Islam Edit Bureau
07 May 2016
Syrian Cities Is Gain for European Villages
After Muqtada Al-Sadr?
Mshari Al Thaydi
Khan Elected Mayor Of London – Are Muslims Finally ‘British’ Enough?
By Yara Al-Wazir
When Aleppo Falls?
By Dr. Azeem
to Lebanon’s Arab Shiite Communities
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor
Map to Implement Vision 2030
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Loss Of Syrian
Cities Is Gain For European Villages
7 May 2016
of Syria are bombed into submission some of its refugees have been finding
solace in unlikely faraway places – villages of Europe. In the middle of
anti-immigrant protests, even violence, routinely emerging from an edgy Europe,
we have largely missed the unique instances of serene countryside opening their
doors to hapless immigrants.
circumstances have also developed a unique relationship in which the once
deserted remote villages have become vibrant once again due to the arrival of
refugees. What is more heartening is that this has been going for months, if
story of a tiny village in Germany called Sumte. The idyllic hamlet with no
cinema, shop or café and no community center, was home to only 102 original
inhabitants. Yet Sumte has chosen to accommodate more than 750 asylum-seekers.
Despite few murmurs of discontent, the village was set to shelter families from
Syria and other conflict zones. This influx will be part of the three million
refugees predicted to arrive in Europe by the end of 2017.
village of Riace has an even more interesting tale. The rural community, in the
southern region of Calabria, had witnessed a decline in its population from
2,500 to 400 since the 1990s as people moved to northern parts of the country
in search of better economic opportunities. As refugees started to stream in,
Riace’s kind-hearted mayor launched a “refugees welcome” project. Now, people
of 20 nationalities have made the village home.
crisis is also proving to be a social experiment which can lead to a positive
population has bounced back to 2,500. The happy mayor says the government has
been promoting refugee settlement in other smaller, shrinking communities. The
policy makes more economic sense than accommodating these people in refugee
camps. This is a pleasant change from some Italian cities where there have been
clamp downs on destitute refugee squatters. Satriano is another example of
immigrants repopulating dying Italian villages.
Indomeni, the small Greek village at the forefront of European migrant crisis,
is another example of a village responding positively to a challenge. The
village, located on the country’s northern border, was no more than a transit
zone for migrants crossing into Macedonia. Its population of just 140 people
has been deluged by camps housing10,000 refugees. Yet Indomeni hasn’t lost its
of refugees may be an immediate challenge for communities, authorities and
individuals but there is evidence to suggest that they are also leading to a
reawakening in at least some places in Europe.
for instance, one Bavarian village is said to be not only grappling with
newcomers but also with the question of what it means to be German. In the
village of Eisenärzt a group of 100 Syrians will soon become the New Europeans,
occupying the dwellings vacated by nuns after 85 years.
crisis is also proving to be a social experiment which can lead to a positive
outcome. This is also being seen as Germany’s struggle with the challenge to
transform itself into a republic of shared ideals rather than shared blood.
Fresh from a crippling financial crisis, Greece is said to be rediscovering a
lost sense of self-worth as a result of the refugee influx. The country may have
run out of financial resources but can still shelter the far less fortunate.
It can be
easily argued that the original inhabitants of these lands are just expressing
their humanity or fulfilling their obligation to the international community.
Yet, the world as a whole must commend these communities in remote areas for
holding some light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. They have shown
emancipation not seen commonly in big cities.
traders fleeing Uganda to make it big in London and small entrepreneurs
becoming billionaires in the United States, modern history is replete with
examples of penniless refugees doing wonders for themselves and their host
countries. It is not without reason that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
calls Syrian refugees “Canada’s economic future”. The difference this time is
that the voice of reason has come from the roots – villages.
6 May 2016
happening in Iraq is interesting and dangerous. Some are optimistic that the
Sadrist movement’s revolution will bring an end to the rule of fundamentalist
parties in Iraq. Others, however, think this is a delusion and Shiite cleric
Muqtada al-Sadr is just like everyone else.
the parties that have most strongly condemned the Sadrist rebellion, Shiite
protestors’ raid of Baghdad’s Green Zone and the popular ‘occupation’ of
parliament were Iran and the United States.
