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Middle East Press (18 Aug 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Islamophobic Mockery in Australia By Saudi Gazette: New Age Islam's Selection, 18 August 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

18 August 2017

Islamophobic Mockery in Australia

By Saudi Gazette

Europe’s Extremism Problem

By Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin

Is Regime Change The Best Way To Resolve Qatar Crisis?

By Mustafa Al Zarooni

Risks of Iran Nuclear Deal Collapse

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

US Ties With Iranian Opposition Strengthening

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Are Nazis As American As Apple Pie?

By James Q. Whitman

Violence and Shifting Rules Of Engagement

By Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

France’s ‘President Jupiter’ Fires Orders From The Sky

By Zaid M. Belbagi

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Islamophobic Mockery in Australia

By Saudi Gazette

18 August 2017

As political stunts go the appearance of an Australian far-right politician in the Canberra parliament wearing a burqa is hard to beat.

When Pauline Hanson, leader of the Islamophobic One Nation party walked in completely cover in black there were gasps from assembled legislators and one was heard to cry, “Oh, what on earth!”.

The speaker of the House of Representatives might have been tempted to order the racist politician from the chamber and will surely be seeking to find out how security had permitted Hanson to enter in this attire. But it was probably a good thing that this woman was allowed to stay and hear the reaction of virtually every other MP to her outrageous mockery of Islam. Indeed she had probably been hoping that she would be expelled, which would have allowed her to claim she had been victimized.

Instead after she had delivered a stumbling speech endeavoring to justify her conduct and calling for the burqa to be banned, she was exposed to withering criticism from all sides of the house.

The condemnation was led by the government’s Attorney General George Brandis. The Australian parliament is known for the scathing comments and rudeness that members dish out to each other. Yet however much anger and contempt he may have felt for Hanson’s wicked piece of theatre, Brandis was notably moderate in his response, but that very moderation gave his words extra power.

He said that the racist politician’s actions had risked the more than half a million Muslims in Australia’s population. To ridicule this community, to mock its religious garments was an appalling conduct and he suggested she reflect on what she had done. He concluded by telling her that the government of Malcolm Turnbull in which he served had no intention of banning the Burqa.

Hanson, who had sat awkwardly throughout Brandis’ dignified skewering of her insulting stunt and objectionable racist policies, then had to endure a rare demonstration of parliamentary unity when all opposition politicians joined government members in standing and applauding the attorney-general’s words.

There is an argument that the election of bigots like Hanson, Gert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France has the benefit of exposing the contorted, ugly face of intolerance for all the world to see. Their poisonous propaganda when exposed to public view in national legislatures can be seen for the disfiguring threat it poses to all decent and civilized values. Had Hanson been thrown out of the chamber in Canberra she would have carped on about her right of free speech. Perhaps she was so hesitant in delivering her bile-filled speech against the wearing of the burqa because she had not expected she would be given the opportunity to make it.

But there is one still very recent lesson from a Europe that prided itself on its sophistication and political maturity, which cannot be ignored. Hitler’s Nazi party came to power through the ballot box and in and out of parliament it made no secret of its hatred for Jews. Democracies wring their hands about the right of free speech and insist that even the most deplorable views deserve to be heard. But who would now deny that if there had been an undemocratic way to stop Hitler’s Nazis from seizing power and replacing democracy with dictatorship, it should have been taken?

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/article/515295/Opinion/Editorial/Australia


Europe’s Extremism Problem

By Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin

17 August 2017

In a panel discussion of MiSK Tweeps held on the sidelines of the Riyadh summit on May 22, Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir addressed the French allegations of Saudi support for Islamic extremism in France, saying: “We have long been accused of supporting and financing extremist mosques and Islamic centers in France. The Saudi response has always been to ask for proof in order to shut those centers down. Nevertheless, we end up in a barren discussion with the French side having no such proof. The problem is that such baseless fallacies and assumptions have become a reality in public opinion.”

He went on to say that a “French parliament report on foreign financing of mosques in France, published in July 2015, proves that the Gulf financing of mosques and Islamic centers makes up only 1 percent and that most of the foreign financing comes from three main countries: Morocco, Algeria, and Turkey as many Muslim minorities in France come from those three countries.”

According to the report, the lion’s share of the financing of French mosques comes from individual donations inside France and not from foreign governments. The report estimates that 300 out of 2,500 imams come from the said above-mentioned three countries, and not from French Islamic centres. The Saudi embassy in France says that the Kingdom financed eight mosques in France at a total cost of €3.7 million, and paid salaries to 14 imams, i.e., it financed eight out of 2,500 mosques and Islamic centres.

