Islam Edit Bureau
Summit Must Not Fail the Ummah's Expectations
Civil War: Negotiating In Bad Faith
Talks: Light In Syria’s Dark Tunnel?
Ties: A New Perspective
Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi
Approach to Fight Extremism
Sabria S. Jawhar
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Must Not Fail the Ummah's Expectations
13 Apr 2016
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) holds its highest-level meeting this
week, there will sadly be no shortage of serious challenges to discuss. Indeed,
the unusually tight security we can expect around the summit in Istanbul - a
city that has been the victim of recent terrorist outrages - itself underlines
the severe threat to stability and safety of member states and their citizens.
of course, plenty of problems to address when the OIC heads of state last
convened in Cairo three years ago. The summit expressed its deep concern over
the continuing tragedy of Palestine, the threat posed by violent extremism and
the rise of Islamophobia. But today, the horizon seems even darker.
- Kazakhstan's Hard Sell
We are no
nearer to the two-state solution, which is the only way to address the hopes
and rights of the Palestinian people.
all-out civil war in Syria could be avoided have been dashed as the country has
plunged into chaos and barbarity and millions have been forced to flee their
violence in Syria has also helped fuel terrorism, which is a growing threat
around the world. Pakistan, Turkey, Nigeria, Iraq, Belgium, France, Egypt,
Ivory Coast, and Afghanistan are just some of the countries to have already
felt its deadly impact this year.
security situation in Afghanistan is again worsening. And far from a better
understanding of the decent values of Islam, there is growing fear and
It is why
the Istanbul summit on Thursday, attended, among others, by Kazakhstan's President
Nursultan Nazarbayev, is so important.
no matter how powerful, can hope to tackle these problems on its own.
no matter how powerful, can hope to tackle these problems on its own. Only by
increased cooperation and promoting dialogue both within the Ummah and beyond
can we make progress.
a lack of trust between states, including some Islamic countries, is preventing
the world from focusing its combined energy and effort on resolving the current
It is not
all bleak news: The agreement over Iran's nuclear programme - which Kazakhstan
helped to broker by hosting two round of talks - was a historic breakthrough
and shows what can be achieved with patience and determination.
It is now
crucial that no time is wasted in dismantling the sanctions regime. Iran's
re-entry into the global economy is a boost to the entire region.
ceasefire in Syria, agreed upon with the involvement of Russia and the US, and
ISIL's forced retreat, are also the first tentative signs of a way out of
and international community urgently need to work together to capitalise on
these positive steps. Humanitarian aid to the Syrian people and those countries
that are shouldering the highest burden of the refugee crisis must be stepped
cooperation - from sharing intelligence to educating our young people - is also
the only way to successfully tackle terrorism and root out the twisted
ideologies on which it feeds.
I am sure
we will again see a strong message from Istanbul that such attacks are against
true Islamic values and a pledge to redouble our efforts to root out this
increased economic cooperation is also important to help create jobs and
prosperity across the Islamic community. This will deny the extremists the
despair they need to recruit our young people.
also a powerful recruiter for the extremists. The new Islamic Organisation for
Food Security, set up at our initiative and based in our capital, Astana, can
play an important role in preventing food shortages across the Islamic world.
It is exactly the kind of cooperation we need to see across a wide range of
areas within the OIC and beyond.
We need to
work harder as well to foster understanding and respect between different
faiths and cultures. It is something upon which Kazakhstan - which prides
itself on having forged a tolerant society of people from many different
backgrounds - places huge importance.
It is why
we host the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, which has
become an increasingly important platform to promote dialogue. We need to
stress much more strongly that what unites the great faiths, including the
shared decent values which underpin them, is far greater than anything that
At a practical
level, as well, this unity can help counter the threat and appeal of violent
extremism. We are hosting a major international conference next month to bring
religious and political leaders together to agree upon new steps to stop faith
from being hijacked by criminals.
There is an
urgent need, as well, to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on nuclear
weapons, which we know they are actively seeking and will not hesitate to use.
We need increased cooperation on nuclear security but also bold steps to
prevent the spread of these weapons. I hope the OIC will throw its full weight
behind the creation of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East.
troubling is that rather than new efforts to bring our world together, we are
seeing old divisions - including within the Islamic community - revived and
widened. These divisions risk severely damaging all our hopes of peace and
since its earliest days as an independent nation, has worked tirelessly to foster
dialogue and cooperation. We hope that if we are successful in gaining a non-
permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2017 and 2018, we can bring new
impetus to the search for agreed peaceful solutions to the world's challenges.
certainly needed. Our world is facing very difficult times. But through
increased cooperation and by resisting those who try to divide us, we can build
a better future for all our citizens. I am confident that the Islamic summit in
Istanbul will be another important milestone in this journey.
