Books and Documents

World Press (04 Nov 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Demise of ISIS, new Syrian constitution and future proxy wars: New Age Islam’s Selection 04-11-2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

4 November 2017

Saudi crown prince is a force for moderation, unlike Tehran

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

The New York attack shows America still has no idea how to fight home-grown extremism

By Haras Rafiq And Muna Adil

On sexual harassment we men need to be clear: the problem is not women, it’s us

By Jonathan Freedland

Rescuing society from the hijacking of enlightenment

By Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

The wrong question of when will a ‘Muslim Luther’ come

By Mamdouh AlMuhaini

Has ‘Sahwa’ ended in Saudi Arabia?

By Mashari Althaydi

Arms and empowerment: Why Canada’s feminism falls short

By Rafia Zakaria

Israel beats the drums of war

By Maria Dubovikova

Publicising the plight of journalists

By Leon Willems

Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/world-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/demise-of-isis,-new-syrian-constitution-and-future-proxy-wars--new-age-islam’s-selection-04-11-2017/d/113116


Demise of ISIS, new Syrian constitution and future proxy wars

By Shehab Al-Makahleh

3 November 2017

In light of the fact that ISIS will be wiped out by the end of 2017 in Syria and Iraq – as confirmed by Vladimir Shamanov, former Russian Airborne Force commander and Chairman of the State Duma’s defense committee – the Middle East will enter a critical phase as it will come under international attention, which will have a huge impact on contemporary international politics and the existing global order.

The US and Russia have been holding secret talks regarding the future of Syria since 2015 over the question of the dispensation in that country during the transitional phase – questions relating to the country’s president, the governing body as well as other matters.

Draft constitution for Syria

There seems to be an agreement that the president and transitional governing body shall exercise executive authority on behalf of the people, but in line with a constitutional framework. As for the president, he may have one or more vice presidents and may delegate some of his powers to them. This draft will be proposed at the Geneva Conference to be held by the end of November.

As for the transitional governing body, it shall be the supreme authority in the country during the transitional phase. It comprises of 30 members: 10 appointed by the government, 10 from independent individuals named by the UN secretary general and 10 by the opposition.

The chairman will be elected from among the independent members by simple majority. This explains why officials from the European Union, Russia and the United States recently visited Damascus.

According to US sources, the most important provision of the new constitution would be Article 49 (1): “The President of the Syrian Republic shall be elected for seven calendar years by Syrian citizens in general after free and integral elections. The president might be re-elected only for another term”.

The sources added that as per the draft constitution: “No person has the right to run for presidency in Syria unless he is 40 years of age and has Syrian citizenship. This means that the phrases which reads ‘the candidate is of Syrian parents by birth’ or ‘is not married to a non-Syrian’,” have been amended.

This goes in line with what former US ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford stressed in an article published at the Foreign Affairs that the “Syrian civil war has entered a new phase. President Bashar al-Assad’s government has consolidated its grip on western half of the country, and in the east.

By now, hopes of getting rid of Assad or securing a reformed government are far-fetched fantasies, and so support for anti-government factions should be off the table. The Syrian government is determined to take back the entire country and will probably succeed in doing so.”

Geostrategic and pivotal states

Earlier, ISIS was given one last chance to leave central Syria before the Syrian Army closed the 5 kilometer gap between Al-Raqqa and Homs governorates last month. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Syrian government forces, supported by the Russian Air Force, had liberated over 90 percent of the country’s territory.

The question is what comes after the end of ISIS in Syria and Iraq? It is known that major political trends in the Middle East emerge because of conflicts by geopolitical pivots against regional powers known as “geostrategic players”.

In his book The Grand Chessboard, Zbigniew Brzezinski stated, “Geopolitical pivots are the states whose importance is derived not from their power and motivation but rather from their sensitive location… which in some cases gives them a special role in either defining access to important areas or in denying resources to a significant player”.

In the words of Paul Kennedy these states have a “location that determines the fate and future of the territory and the stability of the world”.

Accordingly, the concept points to the inevitability of conflict in the Middle East between players representing geostrategic states, “countries that aspire to hegemony and power” having a nationalist orientation, ideological outlook, religious message or economic objectives aimed at gaining regional control or global prestige.

Some of these states in the region are also called pivotal states as they become “major regional powers with pivotal geographies", with keys to access and authority in the region. Such conflicts are prone to drawn in a heterogeneous mix of players.

Proxy wars

In other words, countries that represent such geostrategic players aspire to change the geopolitical situation without entering conflicts to the extent that it improves their strategic position and enables them to gain bargaining chips in the region to secure their multifarious goals and ambitions through the use of political, economic, military and soft power.