The US and
Washington, the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi is
legitimate and important. The United States supports it as much as it is active
in fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and as much as it is
willing to engage in the battle for Mosul, the capital of the group’s
received Washington’s support via a rare visit by Vice President Joe Biden to
Iraq, and also through the visit of Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. The latter
said Abadi “is in a strong position despite the political unrest in the
country, and this is due to his successes on the ground. We strongly support
happening is a wave of anger against political, financial and ideological
corruption of Iraqi Shiite fundamentalist parties. This worries Tehran, but it
also worries Washington
Ali Akbar Velayati, former Iranian foreign minister and a consultant to Supreme
Leader Ali Khamenei, condemned Sadr supporters who raided the Green Zone, revolted
against the Iraqi ruling elite regardless of sect, and even chanted against
Iran. This is why the Sadrist parliamentary bloc condemned its supporters’
chants against Iran.
the fate of a popular revolution led by an Iraqi fundamentalist cleric, and
they have the right to. However, this development may go beyond Sadr.
Karim, owner of the Iraqi Al-Mada Foundation for Media, Culture and Arts, which
publishes Al-Mada newspaper, said: “We’re certainly [witnessing] positive
manifestations that confirm the failure of the governance of political Islamist
parties and the projects they’ve announced.” These developments “have
solidified the idea of the [people’s] ability to confront political authority
and its suppressive apparatus.”
What is happening
is a wave of anger against political, financial and ideological corruption of
Iraqi Shiite fundamentalist parties. This worries Tehran, but what is strange
is that it also worries Washington!
make up 4.8 percent of the British population, yet a survey in 2013 showed that
62 percent of the British population agrees that the country will lose its
identity if more Muslims live in Britain. Public attitude toward Muslims in
Britain are sometimes troubling. It seems that no matter how hard Muslims try
at integrating and however successful they become on cultural, social, and
economic levels, the level of public discourse remain the same.
Sadiq Khan, the son of an immigrant bus driver became the first Muslim Mayor of
London. This follows a series of significant developments over the past two
weeks, including a Muslim woman becoming the first black, Arab Muslim to become
President of the National Union of Students (NUS) in the UK.
In the same
week, Nadiya Hussain, a headscarf-wearing Muslim woman, baked the Queen’s 90th
birthday cake. Despite being positive role models to young people of any
minority, and despite shedding a progressive light on what it means to be
Muslim in Britain, public sentiment continues to be worryingly negative.
Britain are continuously accused of not trying hard enough to integrate. Sadiq
Khan, Nadiya Hussain and Malia Bouattia are examples of Muslims integrating
into economic, cultural, and political spectrum of Britain. The fact also
remains that people cannot integrate if they are not being accepted.
garnered support, what about Malia?
it so difficult for Muslims to integrate is not the lack of will but the
difficulties on the way. Additionally, Muslims don’t receive sufficient help in
the process of integration. The Western world is quick to jump on the bandwagon
and support Muslim woman if they have been oppressed. Such was the case of
Malala Yousafzai, who was attacked by the Taliban on her way to school.
important to recognize that integration is not strictly limited to cultural
integration but perhaps more importantly to economic integration.
Yet if a
Muslim woman paves her own path and makes her own way, just as Malia Bouattia
did, she is faced with scrutiny and is attacked on her personal beliefs.
described her as an ISIS sympathizer because she stood against vilification of
all Muslims. It seems that a Muslim woman is worthy of support if she needs to
be saved, but not if she is strong enough to save herself.
vilification that Muslim women often face means that for every two steps they
take, the media and society set them one step back. Clearly, when Muslims make
headlines, it is either swept under the rug or is made to backfire, as it did
in Malia’s case. Therefore it is important to recognize that integration is not
strictly limited to cultural integration but perhaps more importantly to
to a report by the Muslim Council of Britain, Muslims are trailing in
socio-economic indicators, except when it comes to being students. A total of
21 percent of Muslims in Britain have never worked, compared to the UK average
of 4.3 percent. As a statistic, this may seem shocking. Yet numbers indicate
that change is indeed coming and 18.2 percent of the Muslim population in
Britain is in full-time education, compared to the UK average of 8.2 percent.