Al-Jubeir went on to diagnose the problem of the European Community that embraces hardliners and extremists and allows them to spread extremist ideology under the pretext of freedom of opinion. He says that “in Saudi Arabia, we do not tolerate extremists at all; whoever violates the law is held accountable and isolated or deported if he happens to be a non-Saudi.

We advise Europeans that if extremists or terrorists happen to be (French or German) citizens, charge them and isolate them in order to prevent them from spreading extremist ideology, and if they happen to be non-citizens, deport them.”

Freedom of Speech

Al-Jubair says Europeans do not do that. They say there is freedom of speech, but at the same time, they call them extremists. “Europeans have to choose between freedom of speech or extremism or else stop complaining.”

A report prepared by security experts at Europol said: “The number of victims of extremist attacks across Europe in 2015 rose compared to the previous year. Yet, 2016 seems to have been even bloodier”. Hence, I think the accelerated pace of terrorist attacks in Europe since early 2015 and the increasing number of victims throughout the continent have worn people down. They have had enough of being tolerant with extremists under the guise of freedom of opinion as expressed by UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

On June 6, Theresa May declared that Britain is prepared to reduce human rights in order to facilitate the deportation or restriction of the movement of suspected militants with insufficient evidence to prosecute them. In her election campaign, she said: “If our laws prevent us from (dealing with suspected extremists), we will modify them in order to do that.”

Finally, I think that it is time for Europe to work on redrafting human rights discourse based on human rights standards and freedom of expression, taking into account the problem of extremism in a comprehensive manner. Continuing to allow extremists to have access to channels that have influence on people under the pretext of freedom of speech will only increase terrorism in Europe; it will not reduce it.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/08/17/Europe-s-extremism-problem.html


Is Regime Change The Best Way To Resolve Qatar Crisis?

By Mustafa Al Zarooni

August 17, 2017

The visit could signal a new start in resolving the stalemate

The decision by Saudi Arabia to reopen its borders with Qatar for the Hajj pilgrimage shows the Kingdom's large heart and should not be viewed as a compromise or capitulation on the part of Riyadh. It proves Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and other Arab countries have only goodwill for the people of Qatar with whom they share strong emotional and cultural bonds. It shows the respect they have for their Qatari brethren who have been suffering from the policies of their government that refuses to take action against terror networks in its midst.

What is significant about this development is that Vice Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassem Al Thani, who is from a branch of the ruling family in Qatar that is opposed to the policy of its government. The meeting was held at the Peace Palace in Jeddah, and Sheikh Abdullah's active role in mediation efforts to resolve the crisis should be commended. It takes courage of conviction and is premised on principles on which the Gulf Cooperation Council was founded that we are friends, brothers and partners in development of the Gulf.

The visit could signal a new start in resolving the stalemate. It is also a sign that all is not well within the ruling family in Doha. Internal rifts within the ruling elite in Qatar are for all to see, and Sheikh Abdullah is held in high regard by GCC countries. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin praised Sheikh Abdullah for the visit and stressed the depth and importance of historical relations between the Saudi and Qatari people during the meeting.

Sheikh Abdullah enjoys wide acceptance within the Al Thani family and is a popular figure among ordinary Qataris. His side of the family values its ties to the region and there is immense respect for them in the GCC. He is the ninth son of the late ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Ali bin Abdullah Al Thani. The royal is also a brother of Sheikh Ahmed bin Ali Al Thani, who was ousted by his paternal cousin Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, the grandfather of the present Amir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, on February 22, 1972. Sheikh Abdullah's side of the family is known for their administrative skills and for maintaining strong ties with neighbouring countries during the last century. They were responsible for guiding the young nation since its inception in 1971.

Sadly, traditional strong ties of the early years took a nosedive when Sheikh Hamad, the current Amir's father dislodged his father, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, in 1995. Qatar then embarked on an aggressive and independent policy that it took it away from GCC ideals. It supported extremist movements across the globe and played host to terror leaders who have threatened the security of the region. Doha has also nurtured an alternative relationship with Iran at the cost of its core partners in the GCC.

