 5-10 percent of some Saudi companies, including oil
giant Aramco, for foreign ownership. To facilitate growth and investment, he is
in favor of granting green cards to non-Saudis.
Kingdom is planning a $500-billion business and industrial zone that extends
into Jordan and Egypt. This project has a lot of potential when it comes to
attracting foreign visitors, and creating more social and cultural dialogue
between the West and the Middle East.
Mohammed has established and spearheaded a modern, comprehensive counterterror
strategy, including the establishment of the Digital Extremism Observatory,
which monitors and detects online activities by terrorist groups, and a
military coalition of 40 Muslim countries.
also been instrumental in promoting human rights. The Prince Mohammed bin
Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation (MiSK) was a crucial partner in the 9th UNESCO
Youth Forum for Change in 2015.
is trying to empower youths and create more job opportunities for them. The
crown prince is also known to be a driving force behind promoting women’s
rights, and is planning to build the Kingdom’s largest cultural and
entertainment city. There are no such initiatives by Tehran. Prince Mohammed is
a role model in terms of fighting terrorism and creating a modern region based
on moderate Islamic values.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated
Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US
foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American
Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
Give expats a chance to serve
By Dr. Monira Al-Mahasheer Al-Yaum
Kingdom’s population is 31 million, of which 20 million are Saudis and 11
million are non-Saudis. Expatriate residents make up one-third of the
population. This is an indicator that has developmental, economic and social
last dialogue session held by the National Dialogue Center in the Eastern
Province, I argued that there is a relationship between the increasing number of
expatriate residents and high rates of crime and begging, especially among the
thousands of expatriates who are unemployed.
crimes are committed by non-Saudis against Saudis and non-Saudis alike,
something that jeopardizes our national security. Moreover, a number of
expatriates are linked to Al-Qaeda and Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) and
recruit young Saudi men to join terrorist groups. There are expatriate
residents in all terrorists groups that have been disrupted in the Kingdom.
Kingdom needs Arab and non-Arab expatriate workers and we need to consider
giving residents who have served the country for 25 years special advantages.
These people include those who are academics, engineers, doctors, etc. On the
other hand, there are expatriate workers who pose a danger to our national
security and burden our educational and health budgets. They have a negative
impact on the living conditions of Saudis and the development process in
the expatriate residents who serve our country, we should utilize their
expertise and give them a chance to help develop community service programs and
contribute to the program’s overall development. We have a large number of
expatriate residents who can provide valuable community services.
By Haras Rafiq And Muna Adil
must learn from Britain how to stop extremist narratives before they mutate
terror attack in New York City, the most significant incident in the city since
9/11, has brought US counter-terrorism strategy into sharp focus.
operational elements of the attack – the vehicle hire, the fake weapons, and
the overall crude nature of the plot – is strikingly similar to the low-tech,
high-impact terrorist attacks we have seen numerous times in Europe and the UK.
Isil and Al-Qaeda have for several months now encouraged their ideological
followers to carry out terror attacks in cities that are accessible to them,
with tools that are readily available.
new brand of crude terrorism, which has seen a shift from sophisticated plans
and the use of explosives towards more simplistic designs and a renewed focus
on soft targets, is especially dangerous because it is increasingly...
By Jonathan Freedland
much rubbish has been spoken by so many men about sexual harassment that it’s
hard to nominate a winner. But a strong contender in a crowded field is surely
Rick Perry, the US energy secretary who, when running for president, famously
forgot which government department he wanted to close (it was, naturally, the
department of energy).
contribution to the debate now raging on both sides of the Atlantic –
kickstarted by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein and which has now taken
down several media bigwigs, along with Kevin Spacey and Michael Fallon – was to
suggest the answer to sexual assault might be … fossil fuels. Perry’s logic was
that electricity in African villages can give “light that shines the
righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts”. It seems a street lamp
powered by a renewable source would lack a similar degree of virtue.
remarks are unlikely to find much of an echo. Louder, and more dispiriting, has
been the chorus of voices, not all of them male, whose first reaction to the
revelations of abuse, humiliation and assault by powerful men has been to
decide that there is a series of tough questions that need to be answered – by
Weinstein it was: why didn’t these women speak out earlier? Why did Hillary
Clinton accept donations from this monster? (A question that was scarcely put
to Barack Obama, even though he took twice as much money from Weinstein.) What
were these women doing in a man’s hotel room anyway?