Erlan Idrissov is the Foreign Minister of
10, United Nations Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura arrived in Damascus for
meetings with regime officials in the run-up to the resumption of peace talks
in Geneva on April 13. That very day, Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi said
regime troops were preparing a major offensive to retake Syria's largest city
represents a clear rejection of De Mistura's call for the "cessation of
hostilities" to be maintained, and is yet another indication of the
regime's disdain for a negotiated settlement to the Syrian conflict.
unsurprising that Damascus would want to scupper the latest round of talks,
because the focus is supposed to be a political transition that it has
ceasefire, fighting continues in Syria
become a hallmark of the regime to do and say inflammatory things prior to and
during diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict, so it can be seen to
participate in them while ensuring they do not progress.
after the first round of talks in Vienna late last year, Syria's Deputy Foreign
Minister Faisal Mekdad said: "We are not at all talking about what is
called a transitional period. There is no alternative to [Assad's]
this year, the president vowed to retake all of Syria amid efforts by his ally
Russia and Western powers to secure the current "cessation of
hostilities", leading to a rebuke from Moscow.
addition, Damascus entered last month's Geneva talks reiterating that Bashar
al-Assad's fate - the biggest, most persistent obstacle to a negotiated
solution to the conflict - is a "red line" that it will not discuss.
that the Geneva talks are going ahead despite all this should not be cause for
optimism, but a sign of the determination to continue the facade of a peace
has repeatedly violated the "cessation of hostilities", with the
opposition saying on Sunday that it is close to collapse following the renewed
use of barrel bombs.
them were reported on Monday to have been dropped on civilian areas of Aleppo,
only two days before peace talks began on Wednesday.
One of the
main aims of the "cessation of hostilities" was to allow humanitarian
aid to besieged areas. However, the UN and NGOs have said the regime is
blocking access, delaying convoys, removing medical equipment and forbidding
evacuations, violating international law and worsening the humanitarian crisis.
31, Jan Egeland - the UN-appointed chairman of a task force on humanitarian aid
- said Damascus had become less responsive to requests for aid convoys than it
was immediately after world powers agreed on the "cessation of
hostilities" in early February.
previous day, senior UN official Stephen O'Brien described the situation in
regime-besieged areas - "mere minutes' drive away from UN warehouses in
Damascus" - as dreadful.
In one of
those areas, Daraya - besieged for more than three years - women last week
wrote an open letter warning that they were "on the verge of
witnessing" their children and relatives starve to death if aid does not
reach them soon.
incident last month, three children in regime-besieged Madaya bled to death
because they could not be evacuated for medical treatment after a bomb
not the actions and statements of a party that is willing to negotiate in good
faith. On the contrary, the regime is using the peace process as a diversionary
tactic, buoyed by recent battlefield gains such as Palmyra thanks to Russia's
direct military intervention, an increase in Iranian forces, and foreign
militias such as Hezbollah.
is precisely the regime's reliance on foreign forces that makes its
self-confidence so misplaced, because it is unable to take or keep hold of
territory without them, and their presence in Syria will not be indefinite.
Russia has partially withdrawn its forces, with many observers ascribing this,
at least partly, to frustration with the regime's belligerence at the
negotiating table. Furthermore, the day after Halqi's statement about the
regime's upcoming Aleppo offensive, Russia denied claims that it planned to
storm the city.
Assad has forgotten his admission last summer that his army is suffering from
manpower shortages. He should also be mindful of reports of increasing
disaffection within his own Alawite community, including once-unthinkable
street protests, and the release this month of a document by Alawite leaders
distancing themselves from his regime, a move some described as "deeply unusual".
this is happening while the regime tries to ensure that the focus is diverted
away from the core issues of the conflict - a transition of power and Assad's
fate - to security and "terrorism", meaning any opposition to the
not, when such diversionary tactics have worked for neighbouring Israel, at the
Palestinians' expense, for almost a quarter of a century? "All process and
no peace" is a tried and tested formula.
Sharif Nashashibi is an award-winning journalist
and analyst on Arab affairs.
Light in Syria’s Dark Tunnel?
