New Age Islam Edit Bureau
13 May 2017
Religious Education in Arab Countries Must Be
A Crucial Test for Erdogan’s Choices
What Will Trump Say To Erdogan
KSA’s Important Role in the Chinese Belt and
My Enemy’s Enemy Is My Friend
Anxiety Mounts as Italy Moves To Get More
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
By Hatoon Al-Fasi
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.
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
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.
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).
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
By Murat Yetkin
departing for China on May 12, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s messages were
not focused on China but the United States.
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.
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.
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
improvement has been achieved in any of those issues so far.
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.
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
not be the perception of Trump.
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.
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
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.
Turkey from the West will inevitably have radical economic and political
consequences, but Erdogan must have forecast them with all his experience in
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.
make him the only authority in the ruling party, as well as the dominant
authority in the parliament and in the government.
will be the NATO summit in Brussels on May 25 where Erdogan is slated to meet
with top European Union officials as well.
other key choices to make.
choices in the next two weeks will give strong indications about Turkey’s path
in the near future.
What will Trump say to Erdogan
By Deniz Zeyrek
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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
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
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.
By Dr. Naser Al-Tamimi
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.
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.
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
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.
“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.
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.
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.
is positioned to be an excellent trade hub linking different continents.
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.
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
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.”
“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.”
also optimism among some Chinese experts about the future trajectory of the
relations between the GCC countries and China.
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.
By Sinem Cengiz
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
say, today the most important reason behind Arab cooperation with Israel is
intelligence-gathering, something the Israelis are quite successful 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.
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.
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.
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.
By Olivier Baube
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.
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.
Galeria, in courtyards easily mistaken for cages, Khadigia Shabbi, 47, can
barely hold back her tears.
are dying,” the former Libyan university lecturer says.
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.
from Nigeria, having crossed Libya to reach Italy. But there are also
Ukrainians and Chinese.
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.
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.
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.
figures include more than just people rescued from the overcrowded boats coming
daily from Libya who have failed in their asylum requests.
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.
expel me, I’ll come back afterwards. I say this honestly — there is nothing for
me back there,” said one woman at Ponte Galeria.
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.
wait the women at Ponte Galeria complain mainly about the monotony of long
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.
company that runs the center, Gepsa, provides meals and hygiene kits, along
with offers of psychological support.
rest, the women at Ponte Galeria can rely only on themselves.