Britain, the Westminster accusations have prompted a set of questions that have
also been put to women rather than men. Why didn’t you stand up for yourself?
If you were so offended, why did you stay in contact with the guilty man? Are
you really such a delicate soul that a fleeting hand on the knee can hurt you
textbook illustration came in the treatment handed out to Kate Maltby, the Conservative
writer who described an encounter with Damian Green. She was subsequently
shredded across a double-page spread of the Daily Mail that branded her “One
very pushy lady”.
hard to think of another scandal where the finger has been pointed so swiftly
at the victims rather than the perpetrators. That’s partly thanks to the
prominence given to those women who would rather upbraid their sisters than
support them: witness Edwina Currie asking Harriet Harman if women were “so
weak, so useless” that they couldn’t tell a lecherous man to push off.
it’s also been aided by the meagre contributions men have so far made to this
conversation, many of them choosing to say nothing. It’s added to the sense
that this is a women’s problem rather than one confronting us all – and one for
which men, as the main offenders, have an obvious responsibility.
men have spoken out, their input has too often collapsed into the self-pitying
complaint that all is now confusion, that today’s cheerfully innocent man has
no idea how to behave as he is forced to pick his way through a dizzying hall
of mirrors constructed by feminism and political correctness.
nothing wrong with admitting uncertainty – and I suspect most of us have been
interrogating our own past or present conduct in the workplace, wondering if
we’ve been getting it wrong. We all need to make that effort, and to make it in
good faith. What’s grating, though, is when an apparent claim of disorientation
is, in fact, a disguised complaint that women’s objections to harassment are
stopping men having the office fun they used to regard as their right.
in truth, this isn’t all that complicated. Hopefully the extreme cases – of
rape, of coercion, of an explicit threat of consequences if sexual favours are
withheld – are clear to most men already. As for the supposedly grey areas,
Ruth Davidson helpfully distilled the key point. “It isn’t actually about sex,”
she said. “It’s about power, it is always about power.” For if one person is in
a position of authority over another, even the smallest gesture can acquire a
new and different meaning. Men need only think of their own working
relationships with other men to realise that they already understand this
deeply. The merest glance from a boss towards one colleague rather than another
can be read by the office Kremlinologists as a sign of preference and favour. I
recall the editor who with the tiniest arch of his eyebrow – I do not
exaggerate – could signal a change in policy that would percolate through the
this context, it’s obvious that a touch of a woman’s knee from a man with power
means something different than it would from a peer. We humans are capable of
sophisticated communication by the subtlest of means. When a senior male
politician makes such a move towards a young female journalist or sends a
florid text message, it is hardly a stretch to read that as a signal of
interest – and if it comes during, say, a conversation about careers, a promise
of advancement if the implied offer is accepted. And of negative consequences
if it is declined.
that can be true of a fleeting touch, it can also be true of a compliment or a
joke that, if served up by a friend might be fine, but if delivered by someone
with more power can be unsettling. I suspect some men have held back from this
conversation for fear that they either have or will get it wrong. No man can be
entirely immune from that fear.
own part, I received a crash course in all this in Washington during the 1990s,
where I spent five formative years. The city was shaken by a series of sexual
harassment scandals that yielded two valuable lessons. One was that an
atmosphere of casual sexism might constitute a “hostile working environment”
even when it did not involve a specific word or gesture directed at a specific
woman. Another was that “consent” loses much of its meaning when one person
holds power over another.
like to say I internalised those lessons through the pure nobility of abstract
principle. Maybe that was part of it; but just as strong was the urge not to be
the office jerk. The guy who would ambush female colleagues from behind, giving
them an unwanted shoulder massage, was an embarrassment. No one wanted to be
anything good might come from these last, bruising few weeks it is, perhaps,
that those lessons are being taught anew. Because if one thing is screamingly
obvious here, it’s that men need to say to women that, when it comes to sexual
harassment, the problem is not you – it’s us.
