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Middle East Press (13 May 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Religious Education in Arab Countries Must Be Revised: New Age Islam's Selection, 13 May 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

13 May 2017

Religious Education in Arab Countries Must Be Revised

By Hatoon Al-Fasi

A Crucial Test for Erdogan’s Choices

By Murat Yetkin

What Will Trump Say To Erdogan

By Deniz Zeyrek

KSA’s Important Role in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative

By Dr. Naser Al-Tamimi

My Enemy’s Enemy Is My Friend

By Sinem Cengiz

Anxiety Mounts as Italy Moves To Get More Migrants Out

By Olivier Baube

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Religious Education in Arab Countries Must Be Revised

By Hatoon Al-Fasi

May 13, 2017

I recently participated in a show on BBC Arabic focusing on school curricula in Arab countries. We talked about religious discrimination and incitement to racial hatred. The panel could not cover all of the issues related to religious education in school. We, however, agreed that religious education in Arab countries needs reviewing and revising even though the relevant ministries in Arab countries have, since 9/11, worked on developing a systematic curriculum.

It can probably be said that religious education within our schools encourages exclusion and hatred toward non-Muslims. Moreover, some teachings focus on ethical issues that impinge on the beliefs or traditions of other people. Some aspects of education run contrary to the conditions of our current era, let alone daily living.

The controversial issues in some religious education material could lead children to adopt extremist thoughts and ideas. Let me give you an example. Elementary and intermediate students in some Arab countries learn certain Qur’anic texts that focus on issues of loyalty and disavowal that could lead students to develop enmity toward non-Muslims. Such texts should be properly explained to students, as most students at this age cannot comprehend how Muslims should treat or view non-Muslims during times of conflict and peace.

Religious education for elementary sixth graders in some Arab countries teaches students the following Qur’anic text:

“O you who have believed, do not take My enemies and your enemies as allies, extending to them affection while they have disbelieved in what came to you of the truth, having driven out the Prophet and yourselves [only] because you believe in Allah, your Lord.”  (60:01).

The curriculum defines “loyalty” as love of Allah Most High and His Prophet (peace be upon him) while “disavowal” is defined as hatred toward disbelievers. Students are required to memorize this text without understanding it. The real problem lies in the fact that students in these Arab countries are not taught anything about the correct definition of disbelievers. As a result, they may view their Christian colleagues or teachers as disbelievers that should be hated.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/opinion/local-viewpoint/religious-education-arab-countries-must-revised/


A Crucial Test for Erdogan’s Choices

By Murat Yetkin


Before departing for China on May 12, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s messages were not focused on China but the United States.

That is where he is scheduled to fly to from China to meet U.S. President Donald Trump on May 16.

It has not been an easy meeting to arrange.

Following his election, Erdogan was one of the first leaders to have a phone call with Trump. But later on, things have not evolved as Erdogan desired. Trump was inviting leaders whom he spoke to frequently after taking his oath on Jan. 20, but it wasn’t until Feb. 8 that they spoke again after a public statement by Erdogan that he wanted to have a word.

Erdogan wanted to have a word with Trump on two main, but actually three issues:

- The U.S. should stop cooperating with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in Syria, because they are terrorists as well as the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Additionally, he said Turkey was ready to cooperate as a NATO member.

- The U.S. should take legal action against Fethullah Gülen, the Pennsylvania-based Islamist preacher who is accused of masterminding the foiled military coup of July 15, 2016, to topple Erdogan.

- And the case of Reza Zarrab, who has both Iranian and Turkish citizenship and is currently under arrest in the U.S. accused of crimes like money laundering and breaching embargoes. Erdogan has asked Zarrab to be given to Turkey since he is a citizen.

No improvement has been achieved in any of those issues so far.

On the contrary, Trump has approved a plan to provide more and heavier arms to the YPG as the Raqqa operation approaches, right before the White House made the official statement about the meet.

Erdogan snubbed opposition calls to cancel the meeting with Trump but said the meeting would be of “the value of a full stop, not a comma.” He was implying a reset in relations.

That may not be the perception of Trump.

American diplomacy might calculate that the Turkish government might take radical measures, including the closure of the strategic air base of Incirlik. That means the – probably temporary – loss of the base is less important for the U.S. now than executing the Raqqa operation at once.

