Your Blessings This Ramadan
By Purva Grover
Strength of Manchester and Britain Will Prevail
By Chris Doyle
By Jim O’Neill
Closure of Israel’s Public Broadcaster
By Yossi Mekelberg
Iran, King Salman Nailed It
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Attack and Riyadh’s Center for Combating Terrorism
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Runs Qatar Behind the Scenes?
By Saeed Al-Suraihi
Neighbor Al-Jazeera, Why?
By Dr. Ali Bin Hamad, Al-Kheshaiban
Basketball Does Hijab, Because It Can
By Adama Juldeh Munu
It Is About Policies Not News
By Mashari Althaydi
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
May 25, 2017
Blessings come in tiny and big ways in our
lives. Sometimes they're tough to identify, too.
As we enter the holy month of Ramadan, I am
reminded of the prayers I said decades ago. As kids, during the school
assemblies, our teachers would ask us to close our eyes and say a little
prayer. Express your gratitude towards anything that makes today wonderful, we
were told. We would mutter a prayer. I recall feeling grateful for a cloudy
day, the yummy sandwich packed in my lunch box, a play date with my best
friend. We were allowed to keep our prayers a secret, too. When I reached college,
my teacher's words continued to ring in my head, and it became a routine to
look at life with the 'glass half full' attitude. I felt grateful for an easy
test paper, pocket money, movie nights, and opportunities to select subjects I
wished to study.
Looking back, I realise how over the years
I began to express gratitude towards different things - lesser traffic on the
road, promotion at work, relaxed weekends. As my friends would say, our
priorities and expectations are constantly changing. Hence, somewhere in
between we also began to ask for more and cherish less.
I wonder when did we begin to measure
blessings. I'm not sure I know.
Blessings come in tiny and big ways in our
lives. Sometimes they're tough to identify too, which makes this period of
fasting, observance, giving, and praying, a perfect time to look closer and
cherish what we have.
Our daily lives are filled with blessings.
They come to us when we greet an elderly person, or perhaps when we offer a
bottle of water to a labourer working under the harsh sun. Blessings are when
the room lights up as friends and family gather to share a meal, lovingly
prepared together. It lies in the smile you exchange with a stranger on a Metro
It's the hug that you envelope your child
in after a long day at work. It also lies in the lessons of life and love,
culture and customs, rituals and reverence that you pass on to the younger
generations. It lies in the charities you contribute to. It appears in the
sunrise you greet, and the sunset you watch. It lies in every waking moment
spent in chasing a dream, and in every dream that visits you while you are
This Ramadan, why not count your blessings,
especially the ones hidden in our mundane lives. Take a moment to introspect
and express gratitude. Here's wishing everyone a season of bliss.
26 May 2017
Twelve years ago, on July 7, 2005, central
London was the victim of four major synchronized bomb attacks on its transport
system by Islamist extremists. At the time, the fact they were home-grown and
from Yorkshire shocked many who were unfamiliar with the underlying trends in
The attack in Manchester on Monday was the
first mass-fatality bombing since then in Britain. This time, it would have
been a surprise if the perpetrator was not born and raised here.
The Westminster attack on March 22 was by a
lone attacker, with little evidence of much support. The sophistication and
power of the bomb in Manchester demonstrate technical abilities way beyond that
expected of a 22-year-old, leading security services to believe the bomb-maker
is still at large and a threat. They believe there is a “network” involved.
The youth of the attacker Salman Abedi is
an increasing feature of Daesh terrorists, as is his being a cannabis-smoking,
alcohol-drinking dropout who may have been part of the local gang culture. This
is part of a trend where Daesh extremists are not very observant and come from
criminal backgrounds. It was also no surprise that he was a second-generation
immigrant. His family came from Libya.
The Westminster attack was on the heart of
Britain’s political power, the Manchester attack at the heart of its cultural
hub, both equally loathed by the likes of Daesh and Al-Qaeda. The timing may
well have been political given that it was in the midst of a general election
The other massive change since 2005 is the
response of British-Muslim communities. Back then, in the era of former Prime
Minister Tony Blair, they were neither prepared for the bombers being
British-Muslim nor for the backlash.
Many sections of these communities were in
total denial that there was an issue, to the extent of believing in absurd
conspiracy theories of exaggerated faux hysteria. It was comforting for many to
think this was not their problem or issue.