• Jonathan Freedland is a Guardian columnist
By Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran
last three decades proved to be quite difficult for the Saudi people. To begin
with, a wave of radicalism struck the Islamic world after Khomeini’s revolution
cast its dark shadow over all aspects of life. There was a surge in sentiments
of hostilities and retribution, along with the desire to be contrite and to
repent for one’s sins.
this time, the average household was targeted by a barrage of proselytizing
tapes and brochures. People stopped taking photographs, and even listening to a
song on the radio started rousing feelings of guilt.
things that brought joy were being denied, except for what the preachers
approved of. It seemed that the whole society had been taken hostage, as the
indoctrination swept through all spheres of life.
and evil became concepts for the radicals to determine. Life as we knew it
completely changed. A few intellectuals and writers challenged these new
concepts through literature — books, novels and newspapers. They led a
resistance against the new armies of hatred. As a result, they were cast away,
vilified and some eliminated.
Prince a blessing
is a great Hadith attributed to the Pious Caliphs Umar and Uthman (may Allah be
pleased with them) that says: “A person is more keen to respect the laws issued
by the ruler than the laws stated in the Quran.”
saying has been proven right throughout history. The most powerful methods of
change in the history of societies come when rulers believe in a mission for
their people, and establish systems and legal foundations to guard it. God has
destined Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to put an end to this hijacking of
last three decades will not continue in the years ahead. The Prince has
reiterated this point in many interviews, most notably in his NEOM statement.
Prince Mohammed has vowed to destroy extremism immediately because that page
has been turned. The symbols of obscurantism, the advocates of hatred and
leaders of gloom and doom have to retire.
they formulate new ideas, bring about intellectual transformations, and
initiate revisions that make them part of the ‘normal life’ as described by the
Emir, their time is up. Heraclitus had said, “No man ever steps into the same
river twice”, and so life is in constant state of flux.
important speech in this respect was made by Turki Al-Sheikh, an advisor to the
Royal Court and head of the Saudi Sports Authority. At a press conference
called for allowing the entry of players’ families in the sporting arena, he
stressed: “The King and Crown Prince are strict in eradicating the religiously
prohibited as well as in preserving the permissible. This idea is now clear.”
the radicals end-time theories became a popular theme in their tapes and
brochures of indoctrination. Their aim was to develop in people a herd-like
mentality, who need not enjoy any delights of this world.
The Juhayman precedent
the important factors that facilitated this way of thinking was the Juhayman
uprising of November 20, 1979. While it is true that the organization was
struck down by the Saudi forces, its sympathizers were not completely
eradicated, unlike the Battle of Sabilla led by King Abdulaziz on March 30,
absence of a strong political will to rip the movement from its roots, some of
its ideas continued to spread, spawning new followers. The mistake was
augmented when preachers of this ideology were given freedom.
the exception of the events of 1994, when extremists were arrested and
imprisoned, there was no real official effort toward addressing the issue and
from taking action against the preachers.
Theories on permissibility
most potent weapon in the arsenal of the radicals has been their imposition of
restrictions even on the permissible. Although, things that are forbidden by
religion are authenticated by clear evidence. Most of the prohibitions that
these radicals tried to introduce in society are permissible in Islam.
the Qur'anic verse explicitly states: “Who can forbid Allah’s favors which He
has produced for His servants, along with the joys of livelihood?” This war was
conducted with the aid of cassettes, pamphlets and sermons in order to target
the sensitive conscience of society, by creating its many doubts. They made
society believe that the punishment of God can be avoided only by following the
preacher and obeying the teachings of the ‘Sheikh’.
we are today living in a different situation. Things have returned to normal
and all the decisions taken by Saudi Arabia — such as sanctifying the
permissible again — marks the beginning of change.
we must be mindful of the 30 years of strife and destruction that society
experienced as part of its history. The comprehensive development plan through
which society is changing has involved the sectors of economy, sports, media
fact, entertainment is a human right and not a luxury, even if some might
contest this. It is not a time of awakening (Sahwa), nor is it the time of the
Muslim Brotherhood. It is the time for development and the victory of human
Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher
who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in
pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs
on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.
