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Middle East Press (05 Jan 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Turkish Muslim Televangelist Takes On Chess After Sex: New Age Islam's Selection, 05 January 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

05 January 2017

Turkish Muslim Televangelist Takes On Chess After Sex

By Nazlan Ertan

Without Arab Action, Kerry’s Truths Mean Nothing

By Ray Hanania

Turkey’s High Expectations From Trump

By Murat Yetkin

Is World On The Brink Of An Abyss In 2017?

By Yossi Mekelberg

Istanbul Attack Shows Terror Is Closer Than We Think

By Abdullah Hamidaddin

Humanitarian Crisis And The Youth Bulge In Middle East

By Ehtesham Shahid

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Turkish Muslim Televangelist Takes On Chess After Sex

By Nazlan Ertan


For many Turks, Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü - also known as Cübbeli Ahmet Hoca, a Muslim televangelist with a big wardrobe of long robes, matching hats and an untidy beard - is a figure of ridicule rather than awe. A member of the Ismailaga order, Cübbeli has been sailing through broadcast and social media for the last two decades, sprouting controversial views that anger many, including fellow theologians. One fellow theologian has described Ahmet Hoca as “a crazy man with an obsession to be in front of the cameras at all times.”

Cübbeli’s most controversial remarks are, naturally, on sex, but the last one drew an unlikely target: Chess. Cübbeli, as he is known to the public, claimed that playing chess is “worse than gambling and eating pork,” two clearly defined sins in Islamic scripture. Calling chess players “sinners” and “likely liars,” he argued that they would be denied salvation even if they declared their Islamic faith (shahada) in their last breath.

His remarks were far from consistent, as many Cübbeli-watchers pointed out. A few years ago, in a program with journalist Fatih Altayli, he had said the shahada would purify anyone, “even horrific 90-year-old horrific heathens.” He had also said in 2011 that while Islam categorically banned gambling, there was a difference in how various sects regarded chess, as it was a mind-developing exercise. But consistency has never been one of his strong points - consider his remarks on oral sex: He had first said “keep your mouth clean because you recite the Quran with it,” before later announcing that oral sex was actually no sin at all.

Elsewhere, Cübbeli’s remarks on chess would be laughed off and merely retweeted and re-posted on Facebook and Twitter, along with a long chain of (mostly lewd) comments.

But this time, in the wake of the Reina attack that came after a steady stream of criticism against people celebrating the New Year, the remarks drew outrage as well as legal action. The Turkish Chess Federation announced that it had started legal proceedings, saying Cübbeli’s comments had an impact on thousands of chess players and families at a critical time. “You are pointing the finger at a new target at a time when there are internal and external groups who want to destabilize the country,” wrote Hürriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan, who has long been a strong critic of Cübbeli.

Since the Reina attack, Turkey - from its coffee shops to its TV talk shows - has been engaged in a lively debate on the role and the responsibility of anti-New Year statements in what happened. “You showed the way to the terrorist with your endless condemnation of New Year festivities,” is a shout heard long and clear, though “you” may vary according to the speaker – from theologians to politicians to the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). One NGO even launched a court case against Diyanet head Mehmet Görmez earlier this week. Many believe Görmez’s statement condemning the attack was painfully short, coming after the Diyanet’s Friday sermon on Dec. 30 that was harshly critical of New Year celebrations. 

Still, the wording of the Diyanet’s sermon pales in comparison to some of the “so-called pious” hate-speech on the Internet, both before and after the Raina attack. “I’m not going to cry over the death of those squirming under a different man every night at Raina,” read one tweet, mixing religious radicalism with misogyny. The tweet was removed after several people reported it, yet many others who target lifestyles, women, transgender people or, as in this case, chess players, remain.

The Reina attack is the first reminder of 2017 that hate speech on the internet has become a major issue. It is no longer a case of “sticks and stones can break our bones but words cannot hurt us,” because those words do indeed now.