But in 2017, Muslim communities are far
more aware that there are extremists in their midst, and that silence, denial
and inaction are no longer an option. It does not mean they were not appalled
by the killings in London; they just found it hard to accept that one of their
own could do this.
It was one of the few uplifting themes of
the Manchester horror, the way the city’s entire community rallied around to
help and comfort. Taxi drivers of all backgrounds and faiths rushed to help and
took people to safety free of charge. People opened their homes. A
British-Syrian surgeon from Homs treated many of the victims, seeing many of
the same wounds he had operated on during the Syrian crisis.
Muslim communities raised hundreds of
thousands of pounds for the victims of the attack. Moreover, the accusation
that British Muslims do not report extremism to the authorities did not apply
here as many British Libyans had warned the authorities of radicalization in
south Manchester for several years.
Just possibly too, the work and efforts of
British-Muslim groups is slowly paying off. Signs are beginning to show that
more and more people understand that British Muslims are not the problem and
are just as likely to be victims, and certainly far from being on the side of
But as ever, while the dominant themes were
of togetherness, unity and resilience, racists and bigots leapt into action.
One leading columnist called for a state of emergency and internment camps.
Quite who she thought would be put in them, who knows? Another lowlife called
for a “final solution.” A mosque in Oldham was attacked, and no doubt further
hate crimes will follow.
US President Donald Trump, famed for his
hostile comments against Muslims in his election campaign, did in his speech in
Riyadh highlight one key truth that has still failed to register in much of the
West. “Some estimates hold that more than 95 percent of the victims of
terrorism are themselves Muslim.”
Further attacks in Britain are likely.
Daesh and Al-Qaeda have long plotted such atrocities against a nation that has
been active militarily in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. Of the major
Western powers, it may rank second only to the US in terms of being loathed.
But Britain has survived much worse, so its
society is far from being cowed or broken. It may surprise many that between
2000 and 2015, only 90 people were killed in the UK in terrorist attacks. This
compares to 1,094 deaths in the 15-year period before that, between 1985 and
1999, and 2,211 between 1970 and 1984, much of it because of Irish-related
terrorism. The country did not panic then, nor will it do so now. This resolve
is vital in facing the likely wave of attacks over the next decade.
I am a proud Mancunian (as the people of
Manchester are known), despite the fact I have not lived there permanently
since I left school for university when I was 18. I was born in St. Mary’s
hospital near the city centre, was raised in a pleasant suburb in South
Manchester, and attended a normal primary and junior school in a nearby, tougher
neighbourhood, before attending Burnage for secondary school. Thirty-eight
years after I attended Burnage, so, apparently, did Salman Abedi, the suspected
Manchester Arena bomber.
The atrocity carried out by Abedi, for
which Daesh has claimed credit, is probably worse than the dreadful bombing by
the Irish Republican Army that destroyed parts of the city center 21 years ago,
an event that many believe played a key role in Manchester’s renaissance. At
least in that case, the bombers gave a 90-minute warning that helped avoid loss
of life. Abedi’s barbaric act, by contrast, killed at least 22 people, many of
In recent years, I have been heavily
involved in the policy aspects of this great city’s economic revival. I chaired
an economic advisory group to the Greater Manchester Council, and then served
as Chair of the Cities Growth Commission, which advocated for the “Northern
Powerhouse,” a program to link the cities of the British north into a cohesive economic
unit. Subsequently, I briefly joined David Cameron’s government, to help
implement the early stages of the Northern Powerhouse.
I have never attended a concert at the
Manchester Arena, but it appears to be a great venue for the city. Just as
Manchester Airport has emerged as a transport hub serving the Northern
Powerhouse, the arena plays a similar role in terms of live entertainment. As
the sad reports about those affected indicate, attendees came from many parts
of northern England (and beyond).
In the past couple of years, Manchester has
received much praise for its economic revival, including its position at the
geographic heart of the Northern Powerhouse, and I am sure this will continue.
Employment levels and the regional business surveys indicate that, for most of
the past two years, economic momentum has been stronger in North West England
than in the country as a whole, including London. Whether this is because of
the Northern Powerhouse policy is difficult to infer; whatever the reason, it is
hugely welcome and important to sustain.
To my occasional irritation, many people
still wonder what exactly the Northern Powerhouse is. At its core, it
represents the economic geography that lies within Liverpool to the west,
Sheffield to the East, and Leeds to the northeast, with Manchester in the
middle. The distance from Manchester to the centre of any of those other cities
is less than 40 miles (64 km), which is shorter than the London Underground’s
Central, Piccadilly, or District lines. If the 7-8 million people who live in
those cities — and in the numerous towns, villages, and other areas between
them — can be connected via infrastructure, they can act as a single unit in
terms of their roles as consumers and producers.