By Mamdouh AlMuhaini
always wonder how Europe and America reached this level of rationality and
religious tolerance. Dozens of religions, sects and beliefs peacefully co-exist
there. There are open debates about religions and their history in universities
across Paris, London and New York.
libraries are full of books and magazines about philosophy, psychology and
anthropology, which study the phases of human development since thousands of
Luther, a German priest born more than 500 years ago, is one of those who
contributed to the West’s prosperity and progress. His ideas, which changed the
face of Europe and the entire world forever, are being recalled these days.
the story of this man, who became a monk after a lightning bolt struck near
him, is important as it benefits our world which is suffering from exhausting
and ravaging intolerance and hatred.
Luther did three major things. The first thing is that he rejected the idea
that salvation must be via tormenting oneself because of sins. Luther himself
suffered from psychological pain and was obsessed with purifying himself from
his sins. This is why at some point he made confessions for six continuous
hours as he feared the dark fate that awaits him.
thoroughly reading the Bible, he realized that this exhausting concept is not
true. He replaced it with a simple yet important idea and this salvation is a
blessing that God grants his followers. God blesses people and has mercy on
them without having them exhaust themselves and purge themselves from imagined
idea liberated souls from the heavy feeling of continuous guilt and it changed
the gloomy perspective towards life. It directly linked man to God without
mediators and translators. Life’s dark and bleak horizon thus became bright.
People began to think about life and how to enjoy it instead of thinking about
death and hell.
is where the strict Protestant work values emerged from. People who think about
death and torture cannot be busy with work and innovation. So what’s the use of
all this if fate will be tragic?
second important thing he has done was translate the Bible from Latin, which
only expert clergymen read, to German. At the time, this was a revolutionary
step that allowed people to read the Bible for the first time without needing a
mediator or an interpreter. The clergy’s power decreased since then and began
to gradually collapse until it completely disappeared.
third thing he did was to challenge the Roman Catholic Church when he nailed
the Ninety-five Theses on the door of a church in Wittenberg. He nailed them to
object to the church’s corruption which he witnessed when he visited Rome years
earlier as he saw how the church enjoyed glamor while people around it were
poor, sick and in need.
luck, his objections quickly spread thanks to the invention of the typewriter
by Gutenberg. The typewriter is like Facebook and Twitter going by today’s
standards. His ideas quickly spread and gained followers and supporters, and
they later became the base of the Protestant sect, which we know today and
which rejected Rome’s tutelage. This was on October 31, 1517. This is when
Christianity split forever.
most angry protests were over the Roman Catholic Church’s act of selling
indulgences to make money. The church sent priests and missionaries across
Europe to collect money in exchange of reducing the pain of the sinful at the
purgatory, the state where pain and punishment are according to Catholics.
Luther challenged this idea and said salvation is not granted by humans but
only by God and for free.
is how the concept of religious reform developed. The relation with God does
not need mediators. Man can read and interpret religious texts alone without
the help of a corrupt and extremist category of priests. God alone grants mercy
and blessing without tormenting people or asking for money.
later, religious wars between the original sect and the defected sect erupted.
The most famous war was that which lasted for 30 years from 1618 until 1648.
Luther’s ideas did not die out but they prospered.
ideas based on them emerged and he himself rejected some of them as he thought
they were more liberated than they should. It is also due to his ideas that
social revolutions erupted. An example is the Peasants’ Revolt in 1524, which
came as an angry reaction to bad livelihood conditions. The revolt, however,
was crushed after more than 100,000 peasants were killed.
was a charismatic, brave, energetic and controversial character. These personal
characteristics also played a role in his historical religious and ideological
revolution. This shows that personal traits play a huge role in major
reform marked the beginning of the European renaissance and the beginning of
ending religious intolerance. It was followed by significant ideological eras
like enlightenment and modernity. Many people and several reasons led to this
American and European renaissance, which dazzles us today. There is no doubt
that Luther is one of its heroes.
when it comes to our side of the world, there are these questions: “Where is
the Muslim Luther? When will a Muslim version of Luther come?” These are wrong
history and our present are full of Muslim and non-Muslim scholars, thinkers
and philosophers who provided rational and spiritual interpretations of Islam.