This leads to the phenomenon of proxy wars such as in Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon, in North Africa and in south of the Arabian Peninsula — as any prospective economic and political power cannot achieve its goals without having full control of the Bab Al Mandeb Strait, which is not just a strategic chokepoint between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean but also a gateway to Africa which is rich in natural resources.

Also read: Russians have mastered how to wage war in the 21st Century

Such changes are triggered by random political events such as military coups, mass protests, continuous wars, economic crises and the weakening of central government control. Often pivotal or key regional players refuse to follow the diktats of big players.

In other words, ‘geostrategic’ states emerge from the crucible of the global system, which is controlled by the world’s major powers such as the United States and Russia as well as pivotal states in the region. Such regional powers are motivated by thoughts of protecting and securing their own national interests and security concerns, thereby refusing to give a carte blanche to major world powers.

Thus, the policies and agendas of various players are thwarted through the intervention of countries of the region in the affairs of the other by means of various soft or hard power options. These options include military and intelligence interventions, the export of revolutions, economic warfare and fomenting chaos aimed at influencing areas close to the rivals borders.

Shehab Al-Makahleh is Director of Geostrategic Media Center, senior media and political analyst in the Middle East, adviser to many international consultancies. He can be reached at: @shehabmakahleh and @Geostrat_ME.



Saudi crown prince is a force for moderation, unlike Tehran

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

3 November 2017

This week, Iran’s state-owned media hailed the regime for supposedly being a constructive player in the region and creating hope for the younger generation. Tehran claims that President Hassan Rouhani, with the blessing of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — who has long seen himself as leader of the Muslim world — is the force of moderation in the Middle East and North Africa.

Putting aside this self-promotional praise, a nuanced examination of Iran’s economic, political, religious and social landscapes reveals no sign that the regime is promoting moderation or fighting terrorism in the region.

A significant portion of Iran’s budget and revenues is spent on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its elite branch, the Quds Force, to support violent militias and proxies, and to export and advance the ruling mullahs’ revolutionary ideals.

Tehran’s sectarian agenda in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen has dashed young people’s hopes for stability and prosperity. Its relentless pursuit of regional hegemony has radicalized and militarized more people, hence intensifying conflicts.

The world has yet to see an Iranian leader engaged in humanitarian and philanthropic initiatives that seek to help ordinary people, create jobs, fight terrorism and promote peace, stability, the rule of law and justice in the region. The Middle East is not devoid of people who genuinely seek a peaceful environment for everyone to prosper. One individual from whom every Iranian leader should learn is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

He “has moved quickly to revolutionize his country’s economy in ways that offer tantalizing hints at even broader reforms,” wrote the New York Times. He introduced Vision 2030, a powerful platform to create more jobs for the younger generation and free the country from oil dependence.

While Tehran maintains a closed economy with an iron fist in order to monopolize Iran’s wealth, Prince Mohammed is pursuing initiatives to diversity and privatize the Saudi economy in order to benefit more people. As part of Vision 2030, he recently offered 5-10 percent of some Saudi companies, including oil giant Aramco, for foreign ownership. To facilitate growth and investment, he is in favor of granting green cards to non-Saudis.

The Kingdom is planning a $500-billion business and industrial zone that extends into Jordan and Egypt. This project has a lot of potential when it comes to attracting foreign visitors, and creating more social and cultural dialogue between the West and the Middle East.

Prince Mohammed has established and spearheaded a modern, comprehensive counterterror strategy, including the establishment of the Digital Extremism Observatory, which monitors and detects online activities by terrorist groups, and a military coalition of 40 Muslim countries.

He has also been instrumental in promoting human rights. The Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation (MiSK) was a crucial partner in the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum for Change in 2015.

MiSK is trying to empower youths and create more job opportunities for them. The crown prince is also known to be a driving force behind promoting women’s rights, and is planning to build the Kingdom’s largest cultural and entertainment city. There are no such initiatives by Tehran. Prince Mohammed is a role model in terms of fighting terrorism and creating a modern region based on moderate Islamic values.

• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh



Give expats a chance to serve the community?

By Dr. Monira Al-Mahasheer Al-Yaum

The Kingdom’s population is 31 million, of which 20 million are Saudis and 11 million are non-Saudis. Expatriate residents make up one-third of the population. This is an indicator that has developmental, economic and social significance.

In the last dialogue session held by the National Dialogue Center in the Eastern Province, I argued that there is a relationship between the increasing number of expatriate residents and high rates of crime and begging, especially among the thousands of expatriates who are unemployed.

Many crimes are committed by non-Saudis against Saudis and non-Saudis alike, something that jeopardizes our national security. Moreover, a number of expatriates are linked to Al-Qaeda and Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) and recruit young Saudi men to join terrorist groups. There are expatriate residents in all terrorists groups that have been disrupted in the Kingdom.