Pressure is mounting on Qatar since June 5 when Arab countries began a boycott and closed their airspace to flights from Doha. Business and investments have been hit in the country, and if the crisis drags on, it could lead to regime change in Doha where Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani may be forced to step down as the ruler of the country. All through the tense political standoff, the opposing branch of the Al Thani family led by Sheikh Abdullah supported Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and other Arab countries against the nasty media campaign led by Al Jazeera and Qatar's ruling elite.

The UAE welcomed the development. Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said Saudi Arabia decision has shown how "big-hearted it is". "Qatar's politicisation of the pilgrimage must end following the generous initiative of King Salman. There are matters that are nobler than politics," he wrote on his Twitter account.

Several Qataris on social media welcomed the decision, which could go a long way in easing tensions between the two sides. The GCC cannot be held to ransom by the ruling elite in Qatar. If they don't come to their senses, the bloc will have to look for alternatives. Sheikh has the qualifications and lineage. More than anything else, he's a peacemaker who can give Qatar a fresh start. - malzarooni@khaleejtimes.com

Source: khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/is-regime-change-the-best-way-to-resolve-qatar-crisis


Risks of Iran Nuclear Deal Collapse

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

17 August 2017

We can sense fear in statements made by Iranian officials and most recently President Hassan Rouhani who warned against the consequences of the big scheme’s collapse – the reconciliation agreement with the West based on the nuclear deal signed during the term of former US President Barack Obama.

The Congress shocked the Iranian government when it reinstated a number of economic sanctions on Iran, and US President Donald Trump insisted on his stance that the nuclear agreement serves Iran more than the US, threatening to abolish it.

Countries of the European Union (EU) are keen to preserve the agreement, which they believe it ushered in a new phase with the Iranian regime. Since signing it, they rushed to seal huge trade deals with Tehran, a move that was previously not possible because the US government would have put any European company that dealt with Iran on the blacklist.

Most Provoked

Arab states, especially Gulf countries, were the most provoked by this agreement. They were neither against sealing a deal that eradicates the Iranian nuclear danger nor against dealing commercially with Iran but objected over its high cost – extending Iran’s powers via fighting in Syria, Yemen and Iraq and threatening other Arab states.

In case Iran considered that imposing sanctions abolishes the nuclear deal then it will resume uranium enrichment, renewing tension. Iran offers the West two options: its nuclear project that will threaten the West and Israel in the future, or being allowed to have hegemony over the region.

Tehran used the second option as a weapon to blackmail the West: Obama’s administration struck with it a deal that only aims at halting its nuclear program, allowing it to enjoy its powers in several areas, including those that the US considers as interest zones such as the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Significant Progress

Yet, Iran’s commitment to ceasing the nuclear project is a significant progress that makes Iran worthy of the removal of economic and commercial sanctions. But Obama’s administration went so far in its concessions and allowed Tehran to wage wars, for the first time and in a direct manner, even in states not lying on its border such as Syria and Yemen.

The nuclear agreement is partially responsible for the region’s chaos. There are more than 50,000 extremists fighting in Syria – directed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and brought in from various countries at the time when the international community was endeavouring to get rid of extremist groups such as ISIS.

Because the nuclear agreement was negotiated discreetly between the Obama and Rouhani teams, the region hasn’t been aware of its details until recently – the Obama administration left behind it a dangerous mine. Iran has become more aggressive after signing the agreement, this is evident.

Disrupting the Project

The deal might succeed in disrupting the nuclear project for another decade but it has fuelled a more dangerous war in the Middle East and posed an unprecedented level of threat to regimes since the revolution in Iran in 1979. It also reinforced extremists in Tehran.

The new Iranian threats against the US economic sanctions must be taken seriously because they trigger Iran’s way of imposing what it wants via violence and chaos. But the US relapse in Syria represents a huge tactical mistake because Syria is where Iran can be besieged and obliged to cooperate regionally and internationally.

There is a contradiction here because Washington is escalating with Iran on the nuclear level and allowing it to operate freely on the Syrian front.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/08/17/Risks-of-Iran-nuclear-deal-collapse.html


US Ties with Iranian Opposition Strengthening

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

18 August 2017

The Iranian opposition is gaining momentum due to a growing consensus in the US Congress over the necessity for regime change in Iran. A senior delegation of US senators went to Albania’s capital Tirana this week to meet Maryam Rajavi, who heads the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a political coalition calling for regime change in Iran and considered the main threat to the ruling mullahs.