Turkey is not alone in this. It can learn from the best practices, such as the understanding reached between Germany and major social media outlets. What we need is stronger rules against hate speech, particularly organized hate speech, and greater freedom of expression for legitimate criticism. It should not be the other way around.

Source: hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-muslim-televangelist-takes-on-chess-after-sex.aspx?pageID=449&nID=108143&NewsCatID=396


Without Arab Action, Kerry’s Truths Mean Nothing

By Ray Hanania

5 January 2017

Although you have to tip your hat to Barack Obama for at least trying to expose the lies of Israel’s government, the real hero in his fast-ending presidency is Secretary of State John Kerry, an American hero in every sense of the word. He was a military hero whose record was trashed by well-financed propaganda when he decided to run for president in 2004 against President George W. Bush.

The irony is that while Kerry risked his life fighting on the frontlines to defend America during the Vietnam War, Bush avoided active duty using his father’s clout. Instead, Bush was allowed to “serve” in a military reserve unit stateside. The assignment was so cushy — his father was both a former president and former senator — he did not even have to show up for reserve duty.

CBS “60 Minutes” journalist Dan Rather tried to expose this irony, but was tripped up because many of the original documents were destroyed, and the veracity of some of those Rather used were in question. However, protecting Bush was not enough for Kerry’s enemies. They made vicious accusations that challenged his military service, claiming his heroism was exaggerated.

That is when I recognized that politics in America is not about truth, justice or honesty. It is about who spends the most money to spin a good story, because the American people are the easiest on the planet to manipulate. You can easily buy their minds. They see the world through fictionalized TV and movie dramas scripted by well-financed political propagandists in Washington D.C. and New York.

In other words, if you have the money you can easily buy the morality of the American people. I am always amazed how this reality does not benefit the Arab people, who are among the wealthiest in the world. TV shows and Hollywood movies cast Israel as the victim and the Palestinians as vicious terrorists. Production of these hate-driven shows and films is non-stop.

Unlike the Arabs, Israel understands this reality. It spends millions every year to influence the American news media and produce via their surrogates TV shows and movies that portray Arabs as vicious criminals and Israel as the innocent victim. So why do Arabs not invest their money in trying to influence the American public to see the truth through Israel’s lies?

That is why I just shook my head when Kerry did what a noble and righteous person would do when confronted with a challenge. Last week, for the second time, he told the American people that the real obstacle to peace in the Middle East is Israel, not the Palestinians.

His words were powerful, and this proven military veteran did not shy away from taking on Israel’s right-wing extremists. He called out both the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s fanatic UN Ambassador Danny Danon, who openly opposes peace and rejects the two-state solution.

“The two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” Kerry said. “It is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors. It is the only way to ensure a future of freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people. And it is an important way of advancing US interests in the region.” Kerry added: “That future is now in jeopardy.”

He also explained why the US “could not, in good conscience, stand in the way of a resolution at the UN that makes clear that both sides must act now to preserve the possibility of peace.”

Kerry called for an “honest, clear-eyed conversation about the uncomfortable truths and difficult choices, because the alternative that is fast becoming the reality on the ground is in nobody’s interest — not the Israelis, not the Palestinians, not the region — and not the US.”

We are not going to get an “honest, clear-eyed conversation” about the Middle East until Arabs step up to the plate and invest money in re-educating the feeble-minded American public, which is spoon-fed fantasies and lies by Israel every day.

Apparently money is more important than the status of Jerusalem, the Holy Land, or the sanctity of our Arab heritage and culture. Because so far the Arab people, one of the wealthiest in the world, cannot seem to invest anything in the truth. So because we are cheap, the truth is portrayed as terrorists and the lie is dressed up as heroic victims.

I do not care how many John Kerrys courageously champion justice in this world, calling out Israel as the true obstacle to Middle East peace. They will not be able to achieve anything as long as the Arab world continues to sit back and do nothing.


Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1034211/columns


Turkey’s High Expectations From Trump

By Murat Yetkin


On Jan. 3, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim slammed U.S. President Barack Obama and called on incoming president Donald Trump to “end this shame” in the U.S.’s Syria policy.

