New Age Islam Edit Bureau
14 December 2016
From Cairo to Istanbul, the Devil Is
By Mshari Al Thaydi
Is Another Boko Haram In The Making?
By Thembisa Fakude
Palmyra and Aleppo, Bloody New
Chapters in the Syrian War
By Maria Dubovikova
Theresa May Brings Back Thatcher Era
to the Gulf
By Turki Aldakhil
Which Muslims Are Against Trump?
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
From Cairo to Istanbul, the Devil Is the
13 December 2016
At around the same time, terrorism has once
again revealed its hideous face in Egypt and Turkey. A monstrous strike
targeted women, children and worshippers at the famous Saint Mark’s Coptic
Orthodox Cathedral in Abbasiya, Cairo. At least 25 were killed and 31 others
The terror that struck Istanbul was another
evil act of terrorism. The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) claimed the twin
attacks – a car bomb followed by a suicide attack less than a minute later –
that killed 38 people outside a sports stadium. This madness will unfortunately
continue as there is a link between all that is happening and even if it does
not appear to be the case.
The terror targeting Turkey is being
nurtured through Syria and perhaps through Iraq as ISIS has categorized Turkey
an enemy after it engaged in the war against it. There is also the war against
the Kurdish militias in support of Russia and Iran and which aim to establish a
Kurdish state that separates between Turkey, Syria and Iraq.
ISIS is the final form of armed
fundamentalist outburst, which uses the concept of the “caliphate” and “jihad”,
and is fighting the “enemies of Islam” as a means to recruit and mobilize
especially after the West let down the Syrian people and the Russian and the
Iranian regimes conspired against Syria and Iraq.
Egypt has a different kind of terrorism
even though there is a link to ISIS in all these places and to Syria and Iraq
and to al-Qaeda. Ahmad Salama Mabruk, aka Abu al-Faraj al-Masri, sat next to
Abu Mohammed al-Julani when the new alliance of Fateh al-Sham was announced. In
other words, the source of chaos, destruction and incitement to terrorism, as
these groups put it, is what is happening in Syria.
Syria’s volcano, and now Iraq’s, is spewing
out its lava on everyone. Torrents of fire are spilling into neighboring
countries or rather across the entire world. The US, the world’s major
superpower, probably thinks that its “isolation” from the Middle East is the
solution and that it can settle down to just fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda.
This is a major illusion because letting
Iran and Russia commit crimes in Syria and Iraq clearly means more of ISIS and
non-ISIS terrorism and more of international terrorism in the West and the US
itself. It’s all crystal clear.
In his The National Interest article last
week, Amitai Etzioni, Professor of International Relations at The George
Washington University, wrote: “Such a Shiite-dominated Middle East is going to
be – and, in effect, already is – a major breeding ground for transnational
terrorism that is spreading into Europe and is threatening the US homeland.”
The roads to terrorism lead to one another
and the solution is to block all of their supply chains. Is Donald Trump, the
new leader of America, aware of that?
Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s
“views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position
of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab
newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on political
Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several
radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and
Muslim Friday prayers can lead to traffic
nightmares in many African cities. It is an inconvenience that has led most
residents of these cities to come up with peaceful alternatives to circumvent
However, in the city of Zaria, in the
Nigerian Kaduna State, there was a growing animosity between the law
enforcement agencies and the followers of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN)
in this regard.
Every Friday followers of the IMN, which is
led by the charismatic 63-year-old Shia cleric Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, used to
gather outside their headquarters, Hussainiyya Baqiyatullah in Zaria, for
The police had accused them on a number of
occasions of disregarding the state laws by blocking traffic, which the IMN
believed was used as a pretext to disrupt their activities.
This was an ongoing bone of contention,
when on December 12, 2015 the situation escalated after soldiers accused
members of IMN of plotting to kill the Army Chief, Tukur Buratai. The
intervention of the army in the gathering of the IMN led to deadly skirmishes
which resulted in the deaths of 347 people.
Subsequently Zakzaky and his wife were
detained and have been in prison ever since. IMN have denied allegations of
plotting to kill the army chief and have accused the army of using the plot
accusations as a pretext to suppress their freedom and to kill and detain their
members and leadership.