A new round
of Geneva talks started on Wednesday, with the general environment more or less
positive. Increased ceasefire violations have not disrupted the peace process
until now - hopefully, neither will the provocative offensives of Jabhat
al-Nusra and rebel groups linked to it. However there are deep concerns over
the rumors that Damascus is preparing for the offensive on the rebel stronghold
the talks, UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura met with Syrian Foreign Minister
Walid Muallem and his Iranian counterpart to ensure the successful continuation
of the peace process. The envoy has described the talks starting today as
“crucially important,” focusing on a political transition.
government has said it is ready to negotiate without preconditions. This is a
significant breakthrough although if parliamentary elections doesn’t go
alongside negotiations, it will arouse bewilderment. These elections are not
recognized by the international community, and will obviously be meaningless if
a deal is indeed reached in Geneva.
The opposition and government in Syria should
decide who will work on a post-war constitution, and how a system of checks and
balances will function to avoid a repetition of mistakes
and expectations are pinned on the new round of negotiations which hopefully
will focus on political transition and a stable political process in Syria.
Wednesday evening Steffan de Mistura announced that Amman, Damascus, Moscow,
Tehran have indicated support for talks aimed at political transition in Syria.
should be admitted that even managing to get the opposing sides to talk
directly would already be a great achievement. To expect negotiators to lead to
a breakthrough is to ignore the extreme complexity of the issues they are
obliged to tackle. Devil is in the detail and the process of political
transition is all about details.
problem, and a matter of extreme sensitivity, is the fate of President Bashar
al-Assad. The overwhelming majority of opposition activists and supporters will
not accept him staying in power. However, stepping down without a popular vote
is unacceptable to Damascus, though it has started to show some flexibility.
problem that will have to be tackled is the legal basis of the transition,
which concerns the constitution. The opposition and government in Syria should
decide who will work on a post-war constitution, and how a system of checks and
balances will function to avoid a repetition of mistakes.
decide what kind of document will regulate the transition process. Which bodies
will have executive and legislative powers, and how will they be formed? Even
at a glance, the possibilities and variants are enormous, and choosing which
ones will be difficult given the extent of distrust between the opposing sides.
justice is another issue of vital importance, especially for the opposition,
which would apparently not accept a new Syria without punishment for those guilty
of war crimes. This is dramatically complicated by the issue of Syrians who
support Islamist groups.
they be dealt with, and how can their presence be squared with the desire to
build a democratic, non-sectarian country? Islamists’ exclusion from the
political process will lead to their marginalization, thus jeopardizing the
foundations of the new Syria from the start. The issues of Kurds and Kurdish
militias, and inclusive citizenship for all minorities, are also tough. How
will their rights be guaranteed and protected, and through what mechanisms?
mutual distrust is crucial to solving these matters, but common rejection of
Syria’s federalization provides hope that the opposing sides will find a way to
work together to preserve the future of a united country.
Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and
CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International
Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a
PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the
Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the
Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and
13 April 2016
his administration and his advisors, US President Barack Obama has not been
convinced of real cooperation between the US and Gulf countries. From day one,
he wanted a rapprochement with Iran. He had warmed up to the idea and was
fascinated by it to the extent of addiction.
considered the nuclear agreement which he sealed with Tehran as a historical
achievement which will top the achievements of his presidential era. What’s
certain is that although his era achieved some economic success, it did not
achieve any political success.
marked miserable failures in the region, withdrawal from all of the US
influential posts besides leaving the arena for terrorists from al-Qaeda, ISIS,
Hezbollah and Iran’s proxies.
recent interview with The Atlantic gave a glimpse of his political doctrine.
The interview was clear and frank and exposed his real mindset during the two
presidential terms, and which led the US to its lowest levels of popularity.
The US failed on the Syrian front, Arab revolutions and almost on all political
Atlantic interview, Obama said the Gulf region should be seen differently from
Iran. He also implied that Saudi Arabia is among “free rider” countries who put
many conditions. Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal responded to these comments with
information that refutes Obama’s claims. He said that Saudi Arabia is not a
“free rider” as it has efficiently contributed toward resolving the region’s
crises and is the partner of major countries in terms of fighting terrorism.