The Kingdom needs Arab and non-Arab expatriate workers and we need to consider giving residents who have served the country for 25 years special advantages. These people include those who are academics, engineers, doctors, etc. On the other hand, there are expatriate workers who pose a danger to our national security and burden our educational and health budgets. They have a negative impact on the living conditions of Saudis and the development process in general.

As for the expatriate residents who serve our country, we should utilize their expertise and give them a chance to help develop community service programs and contribute to the program’s overall development. We have a large number of expatriate residents who can provide valuable community services.



The New York attack shows America still has no idea how to fight home-grown extremism

By Haras Rafiq And Muna Adil


The US must learn from Britain how to stop extremist narratives before they mutate into violence

Tuesday’s terror attack in New York City, the most significant incident in the city since 9/11, has brought US counter-terrorism strategy into sharp focus.

The operational elements of the attack – the vehicle hire, the fake weapons, and the overall crude nature of the plot – is strikingly similar to the low-tech, high-impact terrorist attacks we have seen numerous times in Europe and the UK. Isil and Al-Qaeda have for several months now encouraged their ideological followers to carry out terror attacks in cities that are accessible to them, with tools that are readily available.

This new brand of crude terrorism, which has seen a shift from sophisticated plans and the use of explosives towards more simplistic designs and a renewed focus on soft targets, is especially dangerous because it is increasingly...



On sexual harassment we men need to be clear: the problem is not women, it’s us

By Jonathan Freedland

3 November 2017

So much rubbish has been spoken by so many men about sexual harassment that it’s hard to nominate a winner. But a strong contender in a crowded field is surely Rick Perry, the US energy secretary who, when running for president, famously forgot which government department he wanted to close (it was, naturally, the department of energy).

Perry’s contribution to the debate now raging on both sides of the Atlantic – kickstarted by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein and which has now taken down several media bigwigs, along with Kevin Spacey and Michael Fallon – was to suggest the answer to sexual assault might be … fossil fuels. Perry’s logic was that electricity in African villages can give “light that shines the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts”. It seems a street lamp powered by a renewable source would lack a similar degree of virtue.

Perry’s remarks are unlikely to find much of an echo. Louder, and more dispiriting, has been the chorus of voices, not all of them male, whose first reaction to the revelations of abuse, humiliation and assault by powerful men has been to decide that there is a series of tough questions that need to be answered – by women.

With Weinstein it was: why didn’t these women speak out earlier? Why did Hillary Clinton accept donations from this monster? (A question that was scarcely put to Barack Obama, even though he took twice as much money from Weinstein.) What were these women doing in a man’s hotel room anyway?

In Britain, the Westminster accusations have prompted a set of questions that have also been put to women rather than men. Why didn’t you stand up for yourself? If you were so offended, why did you stay in contact with the guilty man? Are you really such a delicate soul that a fleeting hand on the knee can hurt you so badly?

The textbook illustration came in the treatment handed out to Kate Maltby, the Conservative writer who described an encounter with Damian Green. She was subsequently shredded across a double-page spread of the Daily Mail that branded her “One very pushy lady”.

It’s hard to think of another scandal where the finger has been pointed so swiftly at the victims rather than the perpetrators. That’s partly thanks to the prominence given to those women who would rather upbraid their sisters than support them: witness Edwina Currie asking Harriet Harman if women were “so weak, so useless” that they couldn’t tell a lecherous man to push off.

But it’s also been aided by the meagre contributions men have so far made to this conversation, many of them choosing to say nothing. It’s added to the sense that this is a women’s problem rather than one confronting us all – and one for which men, as the main offenders, have an obvious responsibility.

When men have spoken out, their input has too often collapsed into the self-pitying complaint that all is now confusion, that today’s cheerfully innocent man has no idea how to behave as he is forced to pick his way through a dizzying hall of mirrors constructed by feminism and political correctness.

There’s nothing wrong with admitting uncertainty – and I suspect most of us have been interrogating our own past or present conduct in the workplace, wondering if we’ve been getting it wrong. We all need to make that effort, and to make it in good faith. What’s grating, though, is when an apparent claim of disorientation is, in fact, a disguised complaint that women’s objections to harassment are stopping men having the office fun they used to regard as their right.

Because, in truth, this isn’t all that complicated. Hopefully the extreme cases – of rape, of coercion, of an explicit threat of consequences if sexual favours are withheld – are clear to most men already. As for the supposedly grey areas, Ruth Davidson helpfully distilled the key point. “It isn’t actually about sex,” she said. “It’s about power, it is always about power.” For if one person is in a position of authority over another, even the smallest gesture can acquire a new and different meaning. Men need only think of their own working relationships with other men to realise that they already understand this deeply. The merest glance from a boss towards one colleague rather than another can be read by the office Kremlinologists as a sign of preference and favour. I recall the editor who with the tiniest arch of his eyebrow – I do not exaggerate – could signal a change in policy that would percolate through the entire organisation.