Following the massacre in Zaira the
government instituted a Commission for Judicial Enquiry to investigate the
In a rather shocking turn of events on
December 5, the commission issued a White Paper or findings of its
investigation. The White Paper basically absolved the soldiers of any
wrongdoing and blamed the leader of the organisation, Zakzaky, for the
massacre. It recommended that Zakzaky be prosecuted and the IMN declared an
insurgent group - a dangerous move that can turn into a security nightmare for
the Nigerian state.
Creating an Insurgency
There is a leadership bankruptcy on the
side of the Nigerian government in dealing with the challenge of
radicalisation. Indeed, the radical rhetoric from certain Muslim pulpits in
Nigeria threatens national security.
However, heavy-handedness should be used as
the last resort in tackling such situations because past experiences suggest
that it can result in further radicalisation.
The current challenge involving IMN is
reminiscent of how the government dealt with Boko Haram in its infancy in
Maiduguri. There is enough evidence that tactics used by the government at the
In 2009 the police stopped a group of Boko
Haram members on motorbikes on their way to a funeral for not wearing helmets.
The encounter resulted in police officers opening fire on the group, resulting
in more than a dozen injured.
This eventually led to clashes between Boko
Haram and the police, resulting in a number of deaths.
The subsequent arrest, torture and murder
by the police of Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram, further complicated
the situation. Yusuf's humiliation at the hands of the police was widely
Members of Boko Haram were angered by these
actions and gradually adopted more violent tactics in defying state authorities
Abubakar Shekau succeeded Mohammed Yusuf,
and under his leadership Boko Haram became the one of the deadliest terrorist
group in the world.
Nigeria Can't Afford another Insurgency
The continued detention of Zakzaky and his
wife, the death of his three sons after a pro-Palestinian March in 2014 and the
renewed suppression of IMN could culminate in a more dangerous situation.
It will all depend on how the federal
government of Kaduna deals with the recommendations of the Commission of Judicial
The Nigerian government has a tendency to
deal harshly with dissent, and there is little hope that it will relent on the
recommendations this time around. The attitude of the government has always
been that of digging in its heels in dealing with such matters.
The situation in Zaria seems set to get
worse and the government doesn't seem as if it can afford to deal with another
front of insurgency at this time.
The current discord between the authorities
and the IMN is an extension of the global Shia/Sunni contestation. It is a
phenomenon whose growth could be attributed to the steady flow of money from
both Sunni and Shia sponsors into the African continent.
It has led to an entrenchment of schism and
resentment between these sects whose members had coexisted peacefully over the
Nigerians must be cognizant of this
entrapment and must resist all circumstances which could worsen the situation,
including weak leadership. Relegating the decision on the future of the IMN
solely to the ambit of the federal government of Kaduna could prove to be a
fatal mistake in the long run.
Thembisa Fakude is a researcher at the Al Jazeera Center for Studies.
Palmyra and Aleppo, Bloody New Chapters
in the Syrian War
Freed from ISIS in a PR assault in March
2016 by Russia and Bashar al-Assad’s forces, Palmyra has fallen back into the
hands of ISIS. In what felt like one day, ISIS orchestrated a significant
redeployment of forces from Deir Azzor and Raqqa, crossing about 300km of Syria
unnoticed, not stopped by anyone during their quick march. Four thousand ISIS
fighters recaptured Palmyra in violent clashes within a few hours. According to
the reports, all civilians were evacuated as well as archeologists working on Palmyra’s
heritage restoration. The Syria Army had to retreat, leaving arsenals and
military material that now has fallen into the hands of ISIS. Brutal fighting
continues as the army, with the help of Russia’s air force, continue attempts
to retake the city.
By irony of fate, having lost Palmyra to
ISIS as well as ground in Homs, the Syrian army has liberated Aleppo (while
others say Aleppo has fallen). The forces and Syrians loyal to Bashar al-Assad
praise the victory and the beginning of the end of war, apparently not taking
into consideration that their true enemy occupies over a third of their country
and is not going to surrender.
The current situation raises questions
about the future development of the conflict, but also gives many answers,
confirms apprehensions and reveals a lot of particular traits of the situation
that were not so visible before.