Yesterday, on Jan. 4, it was Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus who said Turkey was “optimistic” that Ankara’s expectations would be satisfied during Trump’s term.

A call from Obama to President Tayyip Erdogan to express condolences about the Jan. 1 Reina nightclub attack by an ISIL militant, killing 39 and wounding 65, apparently did not change the government’s position.

After all, ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) deputy Samil Tayyar wrote on Twitter on the same day that the CIA was behind the Reina attack.

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik also said on Jan. 3 that the ongoing U.S. support for the Democratic Union Party (PYD) - the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Washington uses as a ground unit against ISIL, despite its NATO ally Turkey’s protests – was prompting the government to “question” the use of the strategic Incirlik base by U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition planes. (The base was opened in June 2015, and ISIL attacks in Turkey started in July 2015, followed by the resumption of PKK attacks after three years of a fragile ceasefire during a dialogue process with the government.)

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu also strongly criticized the U.S. for not giving the air support that Turkey has been demanding against ISIL positions near the Syrian town of al-Bab. Instead, Turkey has opted to cooperate with Russia in airstrikes against ISIL around the town for the last few days.

Following an earlier public complaint by Çavusoglu last week, the Turkish General Staff announced that U.S.-led coalition planes had joined Turkish operations against ISIL near al-Bab “for the first time in a long time.”

That statement was perhaps a relief for U.S. Ambassador to Ankara John Bass, who has been trying hard of late to counter the attacks from the government, the opposition and the media that the U.S.’s stance on Turkey has not been friendly.

The General Staff statement was most probably also bad news for the PYD, and thus the PKK, since the taking of al-Bab by Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces would be a big blow to the PKK’s target of establishing a continuum along the Syria-Turkey border under its control, probably for use as the base for an autonomous or independent Kurdish state.

However, a Pentagon statement late on Jan. 3 made it clear that U.S. planes were not carrying weapons, and only flew to show a flag as the Turks wanted it much. Ankara read this as a declaration of continued support for the PKK, which it sees as an existential threat for Turkey.

That is the background of the harsh Jan. 4 statements by Kurtulmus, Çavusoglu and Isik.

It seems that Ankara has lost all hope that there will be a change in favor of Turkish-American relations in the final days of the Obama administration.

It is not only the PYD/PKK that is a problem between Ankara and Washington. There is also the ISIL issue, and the problem of Fethullah Gülen. Having once been a close ally of Erdogan’s AK Parti, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher Gülen is now accused of masterminding the failed July 15 military coup and being the leader of a terrorist network. Ankara wants Gülen’s extradition, if not at least his temporary detention based on an exchange of criminals agreement between Turkey and the U.S. The Obama administration has repeatedly said it cannot interfere in the judiciary.

The Turkish government expects from the Trump administration an end to support for the PYD, which is an extension of the PKK (also designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S.), and some kind of legal action against Gülen, if not his extradition. These demands may be low in quantity but they are high in terms of content; indeed, they could be critical to the future of close cooperation between the two NATO allies.

Source: hurriyetdailynews.com/turkeys-high-expectations-from-trump.aspx?pageID=449&nID=108154&NewsCatID=409


Is World On The Brink Of An Abyss In 2017?

By Yossi Mekelberg

4 January 2017

A general feeling of good riddance 2016 unites most people around the globe, as the brand new year of 2017 is still in its infant days. In a matter of 12 months most of last year’s predictions and forecasts have evaporated into thin air.

The mood around the world is one of general malaise, anxiety and uncertainty, leaving any optimism more wishful thinking than a reality grounded in evidence. One of the first acts of this year was a terrorist attack in a crowded Istanbul nightclub, killing dozens of revellers celebrating the New Year; starting this year with violence, similar to the way last year ended.

The year we have just left behind is one in which discord between people and nations have deepened. It begs the question whether the last year was just the precursor of what awaits us this year? Or in 2017 is a world on the brink of an abyss capable of reflecting and reforming before it is too late?