In this context, it’s obvious that a touch of a woman’s knee from a man with power means something different than it would from a peer. We humans are capable of sophisticated communication by the subtlest of means. When a senior male politician makes such a move towards a young female journalist or sends a florid text message, it is hardly a stretch to read that as a signal of interest – and if it comes during, say, a conversation about careers, a promise of advancement if the implied offer is accepted. And of negative consequences if it is declined.

If that can be true of a fleeting touch, it can also be true of a compliment or a joke that, if served up by a friend might be fine, but if delivered by someone with more power can be unsettling. I suspect some men have held back from this conversation for fear that they either have or will get it wrong. No man can be entirely immune from that fear.

For my own part, I received a crash course in all this in Washington during the 1990s, where I spent five formative years. The city was shaken by a series of sexual harassment scandals that yielded two valuable lessons. One was that an atmosphere of casual sexism might constitute a “hostile working environment” even when it did not involve a specific word or gesture directed at a specific woman. Another was that “consent” loses much of its meaning when one person holds power over another.

I’d like to say I internalised those lessons through the pure nobility of abstract principle. Maybe that was part of it; but just as strong was the urge not to be the office jerk. The guy who would ambush female colleagues from behind, giving them an unwanted shoulder massage, was an embarrassment. No one wanted to be that guy.

If anything good might come from these last, bruising few weeks it is, perhaps, that those lessons are being taught anew. Because if one thing is screamingly obvious here, it’s that men need to say to women that, when it comes to sexual harassment, the problem is not you – it’s us.

• Jonathan Freedland is a Guardian columnist



Rescuing society from the hijacking of enlightenment

By Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

3 November 2017

The last three decades proved to be quite difficult for the Saudi people. To begin with, a wave of radicalism struck the Islamic world after Khomeini’s revolution cast its dark shadow over all aspects of life. There was a surge in sentiments of hostilities and retribution, along with the desire to be contrite and to repent for one’s sins.

At this time, the average household was targeted by a barrage of proselytizing tapes and brochures. People stopped taking photographs, and even listening to a song on the radio started rousing feelings of guilt.

All things that brought joy were being denied, except for what the preachers approved of. It seemed that the whole society had been taken hostage, as the indoctrination swept through all spheres of life.

Good and evil became concepts for the radicals to determine. Life as we knew it completely changed. A few intellectuals and writers challenged these new concepts through literature — books, novels and newspapers. They led a resistance against the new armies of hatred. As a result, they were cast away, vilified and some eliminated.

Prince a blessing

There is a great Hadith attributed to the Pious Caliphs Umar and Uthman (may Allah be pleased with them) that says: “A person is more keen to respect the laws issued by the ruler than the laws stated in the Quran.”

This saying has been proven right throughout history. The most powerful methods of change in the history of societies come when rulers believe in a mission for their people, and establish systems and legal foundations to guard it. God has destined Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to put an end to this hijacking of Saudi society.

The last three decades will not continue in the years ahead. The Prince has reiterated this point in many interviews, most notably in his NEOM statement. Prince Mohammed has vowed to destroy extremism immediately because that page has been turned. The symbols of obscurantism, the advocates of hatred and leaders of gloom and doom have to retire.

Unless they formulate new ideas, bring about intellectual transformations, and initiate revisions that make them part of the ‘normal life’ as described by the Emir, their time is up. Heraclitus had said, “No man ever steps into the same river twice”, and so life is in constant state of flux.

Another important speech in this respect was made by Turki Al-Sheikh, an advisor to the Royal Court and head of the Saudi Sports Authority. At a press conference called for allowing the entry of players’ families in the sporting arena, he stressed: “The King and Crown Prince are strict in eradicating the religiously prohibited as well as in preserving the permissible. This idea is now clear.”

For the radicals end-time theories became a popular theme in their tapes and brochures of indoctrination. Their aim was to develop in people a herd-like mentality, who need not enjoy any delights of this world.

The Juhayman precedent

One of the important factors that facilitated this way of thinking was the Juhayman uprising of November 20, 1979. While it is true that the organization was struck down by the Saudi forces, its sympathizers were not completely eradicated, unlike the Battle of Sabilla led by King Abdulaziz on March 30, 1929.

In the absence of a strong political will to rip the movement from its roots, some of its ideas continued to spread, spawning new followers. The mistake was augmented when preachers of this ideology were given freedom.

With the exception of the events of 1994, when extremists were arrested and imprisoned, there was no real official effort toward addressing the issue and from taking action against the preachers.