These interpretations protect Islam’s pure essence and links it to today’s
world. They remove all forms of intolerance. There are dozens and perhaps
hundreds of Muslim “Luthers.”
al-Ma’mun’s era, translations flourished and rational thinking and philosophy
were popular. Debates were officially organized between people belonging to
different faiths and beliefs. It is due to this intellectual freedom and
cultural openness that translations and sciences developed and esteemed
philosophers like Tawhidi, Miskawayh, Al-Ma’arri, Brethren of Purity and
know that this enlightening spirit has extinguished and the golden era has
ended. We entered a phase of intellectual bankruptcy at the same time as Europe
began to exit its Middle Ages. This is when Europe launched scientific,
industrial, intellectual and technological revolutions, which have helped it
dominate the world until today.
the question of where is the Muslim Luther is wrong. The right question would
be where is the second Frederick of Prussia, known as the enlightened despot,
who embraced philosophers like Kant and Voltaire and allowed them freedom of
thinking until their ideas spread and defeated fanatics following bitter
where is the second Catherine who did the same when she embraced philosophy and
rationality and contributed toward spreading them? Without their protection and
support, we would probably never heard of such thinkers or of Luther before
scientific and intellectual renaissance cannot flourish in this vacuum. It
flourishes through enlightening leaders and politicians who believe in the
future and who protect renaissance until it solidifies rationality, tolerance
and modernity and shatters extremist thinking once and for all.
Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al
Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter
By Mashari Althaydi
noticed “early” celebrations for the end of the era of Sahwa, i.e.awakening, in
Arab Muslim countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia. Sahwa is a Saudi term
that refers to all political Islam movements whose major umbrella is of course
the Muslim Brotherhood.
feeling that the chapter of “Sahwa” has ended once and for all has been growing
ever since the Saudi crown prince, the leader of the new national vision, made
his famous promise to destroy extremists “now and immediately.”
sense that “Sahwa” has come to an end is also due to the decrease of that media
popularity and semi-social immunity which Sahwa’s stars enjoyed.
of these Sahwa “celebrities” are Salman al-Ouda and Awad Al-Qarni in Saudi
Arabia, Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al-Banna outside the Saudi kingdom, Kuwaiti
activists such as Ahmad al-Qattan, Mohammed al-Awdi and Tareq Al-Suwaidan and
those affiliated with him. These stars’ media popularity has actually been
decreasing over the past few years.
Memories and memoirs
conclude from all this is that Sahwa, its stars, principles, concepts and
causes, have died. They have been buried and all that is left of them are
memories and memoirs which only a specific category of researches are
the domination which Sahwa preachers, whether from the Brotherhood or the
Sururist Movement, and their supporters from the public, imposed. By the way,
the term “public” here applies to some graduates from American and French
universities as it is rather used to describe a state of mind rather than a
Sahwa preachers - whether Saudior non-Saudi - in newspapers was very difficult
particularly in the 1980’s and during a part of the 1990’s.
Brotherhood’s works were celebrated at some point. For example, the books of
Zainab al-Ghazali and Ahmad Raef about the Brotherhood’s tragic battles with
Abdelnasser, occupied front shelves in libraries. Mohammed Qutb’s books were
part of school libraries and curricula. Sayyid Qutb was distinguished to the
point that a school was named after him in Qassim.
Brotherhood lost part of this appreciation when they betrayed Saudi Arabia
after Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait. The former crown prince and later
interior minister Nayef bin Abdulaziz bitterly spoke about the Brotherhood’s
betrayal and began to gradually eliminate the group’s concepts from the
situation became even clearer due to the Brotherhood’s practices during the
Arab Spring. It turned out there’s no difference between a Brotherhood member
who is holding a weapon and a Brotherhood member who wears a tie. They’re all
worrying now is relying on this “temporary” Sahwist Brotherhood defeat and not
constantly and comprehensively working to clear minds and spirits that are
interacting with these fundamentalists’ legacy.
at the beginning of the task. Yes, we should be hopeful but it’s not time to
Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al
Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has
previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia &
Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published
several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He
appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the
ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.