One thing that the situation in Palmyra has
illustrated is the major problem of Syrian media coverage. There is no
independent journalism in Syria. All that is at disposal of the people is state
media which spreads more propaganda than truth, some independent sources, with
hardly reliable sources as they cannot be checked, ISIS propaganda channels and
social media accounts of the rebels, fighters or people who are reportedly
tweeting being on the ground but too often appear to be somewhere else. In all
cases, you cannot trust the information you receive - at best it can be biased,
at worst it can be fake. The Syrian conflict has killed not only 500,000 people,
but also independent journalism, as long as the journalists are violently
targeted by al-Qaeda affiliated fighters, extremists and ISIS. And in these
five years of war, those who stayed and survived have lost their unbiased
Another issue is that just reporting
anything that can be perceived as pro-Assad or anti-Assad leads to them
immediately being labeled pro or anti-Assad. In such conditions, the media has
been boiling over with extremely controversial information about Palmyra with
the Russian media has been continuously repeating that “Palmyra is ours” when
even the Syrians themselves have admitted that it is not.
However, this panicked media paralysis is
understandable and this reveals the extreme sensitivity Moscow feels regarding
what is happening in Syria.
To understand what the loss of Palmyra
means for Russia we should look at its interests in Syria in general. Russia
pursues many goals in Syria - image building, declaring its full return to the
world stage as a great power and other geopolitical interests based on claiming
back its lost position in the Middle East. For Russia, Syria is a matter of
defending principles and the basis of multi-polar world, which is important to
limit the spreading influence of the US and its monopoly on managing global
affairs. For Russia, the liberation of Palmyra was both a declaration of the
intention to fight extremists in Syria as well as a strong PR manoeuvre that
was crowned by the worldwide broadcast of a breathtaking concert of internationally
recognized maestro Valéry Gergiev in the amphitheatre of Palmyra that once
served as a place of public executions by ISIS. Since then Russia’s main target
was mostly Aleppo, on which the eyes of the global community were focused. And
the loss of Palmyra is an extreme blow to its far-reaching ambitions. There is
no doubt that after the “liberation” of Aleppo, Russia will concentrate the
might of its air force on Palmyra. And forces loyal to Damascus will probably
re-capture the city from ISIS. But do they have any strategy for continued
fighting and the power to keep all that is “liberated” in their hands?
The Syrian army is in such a vulnerable
condition that it can hardly conduct actions in several directions at the same
time, and being concentrated in one battle zone, it can hardly retain the
attack in the other one and guarantee safety in liberated zones. ISIS is not
weakened despite all hopes and they counter the lack of weaponry with high
military proficiency and experience.
The liberation of Aleppo does not make the
situation any easier. The opportunity for equal and balanced negotiations has
been lost. The idea that Assad must step down does not seem so sound,
especially for those Syrians loyal to him, for whom he is a
president-liberator. This idea does not seem reasonable for Assad, as long he
has his own truth and the current bloody victory will also make him deaf to all
Russia’s exhortations to step down and start a transition process. There is a
high risk that the rebels will probably radicalize and join ISIS as many
moderates have been exterminated in Aleppo and Syria.
Furthermore, after the loss of Aleppo the
Western powers will have a strong temptation to fight ISIS less thoroughly and
push it to concentrate its forces in Syria. Possibly they would have a
temptation to finish what the rebels have failed to do – destroy the Syrian
army and overthrow Assad. The West has a long experience of using evil against
evil. It is just one of the possible scenarios for the future but it does not
seem so improbable.
If the Syrians could redirect all their
hatred and aim it exclusively at the core evil of all humanity, they would have
succeeded in defeating it a long time ago. The defeat of ISIS lies in the unity
of the Syrian people. Being influenced by global players, for whom they are
just pawns in the global geopolitical game, they are losing their lives, future
and possibly their Motherland. The dramatic story of the Syrian conflict does
not end with the fall of Aleppo, despite the hopes of Syrians loyal to
Damascus, but it just starts a new chapter, and God knows, it could be much
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 open diplomacy.
Theresa May Brings Back Thatcher Era to
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, all
eyes were on the international community and how it will react to the invasion.
