New Age Islam
Fri Jul 19 2024, 08:16 AM

World Press ( 11 Nov 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

World Press on Yasser Arafat, Catholic Sex Abuse and Covid-19 Vaccine: New Age Islam's Selection, 11 November 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

11 November 2020

• Yasser Arafat: Modern Era’s Saladin

By Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan Ndc, Psc (Retd)

• The Catholic Sex Abuse Crisis Is Far From Over

By Elizabeth Bruenig

• Five Questions To Ask About Pfizer’s Covid-19 Vaccine

By Arthur Allen


Yasser Arafat: Modern era’s Saladin

By Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan ndc, psc (Retd)

November 11, 2020


Yasser Arafat speaks at the United Nations in 1974. At the end of his speech, Arafat shook his finger at the delegates and declared, "I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."


The west saw him as a terrorist; to the rest of the world he was an intrepid warrior trying relentlessly to right the wrong his nation was done in 1948. He was fighting to regain for his nation a country which was cynically snatched away from the Palestinians through a mix of British treachery and western hypocrisy. To his people, he was an icon of the struggle for freedom. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the full fruition of his dreams, a Palestinian state.

Sixteen years ago on this day Yasser Arafat, who had assumed the nom de guerre Abu Ammar, passed away under questionable circumstances that have not quiet been answered satisfactorily. But this is not the occasion to dwell on the circumstances of his death; suffice it to say that doubts remain regarding the cause of it even today. Instead, let us look at the man who dominated global news and influenced world and in particular Middle Eastern politics, for a good part of four decades, with a dispassionate eye.

Yasser Arafat and Palestine are linked umbilically, and one day his name may become a symbol for the state of Palestine. He was one person with three personae—leader of a freedom movement that was being participated in by more than one group fighting for the liberation of Palestine, each with their individual ideological leanings, an acclaimed leader of a stateless nation whose homeland had been usurped, and an administrator of a nebulous state entity that went by the name of Palestinian Authority—a leader with people but no well-defined state.

According to Adam Shatz, the well-known literary editor at the London Review of Books, "In the Arab imagination, Palestine is not simply a plot of land, any more than Israel is a plot of land in the Jewish imagination. As the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish has observed, Palestine is also a metaphor—for the loss of Eden, for the sorrows of dispossession and exile, for the declining power of the Arab world in its dealings with the West." And it was to right the wrong, to retrieve the loss and revive the Arabs that Arafat dedicated his life. Those who belittle Arafat as being merely a symbol rather than a leader, caring more about the state than his legacy, often forget that a person cannot be one without being the other, but that first and foremost he has to be a leader before he can assume the status of an icon. Near the end of his life Arafat had subsumed himself within the people saying, "Each Palestinian is Yasser Arafat, who is part and parcel of the Palestinian people, the great people, who will stand fast until doomsday."

He is often vilified for his failure to transform the Oslo Accord into a permanent peace, unfairly, overlooking Israel's contribution to the failure of the 1993 Accord. Given the disparate and divergent views within the Arabs and within the Palestinians, since, by the concept of the Palestinian struggle, "Islamicists and others hoped the struggle was to end Israel's existence, while Palestinian nationalists believed the battle was for the West Bank and Gaza", reconciliation and bringing the various groups together was a tall order. That led to a deficit of trust between the stakeholders. In return for Israeli recognition of PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinians, PLO accepted Israel's right to exist, thereby, risking Arafat's own future. He is criticised for acceding to the Accord since he could not achieve a Palestinian state during his lifetime. But the critics do not realise that the Accord was not an end in itself since it was meant to be a prelude to future negotiations. Yasser Arafat may not have lived to see success but that the Palestine issue remains at the top of the global agenda is because of him.