By Rafia Zakaria
am definitely here to push my feminist agenda," Canadian Minister for
International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau declared to a journalist at the
World Bank meetings held in Washington, DC at the end of October. Bibeau was
talking about Canada's much-touted and widely feted "feminist
international assistance" policy. Announced earlier this year, the policy
has been described by Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland as "a
matter of basic justice and basic economics". Under its stipulations, Canada
will direct over 95 percent of its development budget towards the task of
"empowering women," in turn making "families and countries more
a hopeful agenda but sadly not one that includes empowering all women. This
summer, before Bibeau went off selling Canada's shiny new feminist agenda, the
Canadian Foreign Ministry in Ottawa had been busy with dirtier business. In a
reluctant statement issued in late July, the Ministry announced that it was
"deeply concerned" that Saudi Arabia's rulers "appear to be deploying
Canadian-made armoured vehicles in an escalating conflict with Saudi
citizens". Even this acknowledgement of sorts came only after a Canadian
newspaper published a story showing that the combat vehicles manufactured by
Canadian company Teradyne were used against Saudi civilians in the country's
eastern Al-Qatif province.
far, Canada's Trudeau-led "feminist" government has been unwilling to
look into the $15bn deal that it inherited from its predecessor, taking the
line that without "evidence of misuse" and "reasonable
risk" to civilians there was no need to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia.
Foreign Minister Freeland has even gone so far as to discard a leaked report of
a United Nations-mandated panel that has denounced "widespread and
systematic" attacks on civilian targets by the Saudi-led coalition in
neighbouring Yemen. Yemeni women, like the Saudi women of Al-Qatif province,
are not included in the empowering agenda that Canada wants to take to the
there is the case of Nigerian women. In September of this year, a few months
after Canada had announced its new global feminist agenda, the US government
signed a $593m arms deal with the Nigerian military. A crucial and key
component of this deal are A-29 Super Tucano warplanes whose engines are
manufactured by Pratt and Whitney Canada. These Pratt Whitney outfitted Super
Tucano aircraft will be part of the Nigerian Air Force, which has in the past
used light aircraft to bomb refugee camps, killing dozens of civilians. An
older deal made last year with Canadian-led Streit Group also sold 177 armoured
vehicles to the Nigerian military.
hedging that has typified the Trudeau government's response to its part in
arming some of the world's most repressive and anti-feminist governments
suggests that the "feminist" label it has pinned to its dealings with
the world is merely crafty sloganeering. Per its assumptions, the use of
Canadian armoured vehicles to mow down hapless Saudi civilians or bomb Yemeni
women and children or even Nigerian refugees has little to do with feminism or
empowering women. In this circumscribed and compartmentalised version of
feminism a la Canada, the sale of weapons that maintain the dominance of
repressive, brutal and male-dominated regimes cannot be held against a
country's commitments to empowering its women. The one stands separate and
distinct from the other, the self-enriching agendas of saving Canadian jobs and
safeguarding Canadian affluence trumping any true concern for the world's
women. This here is the glossy and catchy feminism of convenience, called on at
conferences but discarded and shoved to the side when it comes to lucrative
arms deals. The "basic justice" that Freeland mentioned in her speech
on Canada's foreign policy priorities has no place in these latter discussions.
groundwork of this sort of feminism, which uses all the right rhetoric, talks
about empowering local women, then sneaks bombs and ammunition to fuel the very
conflicts that imperil them, was laid over a decade and a half ago by Canada's
neighbour (and partner in arms sales) the United States. As still-suffering
Afghans remember well, one of the avowed pretexts for invading Afghanistan in
September 2001 was, as announced by First Lady Laura Bush herself, the
liberation of Afghan women and the facilitation of their return to schools, to
security and to freedom. As the years and then a decade wore on, a two-faced
approach reigned. The killing of Afghan civilians including women and children,
the night raids by US forces that terrified families, and the accidental
bombings of hospitals were all swept under the rug because the United States
was allegedly "empowering" Afghan women.
United States can use the feminism-as-branding strategy to sell a war, then it
follows that Canada can follow suit with its international-assistance agenda.
That the United States has not delivered on any of the promises it made to
Afghan women, and that two-thirds of Afghan girls still don't attend school as
result of poverty, insecurity and displacement, doesn't seem to bother anyone.