A number of events in 2016 sent severe shock waves across the globe because of their magnitude and because they left a sense of helplessness. None did this more than the civil war in Syria, and especially the unfolding tragedy in Aleppo towards the end of the year. When the battle in Aleppo was approaching its final stages it was accompanied by an influx of horrific images of the inhuman suffering of many thousands of innocent people which were transmitted around world.

It exposed the international community in its most extreme cruelty, ineptness, or even worse its indifference. It makes it more horrific considering that the international community has been standing on the side-lines doing absolutely nothing to save these lives. Some countries, such as Russia and Iran, took an active role in helping the Assad regime to commit these crimes against humanity. All of the above rendered commitments by many countries to human rights as no more than an empty gesture, and revealed the extent of our desensitisation in the face of others’ extreme suffering.

Collective Memory

However, the inaction in Syria, and other places, will remain in the collective memory for many years to come. It can only result in undermining the trust of ordinary people around the world in their leadership and in international institutions as the guardians of their security and wellbeing. It was also a year that a wave of terrorist attacks, carried out in places such as Nice, Orlando, Berlin and Istanbul, induced insecurity. This will continue to also affect relations between communities, attitudes toward migration in its different manifestations and may rapidly change the political landscape.

Sadly last year was one of the worst for social diversity. The notion of people of different ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs at least coexisting if not living in harmony, within the confinement of the nation-state, suffered some major blows. Social, political, ideological and economic polarisation are widening with grave consequences. Religious fundamentalism and far-right nationalism are two sides of the same coin.

They both feed on hatred of the other. Both played a key role in two of the major upsets of 2016 – first Brexit and then the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections. These two developments made a farce of the notion that elections and referenda are arenas for civilised, intelligent and fact-based debate. Less than twelve months ago the likelihood of Brexit or President Trump’s success sounded beyond the realm of rational possibility, not to mention a collective nightmare. Now similar developments are threatening to sweep Europe.

We find ourselves in a new era in which insecurity enables the merchants of fear to gain power in the most cynical and opportunistic manner. Brexit advocates and Trump employed what became known this year as post-truth and fake news, two euphemisms for sheer lies and half-truths, that serve both those who deliver them and those who choose to believe in them. It provides an over simplistic, though effective platform, for those on the campaign trail attempting to win votes, and short-term instant gratification for voters.

Election Time

Crucially in 2017 countries such as France, Germany and Holland, which saw rise in far-right parties and their discourse, face elections. There is a mixture of reactions to this rise ranging from complete dismissiveness of the chances of radical right populist parties doing well in elections, to dread of them succeeding in the ballot box. To be sure this triggers an alarming thought that we might relive the 1930s all over again, but in an environment of more diverse societies, hence possibly creating a more inflammable situation.

Who is going to bet against Marine Le Pen of the French National Front, Geert Wilders of the Dutch far-right Freedom Party, or the anti-immigration AfD party in Germany increasing their power in this year’s elections? If they succeed it is not only the democratic character and rights of minorities which will be under immediate threat, but also the entire European Union project faces the danger of collapsing with dire consequences.

Trump’s victory in the United States and what it represents shuffled the cards domestically and internationally. Based on the type of language and behavior we witnessed on Trump’s campaign trail and the almost parity in the popular vote, the United States is dangerously divided, and from the 20th of January will be led by the most discordant of presidents in living memory.

The nature of his relations with the Russian president Putin remain a disturbing mystery. His presidency may also place one of Obama’s major achievements in office, the ratifying of the Paris climate change agreement, in jeopardy. What are the chances of such an agreement surviving the presidency of someone who believes that climate change is a Chinese hoax?

Trump has assembled one of the most hawkish administrations since the end of the Cold War and may end in increasing friction with China, Latin America, and is at a complete loss in the handling of relations with the Middle East.