if these students are to be offered equal opportunities in employment once they
graduate, then they can improve the statistics behind the economic
participation of Muslims in Britain. Muslims have been living in places such as
London for decades. They employ 70,000 people and own 33.6 percent of small-to-medium
enterprises in the city.
biggest struggle for Malia Bouattia, Nadiya Hussain and Sadiq Khan wasn’t that
they are Muslims but that they are Muslims in Britain. Nevertheless, Muslims
will and should continue to try hard regardless of the challenges on the way.
London, arguably one of the world’s strongest capital cities, has a Mayor who
happens to be Muslim, perhaps their struggle to integrate in Britain will be
7 May 2016
For a while
now, everybody in Turkey is talking about a new constitution for the country.
The nature of the constitution is being hotly debated. Last week, Turkish
Parliamentary Speaker Ismail Kahraman’s statement that “secularism cannot
feature in the new constitution” sparked a widespread debate.
It was a
long-forgotten debate. It is good that the issue has once again come under
discussion, as this will make it possible to get a proper answer to the
question: “What is secularism?”
way to understand the misconceptions about secularism is to look back at
Turkey’s history. Turkey is the only Muslim country that features the concept
of “secularism” in its constitution. The concept of secularism is among “the
articles (of the constitution of 1924) whose amendment cannot even be
the Turkish constitution was amended in 1961 and 1982 and the concept of
secularism was featured in both of them as a non-amendable provision. Turkey
witnessed several military coups, yet the concept of secularism was again
preserved by the constitution.
after the 1970s, those who called themselves “secularists” started using this
concept in a different sense. During the 1970s, our teenage girls were allowed
to cover their heads in schools and universities but things started to change
in the 1980s and they were forbidden to wear headscarves. In the 1990s, in addition
to women not being allowed to wear headscarves in schools, universities, and
government offices, Qur’an courses and religious vocational high schools were
banned across the country. Pious individuals working in government offices, the
army and administrative positions were identified and blacklisted. In 1997, the
ruling right-wing government was toppled by a post-modern military coup. In
1999, a parliament member walking into the parliament wearing headscarf caused
a nationwide crisis. All of these were supposedly done in the name of
to the advocates of this oppressive system, secularism meant “being
anti-religious;” it was a means to suppress the religious masses rather than
liberating the society. If the country was Muslim, it had to be perceived this
coming into power by a overwhelming number of votes couldn’t entirely bridle
this bizarre, oppressive mentality that had taken hold in Turkey. Remembered
once more due to its anniversary in April 27, the e-memorandum of 2007 was a
memorandum that was imposed upon the government by the army over the Internet
because of the fact that the wife of the then presidential candidate Abdullah
Gul was wearing a headscarf. Were it not for the statement made by the
government in the same period strongly criticizing the memorandum and laying an
emphasis on a stronger secularism, the present-day Turkey probably would not be
different than it was in the past.
right-wing party that came into power would still be toppled by military coups
and memorandums, and certain deep powers would still continue to oppress the
religious masses and repress the Islamic geography under the emphasis of
secularism; and this precious geography could never realize that secularism does
not mean “atheism” as these people believe.
the true meaning of secularism could only be realized after the government’s
response to the e-memorandum of 2007. Secularism means that the state adopts
the same attitude toward all belief groups. In other words, regardless of one’s
belief, both that person and their belief should be under state protection. The
statements made by the President Erdogan to Mona Shazly during his visit to
Egypt in 2011 summarize the subject best: “The secularist state structure does
not ensure atheism; it ensures the freedom of religious belief.”
lives, especially in the Muslims countries, there will always be people who try
to distort the meaning of secularism. It should always be kept in mind that
these people wish to exploit the concept to promote their nefarious designs.
Secularism means loving, respecting and caring for every person equally,
regardless of their beliefs.