The Northern Powerhouse would then be a
genuine structural game changer for Britain’s economy. Indeed, along with
London, it would be a second dynamic economic zone that registers on a global
scale. It is this simple premise that led the previous government to place my
ideas at the core of its economic policies, and why the Northern Powerhouse has
become so attractive to business in the UK and overseas.
It is a thrilling prospect, and, despite
being less than three years old, it is showing signs of progress. In fact,
given the broader economic benefits of agglomeration, the Northern Powerhouse
mantra can be extended to the whole of the North of England, not least to
include Hull and the North East. But it is what I often inelegantly call
“Man-Sheff-Leeds-Pool” that distinguishes the Northern Powerhouse, and
Manchester, which sits at the heart of it, is certainly among the early
Despite this, I have frequently said to
local policy leaders, business people, those from the philanthropic world, and
others that unless the areas lying outside the immediate vicinity of central
Manchester benefit from regional dynamism, Greater Manchester’s success will be
far from complete. Anyone who looks little more than a mile north, south, east,
or west of Manchester’s Albert Square — never mind slightly less adjacent parts
such as Oldham and Rochdale — can see that much needs to be improved, including
education, skills training and inclusiveness, in order to ensure long-term
Whatever the warped motive of the
22-year-old Abedi, who evidently blew himself up along with the innocent
victims, his reprehensible act will not tarnish Manchester’s bright, hopeful
future. I do not claim to understand the world of terrorism, but I do know that
those who live in and around Manchester and other cities need to feel part of
their community and share its aspirations. Residents who identify with their
community are less likely to harm it — and more likely to contribute actively
to its renewed vigor.
Now more than ever, Manchester needs the
vision that the Northern Powerhouse provides. It is a vision that other cities
and regions would do well to emulate.
Most people in Europe heard for the first
time that Israel was about to shut down its public broadcasting service, the
Israeli Broadcasting Authority (IBA), while watching the vote-counting during
Eurovision recently. It was announced that this was the last time the IBA would
broadcast this tiresome music contest.
It will not be the end of Israel’s
participation in Eurovision, but it was the end of the IBA in the way it had
been known even before Israel was founded. The well-established broadcaster,
though not without its issues and need for reform, was replaced with a new and
In principle, the huge changes in the world
of media, especially digital media, require constant adaptation. But this was
not the case with the closure of the IBA. It was another attempt by the government,
and especially by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to take control and
manipulate the public media in their favour. It is a growing and worrisome
trend that undermines freedom of speech in Israel and the role of the media as
The IBA has been under attack by
politicians for many years. They did not like the scrutiny that comes with
their job, and used the media as a scapegoat for their shortcomings and
failures. But Netanyahu took the attempt to muzzle the media to a completely
new level via intimidation, manipulation, incitement and restrictive
For his entire political career, he has
used media-bashing as a tool to advance his career. He has portrayed almost
every part of the written, broadcast and digital media as persecuting him
because of his opinions, and has suggested they are serving foreign interests.
He has portrayed himself both as a victim and the defender of Israel’s national
interests in the face of a hostile media.
The IBA’s origins go back to mandatory
Palestine, when the first radio station of the Jewish community started
broadcasting in 1936 (the public television service began 49 years ago). Its
journalists’ integrity and professionalism served the country’s public debate
on some of its most controversial issues.
The crude attempts to reduce the service,
especially the news and current-affairs division, was initiated by Netanyahu
three years ago during his previous term in office. In the process of
destroying a service that covered all momentous historical events in Israel’s
history, the government demonstrated its contempt for freedom of speech,
incompetence in executing the switch to the new broadcasting service, and
insensitivity to the livelihood of its employees.
The tearful on-air goodbye during the last
ever screening of the evening news was as much about the demise of the
organization and lost jobs as the fear that this is just another blow to free
media, particularly the one funded by the public.
Strangely, more recently Netanyahu has been
waging a battle against the newly established public broadcaster for no
apparent reason, even before it aired its first news bulletin. One can only
suspect that those are warning shots to ward off diligent scrutiny of
government policies or his leadership, and an attempt to dissuade any interest
in the investigations into his and his wife’s alleged corrupt behaviour.