They also met members of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (MEK), the main member of this varied coalition of groups and individuals. The high-profile visit comes at a time when Washington has slapped major new sanctions on Iran, including its Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), for its ballistic missile drive, its support for terrorism and its human rights violations. Given that the IRGC controls over 40 percent of Iran’s economy, these new sanctions are a heavy blow to Tehran’s ambitions.

Ties between Iran’s opposition and US officials are strengthening, and the number of high-level officials supporting the opposition is rising. They recognize the opposition as a legitimate representative of many Iranians who seek democracy in their country. Rajavi expressed her gratitude for the US Senate’s tireless efforts to protect thousands of MEK members in Iraq and relocate them to Albania.

Previously, in a Senate briefing, several US officials strongly condemned Iran’s destructive role in Iraq. Sen. Roy Blunt joined an initiative demanding the urgent transfer of MEK members stationed in a former US military base known as Camp Liberty near Baghdad.

In April, Sen. John McCain, a longtime supporter of the Iranian opposition, visited the MEK in Albania and met with Rajavi. MEK members were able to leave Iraq after a four-and-a-half-year ordeal in Camp Liberty following their forced transfer from their 26-year home in Camp Ashraf, northeast of Baghdad.

From 2009, following the transfer of security from the US military to the Iraqi government, the MEK came under eight major ground and rocket attacks by Iran-backed proxies against Ashraf and Liberty. This was in parallel with a seven-year siege. After losing more than 160 of their colleagues to the attacks and blockade, MEK members were finally able to leave Iraq for European countries, mainly Albania.

This latest visit sends a strong signal to Tehran that the NCRI is gaining momentum. This time last year, Tehran was hell-bent on destroying the MEK. Now the tide has turned, with the opposition on the offensive.

Tehran fears the opposition’s soft power more than the hard power of foreign governments. That is why Iranian leaders and media outlets react forcefully and anxiously to such visits and opposition activities. The opposition can be a very powerful tool to pressure Tehran without the need for direct military confrontation.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1146531


Are Nazis As American As Apple Pie?

By James Q. Whitman

17 August 2017

Is the US threatened by Nazism? The short answer is no, notwithstanding the frightening events in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend.

In Charlottesville, the home of the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson, white nationalists, separatists, neo-Nazis, members of the Ku Klux Klan, and other like-minded groups rallied behind Swastika banners and marched in a Nazi-style torchlight procession. By the end of the next day, there had also been thuggish violence. One white supremacist went so far as to drive a car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing one and injuring 19 others.

The groups responsible for the violence in Charlottesville reveled in US President Donald Trump’s election last November. And Trump has often hesitated to disavow them; during the election campaign, when former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke publicly backed him, Trump was scandalously slow to reject Duke and his followers. Trump also repeatedly incited violence during the campaign, while evincing a bottomless affection for authoritarian leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin.

After the events in Charlottesville, Trump initially offered a bland statement that condemned hate “on many sides,” thereby drawing a moral equivalence between the racists and those who gathered to oppose them. Two days later, under intensifying pressure, Trump issued a more forceful statement, in which he explicitly condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists, only to revert the following day to blaming “both sides” for the violence.

All of this is abhorrent. But any sober observer can see that the US is still a long way from the nightmarish atmosphere of Germany in 1933. American democratic institutions are holding up, just as they did in the crisis years of the 1930s. Opposition parties have not been banned, and the courts have not lost their independent authority.

Moreover, Trump is not the supreme leader of a political party with a paramilitary arm. There are no facilities such as Dachau, Auschwitz, or Treblinka under construction. Even Trump’s planned border wall with Mexico remains stuck in the planning stage, with no funding from the US Congress. And Congress is not about to pass an Enabling Act conferring dictatorial powers on the president, as the Reichstag did for Hitler in March 1933. Last but not least, the American press is more tenacious and energized than it has been in years.

Trump’s yearning for authoritarian rule is clear for all to see. But he will not achieve it. There will be no Nazi dictatorship in America.

But whether America is threatened by such a dictatorship is not the right question. American democratic institutions might be holding up, but history has taught us that they are not immune to the machinations of racially virulent political programs. In fact, the US produced some of the laws that would later serve as a foundation for the Nazi movement in Germany.

America, with its vibrant democratic institutions, was the leading racist jurisdiction in the world in the early 20th century. An obvious example is the Jim Crow South, where white legislatures passed laws imposing racial segregation and reversing many of the gains of the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. But that is hardly the only example. Those on the far right in Europe also admired America’s early-20th-century immigration policies, which were designed to exclude “undesirable” races. In his manifesto Mein Kampf, Hitler singled out America as “the one state” that was progressing toward the creation of a healthy race-based order.