Muslim countries, believers should comprehend and get across the true meaning
of secularism better. They should not give way to those who exploit secularism
as leverage against religion. Secularism should cease to be used as an
instrument of oppressing believers, and become a symbol of the freedom religion
provides. Otherwise, just as in the old Turkey, left-oriented deep states might
usurp all the rights of believers, stigmatize the people of that country as
“anti-system,” and even oppose the existence of right-wing governments through
military coups and memorandums. They might deprive the believers of democracy,
and impose a system that will provide democracy only catering to their needs.
In a Muslim
country, they might throw people in jail just for being Muslims, impeding their
rights and freedoms. Therefore, Muslims should act with a mentality that will
end these wrong practices. They should be able to demonstrate that the concept
of secularism secures both their own freedoms as Muslims, and the freedoms of
others. They should be able to get across the fact that true freedom can only
be ensured by the concept of democracy in the Qur’an, not by the oppressive
practices of left-oriented deep states.
remarkable thing about the current ‘ceasefire’ in Syria, as it is teetering on
the edge of collapse is the fact that the city of Aleppo was only included in
the ceasefire agreement in the last minute. The Russians have not stopped
bombing it for one day in the two months of ‘ceasefire’. Why is that?
it is because Aleppo is controlled by terrorists: Russian speak for anyone who
is not with their ally, Assad. And since Russia, as a matter of policy, makes
no distinction between ISIS and the non-ISIS opposition, they present this as the
same battle against global jihadism that the US and the West are waging, even
as they are targeting groups who are, or have been in the past, supported by
the Western allies. And groups who themselves are bitterly opposed not only to
president Assad, but also to ISIS.
Aleppo is targeted because it is Syria’s biggest city and its economic capital
– not Damascus. It is also one of the oldest cities in the world with a history
and symbolic importance that rivals Damascus in every respect. So long as it is
held by the rebels, the opposition can claim a power base every bit as
significant as the Syrian capital in Damascus.
So long as
it stands, the rebels will keep fighting. And, the Russians and President Assad
believe that if they capture it then that will be the decisive turning point in
the conflict with the non-ISIS opposition.
rebellion continues in other parts of the country despite the fall of Aleppo,
Assad and Russia have already demonstrated that they are not above revenge
massacres of civilians
simply recapturing the city will not spell automatic victory. But it will
strengthen Assad’s position significantly, both strategically and
psychologically. Standing as it does, 50 km (~31 miles) from the Turkish border
and the main rebel supply route, Aleppo is the key hub of logistics for the
rebel operations in the north of the country.
it is being attacked from the south, the west and the east, with only a narrow
northern corridor still open to supply the rebels. Assad’s forces and the
Russians are also mounting an increasing offensive to capture even this
northern corridor, looking to complete the siege of the city and force the
local fighters (and the local civilian population) into submission, as they
have done with hunger sieges in many of the other rebel-held areas in the
will happen when the city finally capitulates? In the past week and a half,
over 250 people have been killed in the city. Will the bloodshed end? Or at
least, will the situation get better? In the best case scenario, the violence
would be slowly brought under control but only if the rest of the rebellion
also folds. If the rebellion continues in other parts of the country despite
the fall of Aleppo, Assad and Russia have already demonstrated that they are
not above revenge massacres of civilians.
for Aleppo is that it is not enough for it to fall. In the strategic
calculation of Assad, and especially of the Russians who are still keen to
resolve this quickly and with minimal investment, it is also necessary that the
city should not be capable to re-emerge as a threat to the authority of the
regime. In other words, surrender will not be enough. The city needs to be
this will be done through carpet bombing prior to a takeover, as things stand
at the moment, or whether it will be done by ‘bringing terrorist elements to
justice’ after a takeover and the imposition of government rule, for the people
of Aleppo, fighters and civilians alike, the worst may be yet to come.
6 May 2016
often question why the Arab world, in particular, is in such a mess. The fact
is that so many of our problems have been triggered by the interference of
foreign powers eager to dominate this strategically-located and resource-rich
area. The Ottomans, the British and the French carved-up the region separating
tribes and families with borders. The international community rubber-stamped
the theft of Palestinian land, igniting a series of Arab-Israeli wars.