The Oslo Accord was bound to fail, being flawed ab initio. What else could be the fate of a treaty that did not address the fundamental abrasive issue for the Palestinians—illegal settlements? Giving in to the pressure of the rejectionists, Rabin refused to include the settlement freeze clause. This saw settlement double between 1993 and 2000. If Arafat is blamed for not clamping down on violence, Israel can be blamed, according to a Hamas leader, for "misusing such negotiations to win time with a view to imposing more realities on the ground." Violence was as a reaction to Israeli actions. There were 100,000 settlers before the agreement and now the number hit 750,000 settlers living illegally in the occupied West Bank. Currently, Israel has annexed 30 percent of the occupied territory under Trump's so-called "Deal of the Century" announced on January 28 this year. It refers to Jerusalem as "Israel's undivided capital" and recognises Israeli sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank. Trump's acknowledgement of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the latest Middle East peace plan has pushed back any immediate resolution of the problems, including the implementation of Oslo Accord.

The US and the west are known for their hypocrisy as far as terrorism is concerned. But their greatest hypocrisy is labelling Yasser Arafat as a terrorist. Not surprisingly, these critics do not see their own faces in the mirror, particularly the Israelis; for them it is convenient to overlook history selectively. At least the leaders of Israel, a country that was born out of a violent terrorist movement, have no moral right to label any other group or nation fighting for their independence as terrorists. Recall the name Irgun, the Jewish right-wing underground movement in Palestine, founded in 1931, an extremist nationalist group which called for the use of force to establish a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River. It has many terror acts to its credit, including the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946. Interestingly, this very terrorist group was subsumed in the Israeli defence forces after Palestine was given away to the Jews, in 1948. Perhaps the names Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir would jog our memory too. Apart from the fact that they were the sixth and seventh prime ministers of Israel, they were also leaders of this terrorist organisation. Several Israeli politicians and prime ministers are offsprings of Irgun members. And for the US to apply the terrorist label to others is like the pot calling the kettle black. It was fined by the ICJ in 1986 for its support for, and acts of, terror in Nicaragua. Even Nelson Mandela's name remained on the US terrorism watch list till 2008. His ANC was dubbed a terrorist organisation during the period of the Cold War.

Sixteen years after Yasser Arafat's death, people are still dissecting his legacy. His name has become synonymous with Palestine and its aspirations. He can be credited with reviving the Palestinian cause after the serious reverses of the 1967 Arab Israeli War along with his generation of Palestinian leadership by bringing the disparate groups under one umbrella and giving it an identity and a revolutionary character. He wanted to give peace a chance, but Israel had other plans. Even after more than 70 years, Israel continues to be motivated by Golda Meir's view that: "There is no such thing as a Palestinian people... It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn't exist."


Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan, ndc, psc (Retd), is a former Associate Editor of The Daily Star.


The Catholic Sex Abuse Crisis Is Far From Over

By Elizabeth Bruenig

Nov. 10, 2020

After the Catholic sex abuse crisis exploded into headlines in 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops promulgated standards that would guide the American church’s efforts to protect children. In May 2002, the editorial board of USA Today met with an American bishop who would play an important role in shaping the new regulations.

“We haven’t been focused on the Lord; I’m trying to do that,” he told them. “As I see the bishops losing credibility in many areas, I want to try to be as good a bishop as I can be. I’ve got a long way to go.” It now seems that bishop, Theodore McCarrick, had further to go than it seemed.

But the report the Vatican released Tuesday on Mr. McCarrick’s history of sexual misconduct before he was removed from the College of Cardinals and defrocked in 2019 sheds harsh light on the church’s unfinished response to the sex abuse crisis. It indicates policy weaknesses and dangerous habits that must be corrected so figures like Mr. McCarrick cannot again wreak havoc on future generations of Catholics.

Mr. McCarrick’s own history of abuse underscores the gaps left by the standards he helped craft in 2002.

While the charter improved the church’s policies on sex abuse prevention and its management of allegations, it was directed specifically at shielding children and youths from the predations of priests. As Mr. McCarrick’s exploits show, it isn’t just children who are at risk of sexual exploitation in the church.

While Mr. McCarrick did sexually abuse children, some of the more egregious of his offenses were committed against adults, namely seminarians he met during his tenure as a bishop in New Jersey. In the report, it is clear that his peers and superiors were convinced his case wasn’t particularly urgent because Mr. McCarrick preyed mostly on adults.