The IBA’s closure is part of a more
concerted effort by Netanyahu to curb any overseeing of his failed premiership.
Whereas he would not dare go as far as Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Turkey’s
Recep Tayyip Erdogan to harass or arrest journalists, the state of mind is very
similar. He sees journalists who oppose him and his policies as personal
enemies and enemies of the state. Similarly, he has also used incitement
against the media as a political tool.
This paranoia, alleging that there is a
media bias against him, led Sheldon Adelson — chairman and CEO of Las Vegas
Sands, the largest casino company in the US, and an ally of the prime minister
— to start a free newspaper, Israel Hayom, which became Netanyahu’s mouthpiece.
When the newspaper’s editor recently showed some courage to criticize
Netanyahu, he was unceremoniously replaced.
Despite wide protestation against the free
distribution of the newspaper, which almost instantly made it the
best-circulated in Israel, it has always enjoyed Netanyahu’s protection from
legislation that would have forced it to charge money.
Ironically, a major police investigation
against him probes secret conversations he had with one of his major nemeses in
the media, the publisher of Yediot Ahronot newspaper. The conversations
revolved around allowing such legislation in exchange for more favourable
coverage of Netanyahu in this newspaper.
If true — and so far there has been no
denial of the authenticity of the transcripts of these conversations — it is
clear evidence of the cynical and careless approach that Netanyahu is taking
toward free speech and the role of the media. It hurts Israeli democracy, but
it will not cover up his shortcomings and moral bankruptcy. If anything, it
will make the media in Israel, and those who have its best interests at heart,
more determined to protect it.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Anyone who understands and has followed the
character of Iran’s political establishment for decades knows that Saudi King
Salman’s recent speech articulately laid out critical truths about Iran’s
The first issue is linked to its role in
spreading terrorism. Several US State Department reports indicate that Iran is
the top state sponsor of terrorism. In addition, based on my research at
Harvard, Tehran directly or indirectly supports roughly 40 percent of the
world’s designated terrorist groups.
This includes financial, military, advisory
and political assistance. Iran’s major organization that establishes and backs
militia groups across the region is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
(IRGC), and its affiliate branches such as the Quds Force led by Qassem
The IRGC, under the direct supervision of
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has significantly contributed to the emergence of
groups such as Hezbollah, and Iraqi Shiite militias including Asa’ib Ahl
Al-Haq, which operate as Iran’s proxies. In nearly four decades, Tehran has
expanded its influence from Sanaa to Baghdad via direct or indirect
Iran’s export of a radical version of
Shiite ideology and its revolutionary slogans have led to further Shiite-Sunni
division. Since 1979, it has used its sectarian agenda to divide and rule and
to impose fear. Tehran benefits from this instability. Its sectarian agenda has
also contributed to the rise of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh.
As King Salman said: “The Iranian regime
has been the spearhead of global terrorism since the (1979) Khomeini
revolution. For 300 years, we did not know terrorism and extremism until the
Khomeini revolution reared its head.” This is Tehran’s underlying modus
operandi. It will not alter the core pillars of its revolutionary ideals.
King Salman referred to Iran’s
unwillingness to accept diplomatic initiatives: “Iran has rejected initiatives
of good neighbourhood provided by our countries based on good faith. Iran
replaced these initiatives with expansionist ambitions, criminal practices,
interference in the internal affairs of other countries, flagrant violations of
international law, and violations of the principles of good neighbourliness,
coexistence and mutual respect.”
For Tehran, concessions mean weakness. That
is why the Obama administration’s concessions emboldened and empowered Iran to
pursue its regional hegemonic ambitions. Iran’s moderates are a powerful tool
for hard-liners to gain more power financially and geopolitically. The
powerless moderates bring cash to the hard-liners, while the latter have the
final say in foreign policy.
Since 1979, Iran has shown that the only
language it understands is pressure. Tehran has repeatedly abused kind gestures
from world leaders. As King Salman said: “The Iranian regime erroneously
thought that our silence was a sign of weakness and our wisdom a retreat. We
have had enough of its hostile practices and interventions, as we have seen in
Yemen and other countries in the region.”
Tehran has used the name of Islam to expand
its power and advance its pursuit of regional superiority. King Salman pointed
to this critical issue by condemning attempts to exploit Islam “as a cover for
political purposes that fuel hatred, extremism, terrorism, and religious and
sectarian conflicts. The Iranian regime and its affiliated groups and
organizations such as Hezbollah and the Houthis, as well as ISIS (Daesh) and
Al-Qaeda and others, are clear examples.”