Lebanon, it inherited a “confessional” system of governance which in itself is
separating rather than unifying encouraging sectarianism. More recently, US
military interventions in Iraq and Libya have fomented sectarian tensions while
opening the door to terrorists of all ugly stripes. Worse, the Obama
administration has enriched, empowered and emboldened Iran that has boasted of
its control of Arab capitals, with a stroke of a pen, thus making our region a
more dangerous place than ever.
been used as pawns of foreign powers which have only one goal which is self
interest. If we Arabs had stood tall and together instead of submitting or, in
some cases, shaking hands with foreign states, our neighbourhood would look
very different today. Admittedly, in the past we lacked the financial and
military wherewithal to resist outside interference. But that is changing fast
thanks to the leadership of Saudi Arabia that is consolidating its allies into
a powerful military, economic and diplomatic bloc.
question is this. Where do the Lebanese stand; with Persians vying to become a
regional hegemonic power or with their fellow Arabs? Are you with us or against
us? The choice should be no contest when Iran’s Arab populations are severely
oppressed and excluded from the mainstream; denied being taught Arabic in
schools, excluded from top jobs and even forbidden from giving their newborns
mistake, Hezbollah owes its creation and pays it allegiance to the ayatollahs.
Its 1985 Manifesto clearly states the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – the former
Supreme Leader of Iran – is the leader whose “orders we obey”, calls on
Christians to “embrace Islam” and supports Lebanon becoming an Shiite State.
The manifesto may have been revised and softened by Hassan Nasrallah in 2009 to
have a broader appeal but who is he kidding? His organisation is bought,
paid-for and armed by Tehran.
is Lebanese in name only. It is nothing short of a tool wielded by a foreign
state clothed as a Lebanese resistance. It is a resistance alright; it resists
the rights of the Lebanese people whether Sunni, Shiite, Christian or Druze, to
live in an open, free, secure and prosperous society. It alienates Lebanon’s
natural Arab allies, has infiltrated the country’s army and insists on its pick
for president. Moreover, it dragged Lebanon into war with Israel in 2006 and
into supporting the Assad regime responsible for the death of over 400,000
line is that no amount of aid pumped into Lebanon will make a difference.
Lebanon’s economy would boom without the insecurity and instability Hezbollah
understand the reaction of some of my Lebanese friends to Saudi Arabia’s freeze
on $4bn aid to the military and security serves. They complain they have been
abandoned to Iran whereas, in truth, as long as Hezbollah keeps its grip
instilling fear in the hearts of political and military leaders, Lebanon will
remain a toy in the Iranian pocket.
could no longer buy into the pretence that Lebanese decision makers do not have
tied hands, or that the patriotic Lebanese are the ones in charge. If they
were, the country would have a president, a budget and there would be no rivers
of garbage threatening the health of citizens. Anyone who believes anything
different has been duped by a prettied-up façade.
is that no amount of aid pumped into Lebanon will make a difference. Lebanon’s
economy would boom without the insecurity and instability Hezbollah delivers.
This entity must be defeated by all means. Without another civil war, which no
Lebanese citizen wants to even contemplate, saving Lebanon and bringing it back
to the Arab fold lies in the hands of our Lebanese Shiite brothers and sisters,
who I know from personal experience are generous, hospitable and proud to call
friends, are your country’s salvation. Without support from sections of your
community, Hezbollah would wither and fade away. I have known you since the
late 1960s when I visited Lebanon with no penny in my pocket. I was welcomed by
the Wazni family and other kind Lebanese Shiites. The Shiites I have known were
passionate in their love of country and they count as some of my closest
friends. They are proud Lebanese and proud Arabs. I do not want to see the day
my grandchildren are forced to speak Farsi and neither do they.
There is no
escaping from our blood lines, our DNA or our history. We are a different race
from the Persians. We do not share the same traditions or culture. I wish all
Lebanese Shiites thought the same way and hope with all my heart that those
connected to or are in support of Nasrallah or his second-in-command Naim
Qassem will see the light before Lebanon is viewed as an Iranian satellite, a
foe of the Arab world.