There appears to be confusion among prelates throughout the document as to whether what had transpired between Mr. McCarrick and these seminarians ought to be seen as consensual sexual activity between adults — which would be a sin and an error, by the church’s count, though not necessarily a career-ending disgrace — or as something much more insidious and abusive.

Pope Francis has since expanded the church’s definition of “vulnerable adults” from those without the mental or physical capacity to resist sexual advances to include those who have “some deprivation of personal freedom,”  which could include seminarians and junior priests who rely on their bishops for ordination, promotion and favorable appointments.

Yet even that definition can be easily misconstrued. The Vatican ought to clarify that any sexual contact suggested or initiated by a superior in the church hierarchy involving an inferior will be met with the same rigorous reprimands — including removal from one’s post and possibly laicization — as similar offenses committed against children. Likewise, priests, seminarians and other adult victims of clergy sex abuse need reliable ways to report misconduct with transparent accountability and no threat of retaliation.

The church is also due for a slew of cultural reforms. According to the report, Mr. McCarrick was able to coerce seminarians into bed with him by creating an atmosphere of fearful cooperation at Seton Hall’s Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology. I have heard many similar, recent accounts from seminarians across the country, involving a number of clergy members. Sexual abuse in Catholic seminaries has been well known since at least 1983, when the author Paul Hendrickson published “Seminary: A Search,” detailing his own experiences. The Catholic seminary system is long overdue for a thorough, independent investigation into these disturbing patterns.

As a character study of Mr. McCarrick, the report offers another important area for review: the spiritual formation of its clergymen. Mr. McCarrick’s sexual behavior seemed at times juvenile, arrested; he clearly felt lonely and longed for intimacy and was unable to find a licit way to channel those emotions. If policies regarding the Catholic clergy and sex aren’t going to change, then something must, and it’s reasonable to begin with the way those considering holy orders are taught about the nature and goodness of sex.

Then there is the problem of bishops. While America’s bishops have vowed to hold themselves accountable for sexual abuses via a hotline for tips and procedures for investigation of bishops by senior bishops, those policies allow for no oversight from laypeople. But lay participation in accountability processes is crucial, because laypeople provide a perspective less entwined with the interests of the church hierarchy, and because trust and transparency are sorely lacking in the church.

Tuesday’s report is, I suspect, as remarkably unflinching as it is precisely because it was written by a layperson, the American lawyer Jeff Lena, who was given vast investigative power by the church. It should be seen as a model for accountability processes for bishops and other senior church officials going forward.

The church stands at a crossroads. It can continue to fight legislation that would empower victims to seek redress and respond to abuse long after the fact, such as the suspension of statutes of limitation in sex abuse cases. Or it can confess the way it asks us to confess, and repent the way it asks us to repent: Fully, openly, over and over again, as often as it takes, as painful as it is.


Elizabeth Bruenig (@ebruenig) is an Opinion writer.


Five Questions to Ask About Pfizer’s Covid-19 Vaccine

By Arthur Allen

Nov. 10, 2020

Pfizer’s announcement on Monday that its Covid-19 shot appears to keep nine of 10 people from getting the disease sent its stock price rocketing. Many news reports described the vaccine as if it were our deliverance from the pandemic, even though few details were released.

There was certainly something to crow about: Pfizer’s vaccine consists of genetic material called mRNA encased in tiny particles that shuttle it into our cells. From there, it stimulates the immune system to make antibodies that protect against the virus. A similar strategy is employed in other leading Covid-19 vaccine candidates. If mRNA vaccines can protect against Covid-19 and, presumably, other infectious diseases, it will be a momentous piece of news.

“This is a truly historic first,” said Dr. Michael Watson, the former president of Valera, a subsidiary of Moderna, which is currently running advanced trials of its own mRNA vaccine against Covid-19. “We now have a whole new class of vaccines in our hands.”

But historically, important scientific announcements about vaccines are made through peer-reviewed medical research papers that have undergone extensive scrutiny about study design, results and assumptions, not through company press releases.

So did Pfizer’s stock deserve its double-digit percentage bump? The answers to the following five questions will help us know.