They depended on the American stance and there were long debates at the Arab
League after seeking the help of friendly international powers.
History is witness to the stance taken by
the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She promised Saudi King Fahd
to help liberate Kuwait and effectively contributed to convince the US to
launch the war. This was the most significant positive intervention by Britain
in the Gulf since decades.
During the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
summit, held in Bahrain recently, the British returned to a regional forum
after a long time. Making some exceptional and historic statements, Prime
Minister Theresa May confirmed that Britain and the Gulf region face the
dangers of Iranian threats adding that the Gulf’s security is Britain’s
Some tried to dismiss these statements and
equated it due to volatile statements made by British foreign secretary Boris
Johnson. However, he quickly adopted May’s rhetoric during the press conference
he recently held alongside Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir and said that
relations between Saudi Arabia and Britain are not limited to commerce and
security as the two countries had enjoyed a long strategic relationship
extending over 100 years.
Johnson added that Iranian threats in the
region worry Britain just like they worry Saudi Arabia. Johnson also said that
Britain is worried about Saudi Arabia being targeting from Yemen with ballistic
Strength of Relations
Gulf-British relations are distinguished
for their strength, depth and solidity. Britain has contributed toward building
and establishing the civil form of Gulf countries. Until the early 1990’s, it
helped them through the phase of making the transition until they stood on
their feet and oil began to yield revenues.
The political path thus matured and
guaranteed Gulf countries’ stability and prosperity for long years. Cooperation
between Gulf states and Britain continued on all levels, and proof to that is
the military cooperation which has been on ever since these states were
Britain may have somehow been influenced by
the American weakness during Barack Obama’s term and his policy of retreat in
the region. However, interests intersected in quite a strong manner during
May’s term as prime minister as Britain needs an economic partner it trusts to
compensate for the repercussions of the absence of the European Union after
voting to exit from it. Gulf countries are the most suitable for this role.
Despite Thatcher’s and May’s different
approaches and legacies, the statements on the Gulf resemble a comeback after a
period of abandonment and cold relations. There have been interesting
statements such as: “We are willing to cooperate to confront Iran in Syria,
Yemen and the Gulf, Saudi Vision 2030 is useful to all of us and we have
aspirations for strong commercial relations with the Gulf, we are achieving
great progress in the war against ISIS”.
The following statements were also made:
“We will pursue all forms of terrorism that threaten the region’s stability,
the Gulf’s stability is the entire world’s stability and we will spend more
than 3 billion British pounds in the Gulf and the world to confront challenges.
Saudi Arabia helped Britain and provided it with intelligence information that
saved thousands of people. Gulf security is our security. We are here to
communicate with new allies and I would like to open a new chapter of strategic
cooperation among our people.”
Iran’s reaction to these statements were
fiery as it has hinted at the possibility of controlling Gulf waters,
threatened to close straits and vowed harsh reactions against Britain and Gulf
countries. Whosoever following the developments can see the mutual challenges
confronting Britain and the Gulf.
Britain needs to increase commercial trade
with the Gulf after it lost its influence in India. This explains Britain’s
recent approach toward India. There is also the security aspect after the
refugees’ influx as many violent people infiltrate these refugees like what
happened in Germany.
The Gulf’s experience with terrorism is far
more than the Europeans’ due to geographic and cultural considerations. Gulf
countries understand terrorism, its trends and developments more and they are
more capable of gathering information and examining and monitoring threats.
This revival of British interest in the
region encourages building of stronger alliances to confront Sunni extremism as
represented by ISIS and Shiite extremism as represented by Iran and its armed
militias which are spread across Arab territories.
Theresa May said it: “For if we work
together, it is also an unparalleled opportunity to show that we understand the
scale of the change people need.”
Turki Aldakhil 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 honors, including the America Abroad
Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and
advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies.
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Extremist powers in our region have
declared war against President-elect Donald Trump under the excuse that he has
a project to fight Islam and Muslims. They are trying to incite around one
billion Muslims against the new US administration and against the US. Those
performing this task are doing so through religious and media platforms
affiliated with extremist Islamic parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood and
the Iranian regime.
Is Trump really hostile to Muslims in
general? Do his secretaries of state really have hostile stances against Islam
as a religion?