The last year also left many despairing due to the deaths of several significant cultural icons including David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen and Carrie Fisher. However, much of the damage inflicted last year is carried through to this year. The unthinkable, Trump’s inauguration, takes place later this month, and Prime Minister May is expected to trigger article 50, starting the Brexit process for real, as of March.

Both are likely to result in a decrease in economic growth and disparities that in turn are likely to be a source of widening social and political discord. Even for the eternal optimist, a touch of realism leaves considerable doubt as to whether the year that has just started will be any better, if not even worse, than the one which we are all too happy to bid farewell.


Yossi Mekelberg is an Associate Fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, where he is involved with projects and advisory work on conflict resolution, including Track II negotiations. He is also the Director of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program at Regent’s University in London, where he has taught since 1996. Previously, he was teaching at King’s College London and Tel Aviv University. Mekelberg’s fields of interest are international relations theory, international politics of the Middle East, human rights, and international relations and revolutions. He is a member of the London Committee of Human Rights Watch, serving on the Advocacy and Outreach committee. Mekelberg is a regular contributor to the international media on a wide range of international .

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/01/04/Is-world-on-the-brink-of-an-abyss-in-2017-.html


Istanbul Attack Shows Terror Is Closer Than We Think

By Abdullah Hamidaddin

4 January 2017

For some of us the few hours before and after a new year will always be associated with tragedy. Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia were all targets of terror attacks claiming the lives of many and turning the festivities and optimism of welcoming the new year into tears and fear from the worse to come.

The attacks were local, but the reach of the pain they caused were global. In Istanbul tourists from more than one country were killed, and families around the world were mourning. The attacks on the Reina nightclub claimed the lives of people from 14 countries. Many of the victims were Saudis.

I personally do not know anyone of those killed, but I know people who know some of them. They were not only saddened by the deaths, or angered by its senselessness; they were also afraid for themselves and their immediate loved ones.

As one put it: “No place is safe, no country is safe, they can hurt us no matter how far we are.” This is what globalized terrorism is. It is not merely having global networks with the capacity to strike in different countries; rather it is the capacity to generate fear in everyone around the world.

I am from Saudi Arabia, a country that had been the target of many terrorist attacks in the past. But we’ve felt safe in the past partly due to the remarkable efforts of the security apparatus, but also partly due to a naivety that if we are safe from terrorists in our countries then we have little or nothing to worry about. This is wrong. If anyone, anywhere, is not safe, then we should worry.'

Effectiveness Of Striking Fear

Terrorism stems from socio-political frustrations, but is guided by an idea that legitimizes killing innocent people to further one’s cause, and as importantly an idea that convinces the would be terrorist of the effectiveness of striking fear into the public.

We are constantly reminded of being vigilant, and we keep hearing things like “if you see something say something” but we are not encouraged enough to be vigilant about ideas, and many of us do not feel an immediate responsibility to act against ideas.

Part of the problem is that we got accustomed to certain ideas to the point where we aren’t provoked when hearing them. We grew up attending mosque sermons that call for the destruction of others and we listened through our lives to preachers cursing sinners. Many of us do not agree with that, but having listened it so often we are no longer aware of the gravity of such statements.

Sometimes we are not aware of such statements being uttered. But while we are listening to a sermon unaware of what’s being said, someone sitting near us may not be.

Radical Ideas Aren’t Local

Another part of the problem is that we seem to forget that ideas are rarely, if ever, local. We hear of radical ideas in another country or region in the world, and say to ourselves this is not here.

But what is “here” in the world of the Internet and social media? And what is “here” in a world of global movement of people? If an idea starts spreading in an another country, we do not worry.

We say to ourselves its “here” and it’s not our problem. But it is our problem, and its effect will hurt us. If not by hurting us immediately in our own countries, then by hurting us or those we love in other countries.

Globalized terrorism aims to strike terror in everyone. We are all legitimate targets. Governments are responsible for the security approach to fighting terrorism. We should take responsibility for the intellectual approach.

We can do this, not just by deconstructing the ideas that legitimize or encourage terrorism, but at least by standing out and rejecting all utterances of hate toward anyone anywhere.