Indeed, during this period, 30 US states had anti-miscegenation laws intended to safeguard racial purity. America’s democratic institutions did not stand in the way of such policies in the early 20th century. On the contrary, anti-miscegenation laws were the product of America’s democratic system, which gave full voice to many Americans’ racism. And US courts upheld these legal innovations, using flexible common-law precedents to decide who would acquire the privileged status of “white.”

The Nazis paid close attention. As they concocted their own racial statutes – the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 – they pored over American race law as a model.

So today, instead of asking whether American institutions will survive the Trump presidency, we must ask how American institutions can be put in the service of wrongful ends. After all, while America’s early-20th-century race laws are gone, it still has the same overheated democratic order and common-law flexibility that it had back then. These institutions might no longer produce Jim Crow laws; but the American criminal-justice system, for example, remains a poster child for institutionalized racism.

Americans should be ashamed that their country’s institutions laid the groundwork for Nazi race law. But they should not be worrying about the threat of renascent Nazism, despite Trump’s clear ambivalence in condemning white supremacists. Rather, Americans should worry about the potential of their institutions to facilitate evils that are, as loath as we are to admit it, as American as apple pie.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1146526


Violence and Shifting Rules Of Engagement

By Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

17 August 2017

In June 1996 after sunset, a container loaded with explosives made its way through Khobar streets. The target was a residential complex that houses American military personnel. In addition to the container, there were men in a Caprice car to provide logistical support. Two men got out of the car after they noticed that a family sat in a park near the compound.

A friend told me that his relatives were playing with their children there, and the two men’s task was to evacuate families. After that, an explosion ripped through the compound killing 19 and injuring around 500 others. All of them were Americans.

This was the infamous operation of Hezbollah al-Hejaz. On another hand, Osama bin Laden’s documents warned his followers in al-Qaeda in Iraq of targeting mosques, Shiite congregation halls and shrines. All this clarifies an important matter pertaining to the development of armed groups’ “rules of engagement.”

Hezbollah al-Hejaz no longer abides by its rule of evacuating those close to the target and al-Qaeda no longer abides by its theoretical foundations not to target markets and shrines. Their fighting methods developed and became fiercer.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi rejected the teachings of his leader Osama. His practices were the basis of ISIS’ bloodiness as the group was mainly produced by al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The foundations and regulations of terrorist organizations disintegrate as they age and they lose their hierarchy. Their aims also evaporate and their ideology weakens.

The terrorism of Shiite organizations is no longer based on structure but they’re being produced by criminal networks which harmonize with political and religious slogans and shallow Khomeini principles. This can be clearly seen in the current confrontations in al-Awamiyah.

Weapons Cache

The weapons which armed groups possess there were stored over stages that began after the Gulf war. Then they began to store weapons, which they smuggled from neighbouring countries to serve criminal purposes within a network of interests that feeds off crime in all its forms. Current Shiite terrorist groups are a mixture of criminal and religious ideological experts and they are not a product of the Shiite Sahwa tide.

In other words, they are not a religious and ideological extension, like the case with Hezbollah and al-Qaeda organization. Shiite terrorist groups are closer to ISIS. This is in addition to the security and political cover, which these organizations provide for each other in confrontation arenas and during fighting.

This terrorist phenomenon was a founding pillar of extremist groups that emerged within the Shiite theory and through the hierarchy of symbols and followers of the Shiite Sahwa. It’s on this basis that Hezbollah al-Hejaz was established. Like the Sunni al-Qaeda organization, Hezbollah Al-Hejaz tried to legitimize extremist ideas and terrorist operations.

Most terrorist cells members have a criminal history as they were part of drug networks or arms trafficking and, like ISIS, they used religious slogans. They began to operate without having any project in mind as their purpose is to fight for personal obsessions after being mobilized by religious rhetoric.

Process of Recruitment

Those familiar with the principles of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas can see that recruitment is different. The terrorist goes through several stages starting at a young age. There are programs and workshops that are supervised by the leader who assigns tasks and appoints cadres.