Erdogan is going to have a three-party meeting with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping in China on May 14. Will that give competitive messages to the U.S. about the side Turkey continues with? Will Trump be disturbed by the idea of Turkey leaving the West and joining, say, the Shanghai Cooperation Council? Not very likely.

 Turkey’s economic, political and defense interests have been with the West for many years despite all ups and downs. Also on Syria, ISIL and the YPG, Russia thinks like the U.S. and China backs Russia.

So it is not a choice for Trump or Putin to decide, but Erdogan as the only executive authority in Turkey after the April 16 referendum.

Separating Turkey from the West will inevitably have radical economic and political consequences, but Erdogan must have forecast them with all his experience in politics.

After his return, he will have to make another choice, this time in the ranks of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) in the May 21 emergency congress where he is expected to be elected chairman again.

That would make him the only authority in the ruling party, as well as the dominant authority in the parliament and in the government.

Then there will be the NATO summit in Brussels on May 25 where Erdogan is slated to meet with top European Union officials as well.

That means other key choices to make.

Erdogan’s choices in the next two weeks will give strong indications about Turkey’s path in the near future.

Source: hurriyetdailynews.com/a-crucial-test-for-erdogans-choices.aspx?pageID=449&nID=113046&NewsCatID=409


What will Trump say to Erdogan

By Deniz Zeyrek


U.S. President Donald Trump recently signed a decree authorizing the direct providing of heavy arms to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main component of which is the People’s Protection Units (YPG), ahead of the campaign to take Raqqa from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Ankara has reacted angrily to this decision. President Tayyip Erdogan said it was a mistake to work with one terror network to destroy another terror network, adding that he expects Trump to change his decision. Defense Minister Fikri Isik did not refrain from using the word “crisis” when describing the situation, which comes just before a key NATO leaders’ summit later this month. 

There is currently intense traffic between Ankara and Washington. Both our media and the U.S. media are seeking an answer to the question of whether Trump will step back from his decision. 

The timing of the signing of the executive order is worth scrutinizing. Trump signed it right after his security advisors met a visiting high-level Turkish delegation made up of Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar, Spokesman for the President Ibrahim Kalin, and National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, who were sent to Washington by Erdogan. It was also signed five days before the scheduled Erdogan-Trump meeting at the Oval Office. 

These two details tell us that Trump and his national security team listened to the Turkish delegation’s “Raqqa Operation Plan” and did not like it. Perhaps they did not find it realistic that the main component of the plan was the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and therefore decided to continue with the existing plan, kicking off the most critical phase of this plan: Arming the SDF. 

Trump, by signing the decree before Erdogan goes to Washington, showed that he has made his decision on the Raqqa operation and will not change his mind. My belief is that the only thing that would change Trump’s decision for the YPG to take Raqqa is a plan for the Turkish army to directly enter Raqqa. Turkey has not submitted such a plan so far. Will it do so now?

I don’t think so, but it could be that for the U.S. such a plan has lost its applicability anyway, because for the Turkish Armed Forces to conduct a rapid and effective land operation to Raqqa, it would have to go through Tell Abyad, which is controlled by the YPG. U.S. troops are trying to create the perception of almost a buffer zone between the YPG and Turkey across the border. Is there a possibility for them to write a positive report on this matter?

One military analyst at CNN International, Rick Francona, drew attention to the distance between Raqqa and al-Bab, which was the last stop of the Turkish army and the FSA in the recent Euphrates Shield Operation.

 According to Francona, after Turkish jets recently bombed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in Sinjar and Karacok, it is impossible to mention opening a Tell Abyad corridor for the Turkish army.

In the same broadcast neither Jomana Karadsheh, reporting from Amman, nor Arwa Damon, reporting from Istanbul, could make a forecast about how this crisis may be solved in the White House on May 16. Both said the reason why there is no concrete answer is the personal style of both Erdogan and Trump. Karadsheh said they are “two unpredictable leaders” and Damon described them as “two very volatile leaders.”

U.S. diplomatic sources say the U.S.’s pro-YPG policy will not change until Syria is cleansed of ISIL. But to avoid the crisis from deepening any further, two significant assurances are expected to be given to Erdogan in the White House meeting.