Abdullah Hamidaddin is a writer and commentator on religion, Middle Eastern societies and politics with a focus on Saudi Arabia and Yemen. He is currently a PhD candidate in King’s College London.


Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/01/04/Istanbul-attack-shows-terror-is-closer-than-we-think.html


Humanitarian Crisis And The Youth Bulge In Middle East

By Ehtesham Shahid

5 January 2017

Arjimand Hussain Talib is more than just a humanitarian and international development professional. An engineer by training and a poet by temperament, he can easily don several hats at the same time. Born and raised in India’s troubled zone of Kashmir, a quirk of fate has brought this widely-travelled man to another conflict zone, the Middle East.

Based in Cairo, Arjimand has been working on the Syrian Regional Refugee Response, which has undertaken refugee-related projects from the war torn country in several parts of the region. Close encounter with this conflict has made him a humanist to the core.

My chance encounter with Arjimand – currently on a visit to Dubai – triggered several freewheeling conversations. It started with our shared home turf of Kashmir, primarily because Arjimand’s most recent book – Averting the Catastrophic India-Pakistan War: 11-Step Framework Towards Kashmir Dispute Resolution and Peace in South Asia – addresses the subject.

After trying to comprehend his understanding of the future of Kashmir, especially in the increasingly complex India-Pakistan context, and discussing the economic rise of China, where Arjimand has spent several years working, we eventually veered toward his current work station. After all, this is where he is literally in the eye of the storm.

The Youth Bulge

Put simply, youth bulge is a measure of the relative abundance of youth in a country. Syria’s conflict has left the youth among the most affected. “With significant educational attainment in the pre-war era, especially in Syria, they have found themselves in foreign lands and in very difficult circumstances,” remarks Arjimand.

While the host countries, the UN system and the international development/humanitarian community have largely taken care of the basic educational needs of the displaced populations, access to affordable higher education and jobs continue to be mired in deep difficulties.

“Host countries like Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt are already reeling under domestic challenges in providing decent jobs to their young educated populations. The surge of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into these countries has put them under additional stress,” says Arjimand.

A strong correlation has always existed between countries prone to civil conflicts and those with burgeoning youth populations. One such study suggests that countries with a youth bulge – proportion of 15-29 population at 41 percent or greater – are at high risk of civil conflict.

Recipe For Disaster

With this age group comprising more than 30 percent of the Arab population, we are witnessing the highest proportion of youth to adults in the region’s history. This isn’t a region-specific challenge as more than half of the world population today is also under 30. However, rampant conflict definitely adds fuel to fire in this part of the world.

So what could be done to tackle this situation? While designing self-employment and wage employment interventions for UNHCR in Egypt, Arjimand has come to realize that countries in the region would need to radically restructure their education systems to make them more market relevant. He stresses the need to encourage critical learning and innovation to address the challenge posed by youth bulge.

However, all this must start with dialogue and reconciliation and dignified return of refugee and displaced populations to their homeland. After all, there is a limit to the tolerance levels of the social and economic systems of the hosting countries.

“A solution has to be found before we reach that threshold. We have the example of Pakistan’s transformation in the process of hosting a large number of Afghan refugees. Pakistani society is still grappling with the after effects of that phenomenon,” says Arjimand.

It was time for us to return to the Indo-Pak conflict, over Arjimand’s birthplace of Kashmir.


Ehtesham Shahid is Managing Editor at Al Arabiya English. For close to two decades he has worked as editor, correspondent, and business writer for leading publications, news wires and research organizations in India and the Gulf region. He loves to occasionally dabble with teaching and is collecting material for a book on unique tales of rural conflict and transformation from around the world. His twitter handle is @e2sham.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/01/05/Humanitarian-crisis-and-the-youth-bulge-in-Middle-East.html

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/turkish-muslim-televangelist-takes-on-chess-after-sex--new-age-islam-s-selection,-05-january-2017/d/109603


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