In both modern cases – the Sunni ISIS and the Shiite ISIS – central management is absent when carrying out operations. The attacks are chaotic in every direction and there isn’t even the minimum of rules of engagement. Researchers cannot find a set of principles, researches, books and records like the case was with al-Qaeda and the Shiite Hezbollah groups in Lebanon, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

This indicates that the terrorist cell in its current form is dominated by the practical and not the theoretical. Criminal groups thus attracted more young men. This is what we can conclude from the results of war on the destructive terrorists in Al-Awamiyah.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/08/17/Violence-and-shifting-rules-of-engagement.html


France’s ‘President Jupiter’ Fires Orders From The Sky

By Zaid M. Belbagi

18 August 2017

French presidents at the height of their powers are often labelled as “L’hyperprésident,” but Emmanuel Macron has gone a step further, being referred to by aides and commentators alike as “Jupiter.” Having overthrown France’s two main political parties, the once approachable campaign candidate now fires orders from the Elysée Palace in a fashion not dissimilar to the thunderbolts of the mythological Roman deity of the sky.

The president’s deliberately icy and firm new demeanour is understood to be a strategy of his closest advisers. The “Jupiterian” concept of power seems to have been developed toward the end of the campaign to illustrate Macron’s vision for a strong presidency. Following Hollande’s lowest approval ratings for any French head of state, Macron is tied to the idea of reinstating presidential power and prestige through a selective aloofness that puts him above political intrigue and gossip.

The theory essentially dictates that the president delegates the daily management of government to the Cabinet, thereby leaving the job of ruling to him. The plan seems to be working, with commentators focusing on Macron’s more serious manner and his curt addresses to the public in a fashion that has been likened to that other dispenser of mystical power, President Charles de Gaulle.

Irrespective of the distance that the presidential staff have sought to create between the Elysée and the realities of daily politicking, Macron will have to get involved in the affairs of government.  Throughout the history of the Fifth Republic, presidents have tended to work through their prime ministers — however following the promise to shake up France and implement large-scale reforms, the electorate expect energetic leadership from their president.

Cracks have begun to show, with Macron being faced with the very real reality of having alienated groups on both the left and right of the spectrum. The country’s head of the armed forces, Gen. Pierre de Villiers, recently stepped down following a spat with Macron, who viewed his Facebook posts on defense spending unfavorably. The dismissal of the general, some 30 years the president’s senior, was viewed as authoritarian and impulsive by the French press. Voters on the left viewed their supposedly anti-establishment president with disdain as he rolled out the red carpet for Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, while insisting upon salary freezes for government employees and cuts to welfare.

In one month the president’s approval rating dropped 10 points in one poll, and eight in another.  Not since the opening months of President Jacques Chirac’s first presidency have the polls fallen so fast. As he begins to overhaul France’s fossilized labor law and trade unions in the autumn, the president can expect a tough time in the ratings. In a country where state spending accounts for almost 60 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) the young man supposedly sent by providence must be careful not to alienate constituencies whose income and employment are closely attached to the state apparatus.

The media have realized the presidential changes all to well. The candidate who had once loved a good chat has become markedly less media friendly. A limited group of aides control access to the president and set-piece addresses to the press have replaced the online chats of the previous months. Visiting a high school near Limoges, the president reprimanded reporters chasing soundbites, saying that “when I travel on a topic of my choosing, I speak of the topic of my choosing, I won’t answer any newsy questions.”

The president, described as increasingly imperious, has realized that connecting with the public en masse will be more challenging then expected. A product of France’s elite schools, Macron was hitherto unelected and has shown himself to be more comfortable within establishment institutions than visiting the country’s poorer regions. At a recent visit to an auto-parts factory, the president was booed by workers — a far cry from the candidate who had promised to restore hope to France’s stressed millions.

Macron’s En Marche coupled with centrist allies occupy 350 seats in the National Assembly, giving them a substantial majority. How they will perform in the overhaul of France’s labor code will be interesting and shed light as to whether Macron’s movement has the staying power to become an entrenched political force. Opposition figures have viewed the president’s drop in the polls with glee whilst mocking the inexperience of the private-sector novices who now serve in Parliament as Macron’s agents of change. As to whether their political naiveté emboldens them to break with the past or indeed hampers their ability to govern will be a key question in the months ahead.

For the millennials that voted for Macron in droves, economic change is a necessity. En Marche made huge promises to the electorate, who will not be won over with small measures. Seasoned entrepreneur Hicham El Maaroufi Elidrissi captured this sentiment perfectly, saying that “the country can’t be run on good intentions, the government needs to step up and begin implementing the change and major policy shifts that made Macron’s movement popular.”

Source: arabnews.com/node/1146536


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