One is that after Raqqa is cleansed of ISIL, it will be handed over to Arabs. The second is that while Syria is being reconstructed, Turkey’s security concerns and its demands regarding the YPG will be taken into consideration.

Source: hurriyetdailynews.com/what-will-trump-say-to-erdogan-.aspx?pageID=449&nID=113051&NewsCatID=531


KSA’s Important Role in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative

By Dr. Naser Al-Tamimi

13 May 2017

Four years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed his ambitious plan “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR), or the “Belt and Road Initiative,” which comprises the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

According to the Chinese map, the belt aims to link China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe via railroads, highways and pipelines. The Maritime Silk Road is a trade route snaking through Southeast Asia all the way to Europe, through the Strait of Malacca, to India, Africa and the Middle East.

China’s official figures indicate that over 100 states and international organizations have already joined the initiative, of which more than 40 have signed cooperation agreements with China. Importantly, the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) have all incorporated or reflected Belt and Road cooperation in their resolutions and documents.

On May 14 and 15, the Chinese capital will host what is likely to be this year’s most important international summit, to discuss the world’s most ambitious initiative. More than 1,200 people will attend the summit including government officials, scholars, entrepreneurs, representatives of financial institutions and media organizations from 110 states, as well as representatives from more than 60 countries including at least 28 heads of state and government, as well as the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

The “Maritime Road” will gain momentum in the coming years, as most of China’s trade is carried by the shipping industry. This situation is unlikely to change significantly over the next two decades, for good reason. The obvious points are that shipping is more efficient, cheaper, less complicated, has a much larger freight capacity and does not need to pass through the borders of several countries. The future growth in the global economy is expected to be concentrated in the vicinity of the Maritime Road, especially in East Asia, Africa and to some extent the Middle East.

It is important to note the strategic value for the Chinese economy represented by maritime transport. According to China’s official data, shipping is vital to 90 percent of China’s foreign trade, 98 percent of imported iron ore, 91 percent of crude oil imports, 92 percent of imported coal and 99 percent of imported grain. Consequently, it is logical to expect that countries along the maritime route will attract the lion’s share of Chinese future investments.

In this context, Saudi Arabia is working tirelessly to integrate its Vision 2030 reforms with the Chinese initiative and to attract more Chinese companies to invest in Saudi Arabia, particularly in Jazan Economic City, on the Red Sea in the southwest of the country.

The Kingdom is positioned to be an excellent trade hub linking different continents.

“The Kingdom is implementing (the) Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020, which makes the two sides (China and Saudi Arabia) ideal partners in building OBOR, where the Kingdom can become an important link between China, African and European markets,” Ding Long, the deputy dean of the School of Foreign Studies at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, told Arab News.

“China and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries led by Saudi Arabia should take further measures to institutionalize intra-trade, by accelerating the negotiation of (a) free-trade agreement and sign it as soon as possible to push the relations between the two sides beyond their transactional nature,” he added.

Song Niu, associate professor of the Middle East Studies Institute at the Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), said that Saudi Vision 2030, given its efforts to diversify the economy and invest in new sectors other than energy, “plays an important role in its economic transformation, which corresponds to China’s OBOR initiative in many specific areas.”

He added: “In addition to the oil and gas fields, the two sides have a perfect cooperation in large-scale religious-political construction projects, such as the Al-Mashaaer Al-Mugaddassah Metro Southern Line and Haramain High-Speed Rail Project for the Haj, which reflects China’s deep understanding and responses to Saudi Arabia’s national conditions.”

There is also optimism among some Chinese experts about the future trajectory of the relations between the GCC countries and China.

“Historically, the Gulf region was connected to the Silk Road and the six GCC countries are the strategic focus areas of OBOR,” said Qian Xuming, a research fellow at the Middle East Studies Institute, SISU. “There is great potential for cooperation between the two sides. OBOR will push cooperation in several sectors including trade, energy, infrastructure construction, high-tech and other fields to a higher level of strategic relations,” he added.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1098871


My Enemy’s Enemy Is My Friend

By Sinem Cengiz

13 May 2017

In 1996, Turkey signed the Military Training Cooperation Agreement with Israel — something that raised eyebrows in the Arab world. Despite Turkish officials’ remarks that the agreement was not against a third party, it caused a great disturbance in Arab public opinion and got harsh reactions from Arab states.

The leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria issued a joint statement expressing their concern and demanding that Turkey reconsider the agreement. For some in the Arab world, the agreement was viewed as Turkey’s second betrayal against Arabs in 50 years — with the first being Turkey’s recognition of Israel in 1949.

Today, those Arab countries and others in the region no longer consider Israel as an enemy and even seek ways to cooperate with it against regional threats. In international politics there are no permanent enmities or alliances, only permanent interests. The Middle East has proven this several times; yesterday’s enemy could be tomorrow’s ally. Changing geopolitics and realities in the region have pushed countries to keep aside ideological differences, for the sake of national interests and stability in the region. This is so in the case of “informal cooperation” between Israel and some Arab countries.

Egypt and Jordan already have longstanding peace treaties with Israel. In 2015, it was announced that Israel was opening its first diplomatic mission in the UAE. Although there are not formal diplomatic relations with Israel, there are business ties between Israel and some Gulf countries, as well as talks behind closed doors. This has almost become a necessity as intelligence and security became crucial, and above ideological or political stances.

The same year, former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki Al-Faisal and Gen. Yaakov Amidror, a former senior adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke at a joint public event in Washington. Also, an op-ed by Prince Turki was published in a major Israeli newspaper calling for peace between Israel and the Gulf countries. Additionally, the Gulf countries reportedly inked deals with Israeli defense contractors in order to access to Israel Defense Forces military technology.

This would all be unthinkable a decade ago. However, the geopolitical circumstances, including Iran’s regional expansion, the Syrian war and the rise of several transnational non-state groups, such as Daesh and Al-Qaeda, have pushed Gulf countries to consider Israel an unlikely ally with whom they have a common enemy: Iran. ‘My enemy’s enemy is my friend’ could be one of the best phrases to describe this partnership.

Interestingly, Gulf countries’ desire to cooperate with Israel on regional security issues coincided with tensions in Turkish-Israeli relations at that time. For Turkey, what does Gulf-Israeli “informal cooperation” mean? Ankara, which earlier restored ties with Israel, enjoys close military and political relations with the Gulf. Turkey’s position is based on geopolitics and pragmatism in relations with both sides, and any step for regional stability is considered a plus by Ankara.

The stance of the Donald Trump administration toward Iran is another factor. President Trump, who seeks strong relations with all the countries in the Middle East with the exception of Iran, reportedly called for a regional alliance like NATO, between Arab nations and Israel against Iran and terrorist organizations. The proposed alliance would focus on sharing intelligence regularly and allowing Israeli defense companies to do business in the Arab world.

Needless to say, today the most important reason behind Arab cooperation with Israel is intelligence-gathering, something the Israelis are quite successful at.

However, at a time of high uncertainty in the region, talks about an alliance are not more than words. It would be a tough task to turn such a tacit relationship between Arab countries and Israel into permanent cooperation and a real alliance.

Also, regional countries already have structures such as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Arab League, which themselves sometimes struggle to find common ground on several key regional issues. Therefore, the crucial point here is not whether such an alliance could be formed, but over the change of heart in the Gulf and Arab countries toward Israel.

But despite the change of heart in Arab politics toward Israel, for decades Arab public opinion was fed with rejection of Israel — sometimes mixed with outright anti-Semitism. It is not as easy to change longstanding domestic public attitudes, as it is to change a political stance.

So it is still too early to expect Arab countries to align their policies with Israel publicly in defiance of popular sentiment, not to mention any aim of a NATO-type alliance. Moreover, for such an alliance, diplomatic relations would first need to be established; considering public opinion, Gulf countries are unlikely to recognize Israel’s right to exist anytime soon.

However, it seems the “unlikely partnership” between Israel and the Gulf will continue for the foreseeable future — as long as it fits the strategic and national interests of both sides.

Source; arabnews.com/node/1098796


Anxiety Mounts as Italy Moves To Get More Migrants Out

By Olivier Baube

13 May 2017

Behind the high fences of the repatriation center at Ponte Galeria, just down the road from Rome’s Fiumicino airport, dozens of women sit outside, waiting for word on whether they will have to leave Italy.

But as the government steps up its efforts to send more migrants home, many who pinned their hopes on asylum appeals are growing increasingly worried.