How long will the vaccine protect patients? Pfizer says that, as of last week, 94 people out about 40,000 in the trial had gotten ill with Covid-19. While it didn’t say exactly how many of the sick had been vaccinated, the 90 percent efficacy figure suggests it was a very small number. The Pfizer announcement covers people who got two shots between July and October. But it doesn’t indicate how long protection will last or how often people might need boosters.

“It’s a reasonable bet, but still a gamble that protection for two or three months is similar to six months or a year,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the Food and Drug Administration panel that is likely to review the vaccine for approval in December. Normally, vaccines aren’t licensed until they show they can protect for a year or two.

The company did not release any safety information. To date, no serious side effects have been revealed, and most tend to occur within six weeks of a vaccination. But scientists will have to keep an eye out for rare effects such as immune enhancement, a severe illness brought on by a virus’s interaction with immune particles in some vaccinated persons, said Dr. Walt Orenstein, a professor of medicine at Emory University and former director of the immunization program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Will it protect the most vulnerable? Pfizer did not disclose what percentage of its trial volunteers are in the groups most likely to be hospitalized or to die of Covid-19 — including people over 65 and those with diabetes or obesity. This is a key point because many vaccines, particularly for influenza, may fail to protect the elderly though they protect younger people. “How representative are those 94 people of the overall population, especially those most at risk?” asked Dr. Orenstein.

Both the National Academy of Medicine and the C.D.C. have urged that older people be among the first groups to receive vaccines. It’s possible that vaccines under development by Novavax and Sanofi, which are likely to begin late-phase clinical trials later this year, may be better for the elderly, Dr. Offit noted. Those vaccines contain immune-stimulating particles like the ones contained in the Shingrix vaccine, which is highly effective in protecting older people against shingles disease.

Can it be rolled out effectively? The Pfizer vaccine, unlike others in late-stage testing, must be kept supercooled, on dry ice around 100 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, from the time it is produced until a few days before it is injected. mRNA quickly self-destructs at higher temperatures. Pfizer has devised an elaborate system to transport the vaccine by truck and specially designed cases to vaccination sites. Public health workers are being trained to handle the vaccine as we speak, but we don’t know for sure how well it will do if containers are left out in the Arizona sun too long. Mishandling the vaccine along the way from factory to patient would render it ineffective, so people who received it could think they were protected when they were not, Dr. Offit said.

Could a premature announcement hurt future vaccines? There’s no way at present to know whether the Pfizer vaccine will be the best over all or for specific age groups. But if the F.D.A. approves it quickly, that could make it harder for manufacturers of other vaccines to carry out their studies. If people are aware that an effective vaccine exists, they may decline to enter clinical trials, partly out of concern they could get a placebo and remain unprotected. Indeed, it may be unethical to use a placebo in such trials. Many vaccines will be needed in order to meet global demand for protection against Covid-19, so it’s crucial to continue additional studies.

Could the Pfizer study expedite future vaccines? Scientists are vitally interested in whether the small number who received the real vaccine but still got sick produced lower levels of antibodies than the vaccinated individuals who remained well. Blood studies of those people would help scientists learn whether there is a “correlate of protection” for Covid-19 — a level of antibodies that can predict whether someone is protected from the disease. If they had that knowledge, public health officials could determine whether other vaccines under production were effective without necessarily having to test them on tens of thousands of people.

But it’s difficult to build such road maps. Scientists have never established correlates of immunity for pertussis, for example, although vaccines have been used against those bacteria for nearly a century.

Still, this is good news, said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a former F.D.A. deputy commissioner. He said: “I hope this makes people realize that we’re not stuck in this situation forever. There’s hope coming, whether it’s this vaccine or another.”


Arthur Allen is a reporter for Kaiser Health News and the author of “Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver.” This essay was copublished with Kaiser Health News.



New Age IslamIslam OnlineIslamic WebsiteAfrican Muslim NewsArab World NewsSouth Asia NewsIndian Muslim NewsWorld Muslim NewsWomen in IslamIslamic FeminismArab WomenWomen In ArabIslamophobia in AmericaMuslim Women in WestIslam Women and Feminism