Theories on permissibility

The most potent weapon in the arsenal of the radicals has been their imposition of restrictions even on the permissible. Although, things that are forbidden by religion are authenticated by clear evidence. Most of the prohibitions that these radicals tried to introduce in society are permissible in Islam.

Thus, the Qur'anic verse explicitly states: “Who can forbid Allah’s favors which He has produced for His servants, along with the joys of livelihood?” This war was conducted with the aid of cassettes, pamphlets and sermons in order to target the sensitive conscience of society, by creating its many doubts. They made society believe that the punishment of God can be avoided only by following the preacher and obeying the teachings of the ‘Sheikh’.

However, we are today living in a different situation. Things have returned to normal and all the decisions taken by Saudi Arabia — such as sanctifying the permissible again — marks the beginning of change.

However, we must be mindful of the 30 years of strife and destruction that society experienced as part of its history. The comprehensive development plan through which society is changing has involved the sectors of economy, sports, media and entertainment.

In fact, entertainment is a human right and not a luxury, even if some might contest this. It is not a time of awakening (Sahwa), nor is it the time of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is the time for development and the victory of human existence.

Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.



The wrong question of when will a ‘Muslim Luther’ come

By Mamdouh AlMuhaini

3 November 2017

We always wonder how Europe and America reached this level of rationality and religious tolerance. Dozens of religions, sects and beliefs peacefully co-exist there. There are open debates about religions and their history in universities across Paris, London and New York.

Their libraries are full of books and magazines about philosophy, psychology and anthropology, which study the phases of human development since thousands of years.

Martin Luther, a German priest born more than 500 years ago, is one of those who contributed to the West’s prosperity and progress. His ideas, which changed the face of Europe and the entire world forever, are being recalled these days.

Remembering the story of this man, who became a monk after a lightning bolt struck near him, is important as it benefits our world which is suffering from exhausting and ravaging intolerance and hatred.

Martin Luther did three major things. The first thing is that he rejected the idea that salvation must be via tormenting oneself because of sins. Luther himself suffered from psychological pain and was obsessed with purifying himself from his sins. This is why at some point he made confessions for six continuous hours as he feared the dark fate that awaits him.

After thoroughly reading the Bible, he realized that this exhausting concept is not true. He replaced it with a simple yet important idea and this salvation is a blessing that God grants his followers. God blesses people and has mercy on them without having them exhaust themselves and purge themselves from imagined sins.

Liberated souls

This idea liberated souls from the heavy feeling of continuous guilt and it changed the gloomy perspective towards life. It directly linked man to God without mediators and translators. Life’s dark and bleak horizon thus became bright. People began to think about life and how to enjoy it instead of thinking about death and hell.

This is where the strict Protestant work values emerged from. People who think about death and torture cannot be busy with work and innovation. So what’s the use of all this if fate will be tragic?

The second important thing he has done was translate the Bible from Latin, which only expert clergymen read, to German. At the time, this was a revolutionary step that allowed people to read the Bible for the first time without needing a mediator or an interpreter. The clergy’s power decreased since then and began to gradually collapse until it completely disappeared.

The third thing he did was to challenge the Roman Catholic Church when he nailed the Ninety-five Theses on the door of a church in Wittenberg. He nailed them to object to the church’s corruption which he witnessed when he visited Rome years earlier as he saw how the church enjoyed glamor while people around it were poor, sick and in need.

To his luck, his objections quickly spread thanks to the invention of the typewriter by Gutenberg. The typewriter is like Facebook and Twitter going by today’s standards. His ideas quickly spread and gained followers and supporters, and they later became the base of the Protestant sect, which we know today and which rejected Rome’s tutelage. This was on October 31, 1517. This is when Christianity split forever.

Luther’s most angry protests were over the Roman Catholic Church’s act of selling indulgences to make money. The church sent priests and missionaries across Europe to collect money in exchange of reducing the pain of the sinful at the purgatory, the state where pain and punishment are according to Catholics. Luther challenged this idea and said salvation is not granted by humans but only by God and for free.

Religious reform

This is how the concept of religious reform developed. The relation with God does not need mediators. Man can read and interpret religious texts alone without the help of a corrupt and extremist category of priests. God alone grants mercy and blessing without tormenting people or asking for money.

Decades later, religious wars between the original sect and the defected sect erupted. The most famous war was that which lasted for 30 years from 1618 until 1648. Luther’s ideas did not die out but they prospered.

New ideas based on them emerged and he himself rejected some of them as he thought they were more liberated than they should. It is also due to his ideas that social revolutions erupted. An example is the Peasants’ Revolt in 1524, which came as an angry reaction to bad livelihood conditions. The revolt, however, was crushed after more than 100,000 peasants were killed.

Luther was a charismatic, brave, energetic and controversial character. These personal characteristics also played a role in his historical religious and ideological revolution. This shows that personal traits play a huge role in major historical events.