He added: “Today we see some who consider themselves
Muslims seek to present a distorted image of our religion, where they seek to
link this great religion with violence. We say to our brothers, sisters, sons
and daughters of Muslims everywhere that one of the most important purposes of
Islamic law is self-preservation, and there is no honor in committing crimes.”
King Salman thoughtfully distinguished
between Iran’s government and its oppressed people: “We confirm… our
appreciation of and respect to the Iranian people, who will not be blamed for
the crimes of their regime.” US President Donald Trump acknowledged King
Salman’s remarks by saying the Iranian people have “endured hardship and
despair under their leaders’ reckless pursuit of conflict and terror.”
Trump added: “From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen,
Iran funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups
that spread destruction and chaos across the region… Until the Iranian regime
is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work
together to isolate it… and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the
just and righteous government they so richly deserve.”
The only way to change Iran’s behaviour for
the better is to create a powerful coalition that pressures it politically and
economically. King Salman’s astute speech struck a chord among Muslim and world
leaders, as well as Westerners and more fundamentally the Iranian people.
Attack and Riyadh’s Centre for Combating Terrorism
25 May 2017
The difference between al-Qaeda and ISIS is
in the use of terror techniques. Al-Qaeda has almost disappeared because it
decided to stop using the internet and modern technology after it realized this
could expose it. ISIS, as a secret group, became prominent as a result of
technology and published most of its activities on social media networks.
Theoretically speaking, technology is
supposed to expose ISIS but it turned out that the latter is often one step
ahead of global security apparatuses. It individually communicates with those
who are enthusiastic about its message via online networks. According to
preliminary details, this is was the case of the young man who carried out the
recent Manchester attack.
ISIS recruited him at his home in Manchester
and he did not need to travel to ar-Raqqah in Syria. Security forces work to
expose terrorists and thwart their operations by infiltrating such
organizations and planting their agents. They monitor electronic messages and
phone calls but it seems this is no longer yielding any results. The frequency
of terrorist attacks in Europe prove this fact.
A relevant event of great significance
happened recently. Few days ago, the Global Center for Combating Extremist
Ideology was inaugurated in Saudi Arabia. Although there are around 1,000
centres in the world that specialize in the affairs related to terrorism, this
centre is different. It is a massive radar that electronically detects
activities particularly on social media networks.
It reads billions of circulated letters,
sorts them and categorizes them following which they are analyzed by relevant
officials. The centre handles the task of recognizing concepts, lessons and
Fatwas (religious edicts) and has distinguished itself for its ability to
differentiate between local dialects as most of the circulated material,
whether written or spoken.
Intervention is done through detecting and
pursuing dangerous circulated material or by discussing it and guiding it in
the right direction. The Centre is supposed to fill the gaps in the electronic
space, which extremists dominate.
Manchester’s lone wolf is one of hundreds
or perhaps thousands in the virtual world. Security apparatuses confront
difficult challenges as terrorists’ tools and tactics progress. They listen to
phone calls, read messages, monitor the sale of arms and materials used to make
weapons, and gather information from their informants who risk their lives to
be on the ground.
Meanwhile, ISIS looks online for those with
characteristics matching its objectives. The group communicates with them
individually and this lessens the chances of being exposed or infiltrated.
After communicating with dozens of young men who had already been deceived,
they are guided to achieve the group’s aims.
Most of the time, one of them will be
willing to carry out a crime either by using a suicide belt or a machine gun.
Sometimes, they are tasked with using a vehicle to ram people or with simply
using a kitchen knife to murder people.
Real failure is not in the inability to
expose criminals before they commit crime or in failing to to thwart a terror
attack, it is in the inability to build bridges to stop these torrents of
hatred and incitement. This is not a general case in Muslim societies as it is
claimed, and it’s not true that hatred and criminal activities have spread as a
result of the Muslims’ suffering in European “ghettos.”
These crimes are also not exclusive to
those angry with their regimes’ practices in Muslim countries. These are all
excuses to justify terrorism. There are the same exact cases in other
communities who follow other religions, such as Sikhism, Hinduism and Buddhism,
so why don’t they wear suicide belts to voice protest or purify themselves?
Even Muslims from the previous generations
did not do this. Why are today’s Muslim generations doing so? The spread of
extremism in Birmingham and Manchester in Britain is much easier than its
spread in Saudi Arabia and Egypt because laws are strict in the latter two and
lenient in the former.