This week an official decree paved the way for the creation of 11 more repatriation centers capable of housing 1,600 people pending deportation, on top of the four currently in operation.

At Ponte Galeria, in courtyards easily mistaken for cages, Khadigia Shabbi, 47, can barely hold back her tears.

“Here we are dying,” the former Libyan university lecturer says.

Arrested in Palermo at the end of 2015 and convicted of inciting terrorism, Shabbi protests her innocence and has requested asylum.

She is not alone. Half of the 63 women at Ponte Galeria, which AFP was able to visit, have made similar requests.

Several are from Nigeria, having crossed Libya to reach Italy. But there are also Ukrainians and Chinese.

The country is sheltering more than 176,000 asylum-seekers, with about 45,000 migrants arriving since Jan. 1 — a 40 percent rise on the same period last year — and officials are bracing for another summer of record arrivals.

To cope with the influx — and to deter others from coming — Interior Minister Marco Minniti pushed through Parliament last month a plan to increase migrant housing and provide new resources for expelling those who have come only to seek work. The plan includes creating fast-track asylum appeal courts for the roughly 60 percent of migrants who have their initial requests denied, in order to reach a binding decision that gets them out of the country sooner.

Between January and April, Italy expelled 6,242 people who did not have the right to stay, an increase of 24 percent on the same period last year.

But the figures include more than just people rescued from the overcrowded boats coming daily from Libya who have failed in their asylum requests.

Many were sent home directly because of repatriation agreements, such as those with Tunisia, Egypt or Morocco, while others were expelled after overstaying their student or tourism visas. But despite Italy’s new efforts to deter migrant arrivals, many say they would not give up trying.

“If they expel me, I’ll come back afterwards. I say this honestly — there is nothing for me back there,” said one woman at Ponte Galeria.

For Luigi Manconi, a senator in the ruling Democratic Party, such centers have never functioned as well as intended, and often detain people who should not find themselves behind bars.

Many of the Nigerians at the center, for example, were victims of prostitution networks. “They should be being helped, not incarcerated,” he said.

While they wait the women at Ponte Galeria complain mainly about the monotony of long days.

“Here, we don’t do anything, no classes, no sports, no activities,” said Pepita, a Filipino who said she had spent more than 20 years in Italy.

The French company that runs the center, Gepsa, provides meals and hygiene kits, along with offers of psychological support.

For the rest, the women at Ponte Galeria can rely only on themselves.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1098686


URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/religious-education-in-arab-countries-must-be-revised--new-age-islam-s-selection,-13-may-2017/d/111128


  • Does Quran 60:1 support that Muslims promote religious discrimination and incitement to racial?
     Let’s meditate the Quranic verse as follows:
    “O you who have believed, do not take My enemies and your enemies as allies, extending to them affection while they have disbelieved in what came to you of the truth, having driven out the Prophet and yourselves [only] because you believe in Allah, your Lord.”  (60:01).
    The phrase, My enemies and your enemies, in Quran 60:1 refers to those non-Muslims who stir up problem against Muslims so much so it turns up that they have become enemies to Muslims.  However, non-Muslims in this contemporary world would less likely stir up problem against Muslims and some of them would like to live in harmony with Muslims.  Or in other words, non-Muslims would not treat Muslims to be their enemies.  As non-Muslims in this contemporary world would not treat Muslims to be their enemies to fight against them, Quran 60:1 should not be used for Muslims to promote religious discrimination and incitement to racial hatred since non-Muslims are never to be the enemies of Muslims.
    What are those enemies that Quran forbids Muslims to extend their love to?  The phrase, having driven out the Prophet and yourselves [only] because you believe in Allah your Lord, in Quran 60:01 should refer to those non-Muslims who create trouble to the prophet and Muslims so as to expel them from home or mosques or whatever just because they believe in Allah.  This quranic verse could not be used to apply in this contemporary world since non-Muslims in this world would not be so rude to expel Muslims from home or from mosque. 
    Nevertheless, as non-Muslims do not treat Muslims to be their enemies and they do not expel Muslims from home or mosque, it is erroneous to use Quran 60:1 to support religious discrimination and incitement to racial hatred.
    By zuma - 5/13/2017 3:45:54 AM

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