This last fact likely recommends the strategy to the Canadians, since it proves
the premise that the feminist label is valid not because it has to deliver to
the women it claims to empower but because it can better sell government
programs, wars or aid, to the voters at home. The omnipotent logic of Western
largesse against global want dictates that it is the givers who matter; the
better Canadian voters can feel about themselves, the more successful Canada's
groundbreaking feminist international assistance policy will be deemed to be.
So clever is this political branding trick that even local Canadian politicians
are taking a go at it; Valerie Plante, a mayoral candidate in Montreal,
announced last week that if elected she would inaugurate the city's first
"feminist" Metro line. What would make this line "feminist"
(beyond being pink) remained unspecified.
follows, then, that even while Canadian armored vehicles ply the desert border
between Saudi Arabia and Yemen or the lanes of Maiduguri, and while jets with
Pratt and Whitney engines drop bombs on civilians in different portions of the
globe, Canadian voters energised by the historic nature of their
"feminist" government and a "feminist" international aid
assistance policy can continue to smugly look away. That the possibility of the
"basic justice" identified by Chrystia Freeland as central to
empowerment has been eviscerated for these women, that Canada is complicit in
the crimes of these regimes, does not give anyone pause. American feminists
remained largely silent when feminism became a pretext for war. Canadian
feminists, eager to put Canada first, are doing the same, applauding a hollow
feminism that diverts and deflects, dresses up and glosses over the dirty
business of war and weapons.
Rafia Zakaria is an attorney and author of The
Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan; and Veil.
By Maria Dubovikova
is beating the drums of war in the region. Disappointed by American inactivity,
and having failed to persuade Moscow to change its mind on the majority of
regional issues that most concern Tel Aviv, Israel has decided its best course
is to act unilaterally.
support for the Kurdish referendum is a litmus paper by which to understand
Israel’s approach to the region. Kurdish independence would likely bring severe
turbulence, and violence, to the region, affecting and involving many regional
Israel, disharmony between the countries of the Arab world is a guarantee of
its own safety. The only party to have benefited from the wars in Syria and
Iraq is Israel: The now-decimated Iraqi and Syrian armies were widely
considered the best in the Arab world, in terms of both equipment and skill.
so, settlement of the Syrian conflict, particularly the way it is currently
going, does not serve Israeli interests.
Israeli airstrikes on Syria since 2013 — more than 100 targets in Syria and
Lebanon, striking at arms convoys belonging to the Syrian regime and Hezbollah
— show that the war in Syria is not moving the way Tel Aviv hoped it would.
Israel’s most recent strike, near Homs at the end of October, allegedly
targeted a copper factory in the industrial town of Hisyah, which Israel
claimed contained a military installation.
this hostile — for Tel Aviv — environment, Israel is making moves that threaten
international efforts to finally establish peace in the Levant.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said Israel’s next battle on its
northern front will be with Syria and Lebanon, adding, in a statement issued by
the Ministry of Defense, that its enemy there would be the Syrian army and its
allies, including Hezbollah. Lieberman also spoke of the possibility of
fighting on the southern front — the Gaza Strip — at the same time.
open battles breaks out, (it does not matter if it is) in the north or the
south, as they will both erupt at the same time and by then we will be fighting
on both fronts,” he said. “Thus, we have to prepare our army for this coming
battle or these two battles.”
did stress that Israel is trying to avoid armed conflict with any party. But
nothing is guaranteed in the Middle East. Indeed, conflict seems inevitable:
The tensions between Israel and Hezbollah have started to resemble those of
2006, which exploded into violence in July of that year.
events involving Israel and Syria (and Syria’s allies) — most notably missiles
launched at Israeli territory and an attempt to shoot down an Israeli aircraft
— could also easily presage a battle in the north.
appear, then, to be two very real possibilities of a new war breaking out soon:
One between Israel and Hezbollah; the other between Israel and Syria with its
allies. The latter is the more comprehensive and worrying threat.
this point, Hezbollah is not focused on any confrontation with Israel. But that
could change if Syria and Israel go to war. It seems likely Hezbollah would
join with Syria in that case, in the hope of avoiding a solo battle.
war does break out between Israel, Syria and its allies, including Iran, the
big question is: Where will Russian President Vladimir Putin’s loyalties lie?
not an easy question to answer. Regardless, it is important to remember that
there is an agreement between Moscow and Washington that states no country is
allowed a military presence in Syria, with the exception of Russia.
were to consider a war against Syria, then, Israel would be violating that
US-Russian agreement. This would likely lead to direct military action against
Israel from non-state actors supported by major powers including the Syrian
government, Iran and Russia. What happens next is hard to predict.
• Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political
commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of
the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub). Twitter:
By Leon Willems
five days, on average, somewhere in the world, a journalist is murdered for
being a journalist. Nine out of ten times, no one is prosecuted, creating an
atmosphere of impunity that extends beyond death threats or violence.
Imprisonment of journalists is at an all-time high, and members of the press routinely
suffer harassment and intimidation while on assignment. Today, journalism is
one of the most dangerous professions anywhere.
way to address this state of affairs is by talking about it. Three recent
examples highlight the risks journalists take to report the news, and
underscore why publicising their plight is the only way to bring about change.
Maria Ressa, CEO of Rappler.com, an online news network based in the
Philippines. Since founding Rappler in 2012, Ressa's website has become an invaluable
source of information about the extrajudicial killings linked to President
Rodrigo Duterte's “war on drugs.” For her enterprising reporting, Ressa has
received more than 80 death threats in September alone. Many of these warnings
have come from anonymous bloggers, with IP addresses traceable to the
there is the case of William Ntege, a journalist who reported on recent
protests against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's decision to run in the
next presidential election, despite constitutional prohibitions preventing him
from doing so. Ntege was severely beaten by police for his coverage, and held
in jail for more than ten days.
there is the erosion of press freedoms in Myanmar. A new clause written into
the country's media law allows citizens to file a lawsuit if they have a
complaint with an article or news item, even if the reporting does not directly
mention them. This legal provision – in sharp contrast to international norms –
has led to 61 cases filed against journalists since February 2016, when Aung
San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy came to power.
of press freedom like these have become common tactics for autocratic regimes,
from Turkey to Russia and beyond. But it is not only despots and strongmen who
have declared war on the press. In Colombia and Mexico, hundreds of journalists
have been placed under armed guard to protect them from criminal syndicates.
Yet this hasn't stopped journalists across Latin America from leaving the profession
in droves. A favourite strategy of Mexican drug gangs seeking to stay out of
the headlines is to threaten investigative journalists' children. No wonder the
media's ranks are shrinking.
of the reason most consumers of news do not know these stories is that
organisations like mine have long worked to ensure that journalists never
become the story. Press freedom groups have typically operated under the
assumption that the best way to protect fact-based, investigative journalism is
to shield the storyteller from violence. And, like most journalists, we have
opted to do our jobs quietly, rather than burdening readers and viewers with
how dangerous the profession has become. But it is time to change our approach,
and make a point of highlighting the hazards.
example, Ntege was released only after considerable effort by a team of lawyers
retained by Reporters Respond, the Free Press Unlimited emergency fund for
journalist safety. Since the fund's inception in 2011, it has helped dozens of
journalists around the world, including, most recently, a group of reporters
fleeing mob violence in Burundi. And a huge number of organisations aid
journalists in distress in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe, and elsewhere.
These stories behind the news must be told.
course, telling these tales is just the beginning. Press freedom advocates must
also deliver journalists a stronger, more coordinated framework for their
protection and safety. To that end, my organisation is engaging with other
global entities to strengthen the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of
Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. We have also begun holding regular
meetings with other media freedom groups to devise a path forward. And, we have
started working to ensure that media protections are backed up by legislation
and enforcement. Journalists will need brave prosecutors and judges to hold
attackers accountable if impunity is to end.
the most important changes must come from within the media industry itself.
Because journalists' safety directly affects news organisations' employees,
freelancers, and audiences, these organisations should report on the topic.
With attacks on the press increasing, the old approach – prideful silence – no
longer makes sense. If the journalists use their platforms to inform the world
of the dangers they and their colleagues face, the world will have to listen.
against journalists has historically been an issue that has remained behind the
headlines. On November 2, the world recognised the International Day to End
Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. Let's commit to making these stories
front-page news now.
Leon Willems is Director of Free Press Unlimited.