One last note: Fighting extremism is more
important than fighting terrorism.
May 26, 2017
IT is our duty toward Qatar, as a sisterly
country, to believe its officials when they say that the official website of
the Qatar News Agency (QNA) was hacked and that the hackers put in the mouth of
the agency things that it had not said.
It is also our duty toward Qatar, as a
friendly country, not to disbelieve its official media through which the
country’s Emir said things that were not a far cry from the numerous tweets
Qatar has written in the past and from which it later tried to disengage
Qatar’s tweets and the statements of its
ruler are confusing to both its enemies and its friends. Qatar has left those
who love it, and we Saudis are among them, and those who are unsure about its
attitude, and we are also among them, in total darkness.
We are confused by the attitude of this
country toward issues that concern all of us. We are unable to take a clear
stand toward Qatar except to say that it has disengaged itself from the
consensus on issues that represent a common danger to the entire region.
Qatar has also disengaged itself from the
consensus of the Riyadh Arab-Islamic and US summit, which considered Iran to be
a hostile country that is interfering in the internal affairs of other
The summit also decided that Iran has
provided a safe haven for terrorists and sectarian groups who are jeopardizing
the security and stability of the region.
If the Emir of Qatar believes that it is
not wise to escalate matters with Iran because of its Islamic and regional
weight, he should be wise enough to realize that it is Iran, and no one else,
that has escalated issues with its neighbours.
This is, of course, unless the Emir is
unaware of Iran’s interventions in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and its flagrant
support for the Houthis in Yemen.
And also unless the Emir has not heard of
the ballistic missiles Iran has launched along the coast opposite to his
country’s borders in the Arabian Gulf.
Furthermore, if the Emir of Qatar believes
that Hamas is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,
then let me tell him that the Palestinians know better than him when it comes
to who their real representatives are.
The Palestinians and the Arab League know
better than the Emir of Qatar who the sole legitimate representatives of the
Palestinian people are.
Qatar is still a member of the Arab League
and as such the country should know better than its own ruler who is the real
representative of the Palestinian people.
He has gone against his country’s official
stand on who represents the people of Palestine. Qatar recognizes the real
representative of the Palestinian people while its Emir does not.
Al-Jazeera news channel, the official
spokesman of Qatar, has adopted the ambiguous ideology of the Muslim
Brotherhood, which found a stronghold for its beliefs in that country.
These conflicting attitudes have prompted
the Emir of Qatar to say that he was maintaining good relationships with both
Iran and America at the same time. He also spoke about his good ties with both
Hamas and Israel!
Paradoxically, while the Emir thanked
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman for his warm welcome, he said in
his speech before the Riyadh summit that the world consensus against terrorism
constituted a danger to Qatar and the security of the region.
Neighbour Al-Jazeera, Why?
Dr. Ali Bin Hamad, Al-Kheshaiban
I DO not know how I can interpret and
understand the statements made by our neighbour Qatar, with whom we have so
many things in common. Since the 18th century and the secession from Bahrain,
Qatar has been living in peace and security and has had historical relations
with its neighbours in the Gulf region, neighbours who are very close to it and
who surround it on all sides. I remember the beginning of the historical
relations between late King Abdulaziz and Qatar and how the King provided Qatar
with everything it needed. Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Maneh, the well-known Saudi
scholar, was one of the people who played a pivotal role in establishing the
education system in Qatar.
Every time I think of these historical
relations, I cannot help but wonder what is happening to our neighbour
Al-Jazeera (Qatar)? The political changes that have been taking place there
since 1995, in addition to the equilibrium of the political powers, have become
a pressing issue. What are the motives that have changed that country’s
political stability following the mid-1990s? How can we read and understand the
changes? Nothing happens haphazardly or without a reason. We should always
As we all know, history is our greatest
teacher and guide. Each government must realize that any move it makes will
involve risks if it does not assess and balance the risks. In fact, the
political statements coming from our neighbour Al-Jazeera contradict our common
goal in the Gulf where all countries aim to live in complete peace and
A country’s power is determined by its
capability, geographic area and demographic elements. The more a country is
aware of its capabilities, the more reasonable and wise are its actions. And
for it, the right path becomes clear. However, having such capabilities should
not prevent countries from having other alternatives. Money is not one of the
alternatives. Rather, I am talking about political equilibrium and balance in
terms of ties with neighbours.