Religious reform marked the beginning of the European renaissance and the beginning of ending religious intolerance. It was followed by significant ideological eras like enlightenment and modernity. Many people and several reasons led to this American and European renaissance, which dazzles us today. There is no doubt that Luther is one of its heroes.

‘Muslim Luther’

However when it comes to our side of the world, there are these questions: “Where is the Muslim Luther? When will a Muslim version of Luther come?” These are wrong questions.

Islamic history and our present are full of Muslim and non-Muslim scholars, thinkers and philosophers who provided rational and spiritual interpretations of Islam. These interpretations protect Islam’s pure essence and links it to today’s world. They remove all forms of intolerance. There are dozens and perhaps hundreds of Muslim “Luthers.”

During al-Ma’mun’s era, translations flourished and rational thinking and philosophy were popular. Debates were officially organized between people belonging to different faiths and beliefs. It is due to this intellectual freedom and cultural openness that translations and sciences developed and esteemed philosophers like Tawhidi, Miskawayh, Al-Ma’arri, Brethren of Purity and others, emerged.

We know that this enlightening spirit has extinguished and the golden era has ended. We entered a phase of intellectual bankruptcy at the same time as Europe began to exit its Middle Ages. This is when Europe launched scientific, industrial, intellectual and technological revolutions, which have helped it dominate the world until today.

Therefore, the question of where is the Muslim Luther is wrong. The right question would be where is the second Frederick of Prussia, known as the enlightened despot, who embraced philosophers like Kant and Voltaire and allowed them freedom of thinking until their ideas spread and defeated fanatics following bitter conflicts.

Or where is the second Catherine who did the same when she embraced philosophy and rationality and contributed toward spreading them? Without their protection and support, we would probably never heard of such thinkers or of Luther before them.

The scientific and intellectual renaissance cannot flourish in this vacuum. It flourishes through enlightening leaders and politicians who believe in the future and who protect renaissance until it solidifies rationality, tolerance and modernity and shatters extremist thinking once and for all.


Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain.



Has ‘Sahwa’ ended in Saudi Arabia?

By Mashari Althaydi

3 November 2017

I’ve noticed “early” celebrations for the end of the era of Sahwa, i.e.awakening, in Arab Muslim countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia. Sahwa is a Saudi term that refers to all political Islam movements whose major umbrella is of course the Muslim Brotherhood.

The feeling that the chapter of “Sahwa” has ended once and for all has been growing ever since the Saudi crown prince, the leader of the new national vision, made his famous promise to destroy extremists “now and immediately.”

The sense that “Sahwa” has come to an end is also due to the decrease of that media popularity and semi-social immunity which Sahwa’s stars enjoyed.

Some of these Sahwa “celebrities” are Salman al-Ouda and Awad Al-Qarni in Saudi Arabia, Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al-Banna outside the Saudi kingdom, Kuwaiti activists such as Ahmad al-Qattan, Mohammed al-Awdi and Tareq Al-Suwaidan and those affiliated with him. These stars’ media popularity has actually been decreasing over the past few years.

Memories and memoirs

What I conclude from all this is that Sahwa, its stars, principles, concepts and causes, have died. They have been buried and all that is left of them are memories and memoirs which only a specific category of researches are interested in.

Let’s remember the domination which Sahwa preachers, whether from the Brotherhood or the Sururist Movement, and their supporters from the public, imposed. By the way, the term “public” here applies to some graduates from American and French universities as it is rather used to describe a state of mind rather than a social one.

Mentioning Sahwa preachers - whether Saudior non-Saudi - in newspapers was very difficult particularly in the 1980’s and during a part of the 1990’s.

The Brotherhood’s works were celebrated at some point. For example, the books of Zainab al-Ghazali and Ahmad Raef about the Brotherhood’s tragic battles with Abdelnasser, occupied front shelves in libraries. Mohammed Qutb’s books were part of school libraries and curricula. Sayyid Qutb was distinguished to the point that a school was named after him in Qassim.


The Brotherhood lost part of this appreciation when they betrayed Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait. The former crown prince and later interior minister Nayef bin Abdulaziz bitterly spoke about the Brotherhood’s betrayal and began to gradually eliminate the group’s concepts from the society.

The situation became even clearer due to the Brotherhood’s practices during the Arab Spring. It turned out there’s no difference between a Brotherhood member who is holding a weapon and a Brotherhood member who wears a tie. They’re all the same.

What’s worrying now is relying on this “temporary” Sahwist Brotherhood defeat and not constantly and comprehensively working to clear minds and spirits that are interacting with these fundamentalists’ legacy.

We’re at the beginning of the task. Yes, we should be hopeful but it’s not time to celebrate yet.

Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.