I have so
many wonderful memories bound up with my stays in Lebanon and I have always
felt a strong emotional tie to this land of amazing natural beauty and its
beautifully-hearted people. I know that I am not alone. Many Arab nationals of
GCC States feel exactly the same. Believe me, were Hezbollah to collapse, the
country would be flooded with new investment, businesses, banks and, of course,
tourists! Lebanon would open its petals to flower again just as it did in the
50s, 60s and early 70s.
Hezbollah’s propaganda and lies. Its Iranian roots will never change. Its
leaders may have been born in Lebanon but they have forfeited the right to call
themselves Arabs. And as known drug dealers, money launderers, diamond
smugglers and terrorists, both within Lebanon and without, they have forfeited
their honour and are undeserving of any respect.
I am asking
Lebanese Shiites to do what is right. Lebanon is badly injured and is bleeding
politically, geopolitically and economically. Our arms are open to you. Come
back to us and reclaim your Arab identity; not behind closed doors or in
whispers. Have the courage to shout your rejection of what the Iranian
Hezbollah stands for from the hilltops, in the squares and in the streets –
and, rest assured, that in no time, we will be by your side to lift you out of
this down spiral before Lebanon, like several of its neighbours, are in need of
national transformation plan continues to be the subject of discussion among
all segments of society. There are those who are ardent supporters, others are
skeptics, and there are also doubters. The supporters believe that it is a
brilliant plan that will save the country from a pending economic crisis. The
skeptics believe that the plan is too ambitious and that it will be very
difficult to realize its goals. As for the doubters, they believe that we do
not have the manpower or the know-how to implement such a gigantic project.
economists outline basic requirements needed to implement Vision 2030. They
assert that good governance and social justice are critical for a smooth
transformation process. The government must pledge a national commitment to
provide the basic rights for all citizens before policymakers draw the
mechanism for the transformation plan. They should begin by strengthening the
rule of law and applying justice for all to guarantee national support for the
efficient and strong judiciary is a fundamental requirement for the protection
of human rights and for sustainable social progress and stability. Legal
analysts have always maintained the need to modernize the legal system in order
to achieve meaningful social and economic reforms.
judiciary system should incorporate flexible laws that are necessary for
change. Our legal system lacks transparency, predictability and due process to
attract foreign investment. Businesses have suffered and projects have been
delayed or aborted because of legal restrictions. The hardliners who continue
to exercise legal control over our economic liberties are the impediments to
strife is also a major threat to the transformation plan. It will not be easy
to bring about change with the prevalence of the ultra-conservative opinions
entrenched in the minds of some who call for a boycott of entertainment
networks and label advocates of modernity as enemies of the faith. Social
scientists urge a strong government stand against the obstructionists who have
delayed the reform movement and divided our society into progressives and
expect policymakers to chart a plan that will ensure a better future for all,
where no one should be above the law. Every citizen is entitled to lead a life
of decency and dignity. Saudi youth today who represent 70 percent of the
population are more aware of their rights and want to be on a par with other
countries that enjoy freedom, equality and social justice. They hold the
government responsible for providing opportunities to help them achieve their
full potential. The plan should include serious steps to improve healthcare and
public well-being, as well as provide equal opportunities and decent work for
all. These are the requirements for a healthy and productive society.
should be programs to promote a moderate and inclusive society and an effective
mechanism to provide upward mobility for women and allow their participation in
nation building. Many capable and qualified women remain marginalized.
According to the 2014 McKinsey “Women Matter” survey, women in Saudi Arabia
hold less than one percent of executive-committee and board positions which is
among the lowest in the world.
progress of our nation depends on the success of the youth and the empowerment
of women who will be the future leaders of this country. Quality education,
on-the-job training and business opportunities are basic requirements to help
them succeed and become contributing citizens. What we need is a clear road map
to sustainable development that will ensure a successful and irreversible
for the next 15 years should be a charter to support new Saudi citizens of the
twenty-first century who can lead the nation to a better future.
officials, the Shoura Council, civil society, local authorities, the business
and the private sector, the scientific and academic community and all
stakeholders must show more commitment to implementing the transformation plan.