Going against the trend does not guarantee
success because the trend is strong and cannot be resisted. Success lies in
building strong partnerships with historical friends and utilizing such
partnerships to build a bright future. Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of
Singapore, did not swim against the tide; on the contrary, he worked with every
country that was close to and far from Singapore. If our neighbour Al-Jazeera
wants to follow in the same footsteps, then it should realize that such
statements are merely political campaigns whose effect will quickly vanish
while the truth will remain unchanged. The real change happens in the way you
act and the efforts you exert to achieve mutual interests with neighbours who
surround you on all sides.
I have always wondered about the political
moves adopted by our neighbour Al-Jazeera and asked why Al-Jazeera creates so
much media hype and broadcasts it to the world. When all Gulf countries were
suffering from terrorism and explosions, our neighbour Al-Jazeera was not moved
or affected by these events. It opened its doors to everyone without exception
and included those in its media programs whose objectives were not clear.
Despite all of this, neighbours respected their neighbour Al-Jazeera and dealt
with it with equilibrium and balance and even signed treaties and agreements
with it, but…!
I think the excessive emotions expressed in
the statements coming from our neighbour Al-Jazeera do not serve the interests
of the region and of its neighbours and might result in negative consequences.
Such consequences might reflect negatively on our neighbour, whom we hope will
follow in the footsteps of Singapore in the near future and not result in the
establishment of a second Cuba in the Gulf region. Even Cuba has realized today
that political statements are nothing but media campaigns that bring about more
damage than benefit.
Our neighbour Al-Jazeera should realize
that political statements do not make history or build a country. The Arabic
proverb says: “Nothing scratches your skin but your own fingernail”, meaning
“God helps those who help themselves.” The most dangerous political stand a
country can take is when that country adopts the positions of organizations and
individuals. Our neighbour Al-Jazeera, you still have a chance to return to
your neighbours, but you have to move fast before it is too late.
Adama Juldeh Munu
As I am sure most of us know by now,
discussions around the Hijab are a staple food for the media and the general
public, and most of the time, for all the wrong reasons, which do not merit
But if there is a good reason for one who
dons it to reflect upon the latest controversy, it comes with the recent
overturning of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) ban on Muslim
women wearing the hijab while playing basketball.
Had it been a story detailing the ban of
the veil by a Muslim or a non-Muslim majority country or the listings of a
commentator who deems a polyester or viscose item as an affront to Western
civilisation, most Muslim women would have probably licked their fingers and
turned the page. Why? Because the discourse on the real experiences of Muslim
women - a discourse that does not present them as "victims" - has
moved at a snail's pace.
As Love in a Headscarf author, Shelina
Janmohamed, says "It feels like no one is listening". That no one
seems to be listening does not necessarily mean that Hijab-wearing Muslim women
should seek overt validation in what can be a very personal choice. It is about
the appreciation that a piece of scarf is not the be-all-end-all of who and
what the Muslim woman represents. Earlier this month, an iron gate was broken
down in the arena of basketball.
Is Not An Obstacle For Muslim Athletes
On May 4, FIBA, in its first ever mid-term
congress, overturned a ban on a whole variety of headgear such as Hijabs,
turbans and yarmulkes and allowed these items to be worn during basketball
Prior to this, the organisation had revised
its rulings on the headgear rule in September 2014, with exceptions granted at
the national level as part of a two-year testing period. The FIBA took this
decision because it believed that its previous policies relating to headwear
were incompatible with traditional dress codes including the hijab. Indeed,
this ban has caused several Muslim women teams to miss out on playing in many
The FIBA's central board approved the
proposal to reverse the ban, stating that the new rules will take effect in
October this year. In a statement, the organisation said that the new
regulation on headgear is "developed in a way that minimizes the risk of
injuries as well as preserve consistency of the colour of the uniform".
At surface level, this demonstrates that
hijab can be adapted and readapted in multiple situations within public life.
But more crucially, this decision also demonstrates that hijab is not an
impediment to the social and cultural standing of Muslim women or women who
choose to dress modestly. FIBA's decision to revise its headgear rules is a big
win for activists and sportswomen who have been tirelessly fighting to make
this fact known.
Bilqis Abdul Qadir, an exceptional young
woman and a college basketball player whose accomplishments had been
acknowledged by former US President Barack Obama, was one of the sportswomen
impacted by the ban.
She made history by being the first
Division One basketball player to wear the Muslim veil, but the earlier FIBA
ban blocked her chances of going into professional basketball. This conundrum
had its toll, culminating in her creating a documentary in 2016 entitled
"Life without Basketball".