Arms and empowerment: Why Canada’s feminism falls short

By Rafia Zakaria

"I am definitely here to push my feminist agenda," Canadian Minister for International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau declared to a journalist at the World Bank meetings held in Washington, DC at the end of October. Bibeau was talking about Canada's much-touted and widely feted "feminist international assistance" policy. Announced earlier this year, the policy has been described by Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland as "a matter of basic justice and basic economics". Under its stipulations, Canada will direct over 95 percent of its development budget towards the task of "empowering women," in turn making "families and countries more prosperous".

It is a hopeful agenda but sadly not one that includes empowering all women. This summer, before Bibeau went off selling Canada's shiny new feminist agenda, the Canadian Foreign Ministry in Ottawa had been busy with dirtier business. In a reluctant statement issued in late July, the Ministry announced that it was "deeply concerned" that Saudi Arabia's rulers "appear to be deploying Canadian-made armoured vehicles in an escalating conflict with Saudi citizens". Even this acknowledgement of sorts came only after a Canadian newspaper published a story showing that the combat vehicles manufactured by Canadian company Teradyne were used against Saudi civilians in the country's eastern Al-Qatif province.

So far, Canada's Trudeau-led "feminist" government has been unwilling to look into the $15bn deal that it inherited from its predecessor, taking the line that without "evidence of misuse" and "reasonable risk" to civilians there was no need to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Foreign Minister Freeland has even gone so far as to discard a leaked report of a United Nations-mandated panel that has denounced "widespread and systematic" attacks on civilian targets by the Saudi-led coalition in neighbouring Yemen. Yemeni women, like the Saudi women of Al-Qatif province, are not included in the empowering agenda that Canada wants to take to the world's women.

Then, there is the case of Nigerian women. In September of this year, a few months after Canada had announced its new global feminist agenda, the US government signed a $593m arms deal with the Nigerian military. A crucial and key component of this deal are A-29 Super Tucano warplanes whose engines are manufactured by Pratt and Whitney Canada. These Pratt Whitney outfitted Super Tucano aircraft will be part of the Nigerian Air Force, which has in the past used light aircraft to bomb refugee camps, killing dozens of civilians. An older deal made last year with Canadian-led Streit Group also sold 177 armoured vehicles to the Nigerian military.

The hedging that has typified the Trudeau government's response to its part in arming some of the world's most repressive and anti-feminist governments suggests that the "feminist" label it has pinned to its dealings with the world is merely crafty sloganeering. Per its assumptions, the use of Canadian armoured vehicles to mow down hapless Saudi civilians or bomb Yemeni women and children or even Nigerian refugees has little to do with feminism or empowering women. In this circumscribed and compartmentalised version of feminism a la Canada, the sale of weapons that maintain the dominance of repressive, brutal and male-dominated regimes cannot be held against a country's commitments to empowering its women. The one stands separate and distinct from the other, the self-enriching agendas of saving Canadian jobs and safeguarding Canadian affluence trumping any true concern for the world's women. This here is the glossy and catchy feminism of convenience, called on at conferences but discarded and shoved to the side when it comes to lucrative arms deals. The "basic justice" that Freeland mentioned in her speech on Canada's foreign policy priorities has no place in these latter discussions.

The groundwork of this sort of feminism, which uses all the right rhetoric, talks about empowering local women, then sneaks bombs and ammunition to fuel the very conflicts that imperil them, was laid over a decade and a half ago by Canada's neighbour (and partner in arms sales) the United States. As still-suffering Afghans remember well, one of the avowed pretexts for invading Afghanistan in September 2001 was, as announced by First Lady Laura Bush herself, the liberation of Afghan women and the facilitation of their return to schools, to security and to freedom. As the years and then a decade wore on, a two-faced approach reigned. The killing of Afghan civilians including women and children, the night raids by US forces that terrified families, and the accidental bombings of hospitals were all swept under the rug because the United States was allegedly "empowering" Afghan women.

If the United States can use the feminism-as-branding strategy to sell a war, then it follows that Canada can follow suit with its international-assistance agenda. That the United States has not delivered on any of the promises it made to Afghan women, and that two-thirds of Afghan girls still don't attend school as result of poverty, insecurity and displacement, doesn't seem to bother anyone. This last fact likely recommends the strategy to the Canadians, since it proves the premise that the feminist label is valid not because it has to deliver to the women it claims to empower but because it can better sell government programs, wars or aid, to the voters at home. The omnipotent logic of Western largesse against global want dictates that it is the givers who matter; the better Canadian voters can feel about themselves, the more successful Canada's groundbreaking feminist international assistance policy will be deemed to be. So clever is this political branding trick that even local Canadian politicians are taking a go at it; Valerie Plante, a mayoral candidate in Montreal, announced last week that if elected she would inaugurate the city's first "feminist" Metro line. What would make this line "feminist" (beyond being pink) remained unspecified.