US-Gulf Camp David meeting, Gulf countries, primarily Saudi Arabia, have
depended on themselves, fighting wars on their own and using their own
It has also
contributed to curbing the negative repercussions of Arab revolutions, spent
billions of dollars from its budget to help the needy in Afghanistan for three
decades and extinguished the flames of wars in several regions across the
boots on the ground to make that coalition more effective in eliminating the
terrorists,” Turki al-Faisal wrote.
initiated the support – military, political and humanitarian – that is helping
the Yemeni people reclaim their country from the murderous militia, the
Houthis, who, with the support of the Iranian leadership, tried to occupy
Yemen; without calling for American forces,” the prince said.
established a coalition of more than thirty Muslim countries to fight all
shades of terrorism in the world. We are the biggest contributors to the
humanitarian relief efforts to help refugees from Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Your
secretaries of state and defence have often publicly praised the level of
cooperation between our two countries. Your treasury department officials have
publicly praised Saudi Arabia’s measures to curtail any financing that might
reach terrorists,” he added.
On Obama Doctrine'
on Obama’s interview with The Atlantic, Daniel W. Drezner, a commentator in the
Washington Post, wrote an op-ed entitled “Five thoughts on Obama Doctrine,” and
summarized what surprised him most in the interview, and which are simply the
following: “Obama does not respect America’s foreign policy community. Obama
respects Arab Middle East leaders even less. There’s a little bit of Donald
Trump in Barack Obama. Obama’s biggest foreign policy failure has been domestic
in nature. The United States has clearly been a force for good in the world.”
bragged that he backed down on attacking the Assad regime and also spoke about
the importance of stopping that “political doctrine in the US State Department”
that’s based on defending Saudi Arabia. He also considered that his war fleets
only mobilize to suppress terrorism or defend Israel against any possible
to turn his back to historical relations with all their economic and political
dimensions. Everyone noticed that ever since the US-Gulf Camp David meeting,
Gulf countries, primarily Saudi Arabia, have depended on themselves, fighting
wars on their own and used their own diplomatic channels, establishing
alliances and deterring opponents.
US situation may be good for us as we’d continue to balance our political and
security crises to protect our borders and our people’s well-being. Betting on
the Eisenhower Doctrine which defends Saudi Arabia makes us more negligent.
“withdrawal” from this region, and its subsequent denial, is not the end of the
world but actually the right beginning for Gulf countries to depend on
themselves and distinguish between true friends and half-friends!
Turki Al-Dakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He
began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the
Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily
Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio
correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He
proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news
channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya
talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab
and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also
owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in
Dubai. He has received several awards and honours, including the America Abroad
Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and
advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies.
out the red carpet for Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman on his
official state visit, indicative of the importance talks between the two
nations’ leaders had for peace, security and mutual economic benefit.
precedes the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Istanbul and
comes after King Salman’s crucial visit to Egypt, which resulted in the two old
allies cementing political, military and trade tries.
Saudi Arabia need each other to ensure stability across the region, reflecting
the situation in the Gulf States. On the economic front, Ankara is looking for
access to strategic markets, and to benefit from investments and tourism, not
only from the Kingdom but also other regional economies.
Kingdom’s point of view, Turkey is a major power in the region that does not
have neo-imperialist ambitions. Like Saudi Arabia, it is a country prioritizing
the security of its own and other peoples, and seeking peace with everyone.
approach will make it easier for the two countries to formulate a workable
joint political strategy. For example, it is already clear that Turkey is
increasingly anxious and dissatisfied with Iran’s interference in Arab
believe Iran is the common denominator in the region’s problems. As part of
King Salman’s delegation, this newspaper participated in discussions held in
Istanbul at a Turkish think-tank, the Foundation for Political, Economic and
Social Research, where Turkish intellectuals expressed their concerns about
Ataman, deputy general manager of the centre, said that it was vital for Turkey
and Saudi Arabia to form a solid alliance that would counter Iran’s manoeuvres
in the region, which he argued had escalated problems in Syria.
little doubt that Turkey has political and geographical importance, as
expressed in its good relations with the United States and the European Union,
and the membership of NATO, the European Council and the G-20.
Arabia, with its new foreign policy of building relations and partnerships with
countries across the world, is putting aside disagreements in order to develop
a solid relationship with Ankara.
somewhat of a divergence of views on Egypt, but there are many voices in the Turkish
Parliament raising calls for a Riyadh-Cairo-Ankara axis. This is a realistic
approach because it takes into account the diminishing role internationally of
the United States, and the complications caused by Tehran’s attempt to exploit
are betting that the decision to establish the Saudi-Turkish Coordination
Council will have a positive outcome for mutual benefit, particularly after the
success of the Egyptian-Saudi Coordination Council that was able to solve
myriad problems and implement major projects in less than eight months.
already been working with Riyadh by supporting Operation Decisive Storm in
Yemen, and took part in the Saudi-led Islamic alliance against terrorism. It
has also stated categorically that Iran has become more aggressive after
signing a nuclear deal with the United States.