In the short documentary, Bilqis said,
"It's hard being a young Muslim woman in America. It takes strength to
walk outside and look different than anyone else … They have this stereotype, that
they [Muslim women] are quiet and they're submissive … when I play basketball,
I worry about nothing … but now it's just a huge question mark."
For Muslim girls and women like Bilqis,
this conversation actually extends beyond the scope of the veil. It is about
all females being afforded the opportunity and privileges akin to their
respective societies. It is about women who dress modestly and adhere to
religious dress not to have their religiosity as a marker which prevents them
from fully participating in society.
British Sudanese basketball player, Asma
Elbadawi, who is also a coach and a spoken word poet, has also campaigned to
overturn FIBA's hijab ban. In reaction to the repeal of the ban, she told me,
"I could see this day coming mainly because other sport governing bodies
have already relaxed their rules regarding their religious attire. However, it
was a thought, so for it to have manifested into a reality is an indescribable
Elbadawi thinks that it's important for
Muslim girls to have positive role models in an area that they may not feel
they can carve potential for themselves in. She says, "Since basketball is
one of the most popular sports right now, there is scope for Muslims to be seen
in a different light and show their willingness to integrate into
I would go further and say that Muslim
women have, for the most part, integrated in and contributed to both Western
and non-Western societies, across different periods and places. It is about
visibility and real representation on all levels - not only in sporting
circles, but in other areas of life. There is no doubt there is still a long
way to go for Muslim women in some Muslim countries to acquire full civic
participation - hopefully, this repeal will be one of many stepping stones to
Sport has always been an arena for great
social and political change, and while FIBA would argue that the original ban
was down primarily to health and safety on the part of participants, its
overturn is no less significant.
It is about the visibility and merit of
sports professionals who happen to dress modestly. It is about basketball doing
hijab, because it can.
The story from Qatar is not whether the
news is fabricated or true. The problem is much bigger than what meets the eye.
Qatar, a country which is rich with natural
resources and whose people are very close to the Saudi society, has since 1996
adopted a strange approach in looking after the general interest of the Gulf
system particularly towards any higher interest of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf
Cooperation Council’s biggest country.
A lot has been said about the statements
attributed to the Qatari Emir Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani and which were
published by the official Qatari news agency, state television and other
official Qatari media outlets. They later denied the report. This was followed
by Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini comments. Let’s keep in mind that “ordinary”
media outlets publish news from their “ordinary” and usual sources.
What attracts attention here is the content
of the report. According to the report, it was said that Brotherhood is a
legitimate group and not a terrorist organization and that Hezbollah is a
resistance movement while Hamas is a legitimate representative of the
It was also said that Iran is a major
country that one must gain to his side and that Qatar is being subjected to “an
unjust campaign” coinciding with the US President Donald Trump’s visit. The
report also said the situation with the US will change due to the problematic
It added that Al-Udeid Air Base provides a
deep and permanent cooperation with the Americans that no one can change. It
also said that some governments which claim to fight terrorism actually adopt
extremism (it’s clear who is meant here following Riyadh’s major summit) and
added that the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt must end their campaigns against Qatar.
Are these Qatari contentions false? They do
not exist? Is this all slander? Does this reflect reality?
The situation is far deeper than the
denial. Media outlets affiliated to Qatar – from Al-Jazeera network to London
and Turkey’s platforms, research centers and publishing houses – are all
dedicated to promoting the Brotherhood propaganda. Everyone is aware of that.
Prior to that we have known about the honeymoon period between Hezbollah and
Even the United States, during the
presidential term of Iran’s and Brotherhood’s friend Barack Obama, was aware of
that. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently spoke about Qatar’s
relation with Brotherhood at a seminar at the Foundation for the Defense of
“Qatar has long welcomed the Muslim
Brotherhood more than any other country in the region,” adding that whenever
Washington asked Doha to pursue a rejected Brotherhood activity they would “but
the initiative never came from them,” he said.
The reason behind Saudi, Emirati, Bahraini
and other Arab countries’ anger is that clarity in terms of unified policies is
no longer something that we can take lightly or overlook, especially after the
departure of Obama who obstructed such efforts.
Everyone should try and comprehend the
importance GCC-US and the Islamic-US summits. This is a new phase in politics
which leaves its mark on media and other fields. We hope the brothers in Qatar
think of mutual interests.