Ever since Trump announced the appointments
of major secretaries of state, many in our region spoke out against them,
claiming Washington was willing to launch war on one billion Muslims. General
James Mattis, who Trump chose as secretary of defense, has in fact clearly and
frankly voiced hostility - but against terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda.
He also has frank stances against what Iran is doing in Iraq, Syria and
General Michael Flynn, Trump’s new national
security advisor, has also made outspoken speeches against extremist Islamic
groups. Many have used these speeches to indicate that he is hostile against
Islam and Muslims. Truth be told, what General Flynn said is what we ourselves
say, that there is a dangerous virus inside Islamic society called extremism
that has killed Muslims and threatened them everywhere and harmed them more
than it even harmed the West and followers of other religions.
The ‘Dangerous Disease’
Doesn’t this dangerous disease exist in
Muslims’ societies across the world? It certainly exists. Look at what happened
in Turkey and Egypt during the past few days and what had happened in Saudi
Arabia, Morocco and Jordan. Hideous crimes were committed by extremist groups -
the same ones which Flynn and Mattis call for confronting. Mike Pompeo, who
Trump chose to manage the most important foreign security institution, the CIA,
has the same opinions about the necessity of confronting extremism and he’s
aware of Iran’s sabotaging role in the region and the world.
If we realize that those who are angered by
these three appointments are Iran, Al-Qaeda and Islamic groups, like the Muslim
Brotherhood, we can understand that the problem is not in Trump’s choices, but
in these men’s project to confront terrorism which the former parties sponsor
or at least benefit from. The majority of Islamic countries agree with these
state secretaries’ proposals and vision of the crisis that threatens the entire
world. We, as Muslims, have for a decade and half now been engaged in a war
against extremism and extremists, as an ideology and groups, and want the world
to differentiate between Muslims and not put them all in one category and to
stand with the majority of peaceful Muslims against this evil minority. It’s in
our interest to deter regimes like Iran that supports terrorist groups, be it
Sunni or Shiite, and allies with them and engages in regional wars under
dishonest slogans such as defending Islam or standing against the West.
We understand that Hillary Clinton’s defeat
in the elections angered the Muslim Brotherhood. What fueled the latter’s anger
was how Trump received Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in New York
earlier this year. It’s on this basis that they try to picture Trump’s
administration as racist and as an enemy of Islam and Muslims. They want to
establish a popular bloc that exerts pressure to confront the new American
government in order to intimidate it and force it to alter its stances and they
are doing so by entrenching themselves behind Islam and Muslims.
Iran’s Leadership Of Extremists
However, the Muslim Brotherhood must
realize that we don’t agree with them and don’t care about their aspirations
for power and don’t want to stand with them. At the same time, we support any
government in the world that’s willing to ally with us against extremism and
terrorism as this has always been our desire, even before Trump entered the
political arena. These groups must realize the threat of media, political and
religious incitation against Trump and the West and how it will cause new waves
of violence under false justifications.
For 40 years now, Iran has led extremist
groups, whether armed or politicized or Sunni or Shiite, in Lebanon, Palestine
and the Gulf and it continues to do so. It’s currently guilty when it comes to
Iraq and the sectarian chaos across it and it’s responsible for the rivers of
blood in Syria. It’s for the first time that we see Washington officials who
realize the facts on the ground and frankly declare that they will not accept
blackmail or keep silent over extremist and terrorist regimes’ and groups’
We must understand the motives behind the
groups that launch incitement campaigns against the new American
administration. Iran knows that two of the appointed generals know it through
expertise and personal experience. ISIS knows that the phase of truce will end
with President Barack Obama’s exit. The Muslim Brotherhood, which enjoyed Obama’s
support and bet on Clinton’s election as president, is now before a new phase
that may not be in its interest.
These are the reasons behind the anger and
quick judgments against the new American administration, and they reflect the
stance of all three groups, i.e. Iran, ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood, and
those who sympathize with them. Meanwhile, the majority of Islamic countries
will be very happy if he who arrives to the White House desires to fight
extremism and terrorism.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News
Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former
editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where
he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of
Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed
has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide
recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded,
thriving and influential position it is in today.