Ozcan, a Turkish parliamentarian and head of the Turkish-Saudi Association, who
is also a graduate of King Saud university, said that Ankara sees the Kingdom
as a trusted strategic partner, with which it has more in common than Iran.
Turks also have a special place in their hearts for the Kingdom because it
hosts Islam’s holiest sites, he said.
attempt for more harmonious relations with Turkey is being made at the highest
possible level. The royal visit sends a message to everyone that the Kingdom is
seeking stability and peace based on a policy of openness, partnerships and the
prioritization of economic benefits over politics.
to Fight Extremism
Saudi Arabia is at the centre of two important conferences that focus on
promoting peace and addressing the issue of religious extremism now plaguing
most of the world.
event in Vienna, Austria, at the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International
Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue focuses on the misuse of
religion to justify political violence and to create divisions between
religious communities. The second event in Prague is sponsored by the
Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). It addresses intercultural dialogue
to create lasting stability and peace.
expect a lot of media coverage of either event because the topics don’t fit in
the current theme among western governments and in the press. If anything, the
western media is consistent in presenting one side of a very complex picture of
non-Muslims alike are faced with an interesting dilemma in 2016: Promote peace
and unity or demonize a specific religious and cultural group and create divisions.
The latter is much easier to pursue than the former because it requires little
effort other than to find a platform to deliver a message. Promoting peace is
hard work and requires specific skills that today — as displayed daily in the
Republican presidential primaries in the United States —is sadly lacking in
peace is unfashionable, naive and dangerous if political pundits and
conservative political party leaders are to be believed. Peace is seen as
complacency, weakness and capitulation to terrorists. Peace is a concept that
is abused by governments who pay lip service to it while closing the door on
civil liberties. There’s an attitude that peace activists are part of the
The work of
Palestinian peace activist Ali Abu Awwad or former US President Jimmy Carter is
dismissed. They receive considerably less coverage than Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio
or Donald Trump who urge violence to solve global ills. Advocating war, using
violent rhetoric and urging governments to marginalize ethnic and religious
groups are mistaken for projecting strength when in reality such an approach
increases the threat of terrorism and prolongs the wars in Syria and Iraq.
So from a
western perspective what authority does a Saudi possess to speak about peace
and the rejection of war? First, Saudis reject any suggestion that Saudi Arabia
is the “exporter of terrorism.”
Arabia is a member of the international community and as such shares collective
responsibility for the state of affairs today. The United States must step up
and acknowledge that Daesh was born from the ashes of the Iraq war, perhaps the
biggest military blunder in the last 100 years that served as a breeding ground
for extremism. Europe should accept responsibility for marginalizing ethnic and
religious minorities by practicing housing and employment discrimination.
on building mosques and wearing the Hijab further marginalizes Muslims and
fuels the bloodlust of Daesh.
We know the
standard operating procedure of Saudi Arabia’s critics is to lay blame on
“Wahhabi” Islam, a convenient explanation without really understanding what
Wahhabi means or where it fits in Islamic history and Saudi culture. But let’s
take a moment to explore the allegation that Saudi Arabia exports Wahhabi Islam
that has led “to the creation of Daesh.”
Arabia does indeed export textbooks worldwide for the purposes of Dawah
(preaching). Teaching materials focus on the strict word of God. Muhammad bin
Abdul Al-Wahhab, who is given brief attention in Saudi textbooks, was
influential in returning Muslims to the original teachings of Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him), the word of God and eliminating pagan rituals and the
worship of false idols. No more, no less.
One of the
problems in teaching Islam to impressionable young students is the lack of
supervision, both on the local level and through organizations that perform
Dawah, of Muslims unqualified to teach Islamic studies and to run madrassas.
Saudi Arabia stand apart from most other nations that we balance the show of
military strength to crush extremism with programs on interfaith dialogue
through the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious
and Intercultural Dialogue and government support of the OIC. Certainly few
western governments can lay claim that they have established government
institutions created solely to promote peace.
would they? Military aggression is a good sell to the public. Peace centres are