It follows, then, that even while Canadian armored vehicles ply the desert border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen or the lanes of Maiduguri, and while jets with Pratt and Whitney engines drop bombs on civilians in different portions of the globe, Canadian voters energised by the historic nature of their "feminist" government and a "feminist" international aid assistance policy can continue to smugly look away. That the possibility of the "basic justice" identified by Chrystia Freeland as central to empowerment has been eviscerated for these women, that Canada is complicit in the crimes of these regimes, does not give anyone pause. American feminists remained largely silent when feminism became a pretext for war. Canadian feminists, eager to put Canada first, are doing the same, applauding a hollow feminism that diverts and deflects, dresses up and glosses over the dirty business of war and weapons.

Rafia Zakaria is an attorney and author of The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan; and Veil.



Israel beats the drums of war

By Maria Dubovikova

4 November 2017

Israel is beating the drums of war in the region. Disappointed by American inactivity, and having failed to persuade Moscow to change its mind on the majority of regional issues that most concern Tel Aviv, Israel has decided its best course is to act unilaterally.

Its support for the Kurdish referendum is a litmus paper by which to understand Israel’s approach to the region. Kurdish independence would likely bring severe turbulence, and violence, to the region, affecting and involving many regional players.

For Israel, disharmony between the countries of the Arab world is a guarantee of its own safety. The only party to have benefited from the wars in Syria and Iraq is Israel: The now-decimated Iraqi and Syrian armies were widely considered the best in the Arab world, in terms of both equipment and skill.

And so, settlement of the Syrian conflict, particularly the way it is currently going, does not serve Israeli interests.

Continued Israeli airstrikes on Syria since 2013 — more than 100 targets in Syria and Lebanon, striking at arms convoys belonging to the Syrian regime and Hezbollah — show that the war in Syria is not moving the way Tel Aviv hoped it would. Israel’s most recent strike, near Homs at the end of October, allegedly targeted a copper factory in the industrial town of Hisyah, which Israel claimed contained a military installation.

In this hostile — for Tel Aviv — environment, Israel is making moves that threaten international efforts to finally establish peace in the Levant.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said Israel’s next battle on its northern front will be with Syria and Lebanon, adding, in a statement issued by the Ministry of Defense, that its enemy there would be the Syrian army and its allies, including Hezbollah. Lieberman also spoke of the possibility of fighting on the southern front — the Gaza Strip — at the same time.

“If an open battles breaks out, (it does not matter if it is) in the north or the south, as they will both erupt at the same time and by then we will be fighting on both fronts,” he said. “Thus, we have to prepare our army for this coming battle or these two battles.”

Lieberman did stress that Israel is trying to avoid armed conflict with any party. But nothing is guaranteed in the Middle East. Indeed, conflict seems inevitable: The tensions between Israel and Hezbollah have started to resemble those of 2006, which exploded into violence in July of that year.

Recent events involving Israel and Syria (and Syria’s allies) — most notably missiles launched at Israeli territory and an attempt to shoot down an Israeli aircraft — could also easily presage a battle in the north.

There appear, then, to be two very real possibilities of a new war breaking out soon: One between Israel and Hezbollah; the other between Israel and Syria with its allies. The latter is the more comprehensive and worrying threat.

At this point, Hezbollah is not focused on any confrontation with Israel. But that could change if Syria and Israel go to war. It seems likely Hezbollah would join with Syria in that case, in the hope of avoiding a solo battle.

If a war does break out between Israel, Syria and its allies, including Iran, the big question is: Where will Russian President Vladimir Putin’s loyalties lie?

It is not an easy question to answer. Regardless, it is important to remember that there is an agreement between Moscow and Washington that states no country is allowed a military presence in Syria, with the exception of Russia.

If it were to consider a war against Syria, then, Israel would be violating that US-Russian agreement. This would likely lead to direct military action against Israel from non-state actors supported by major powers including the Syrian government, Iran and Russia. What happens next is hard to predict.

• Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub). Twitter: @politblogme



Publicising the plight of journalists

By Leon Willems

November 04, 2017

Every five days, on average, somewhere in the world, a journalist is murdered for being a journalist. Nine out of ten times, no one is prosecuted, creating an atmosphere of impunity that extends beyond death threats or violence. Imprisonment of journalists is at an all-time high, and members of the press routinely suffer harassment and intimidation while on assignment. Today, journalism is one of the most dangerous professions anywhere.

One way to address this state of affairs is by talking about it. Three recent examples highlight the risks journalists take to report the news, and underscore why publicising their plight is the only way to bring about change.

Consider Maria Ressa, CEO of Rappler.com, an online news network based in the Philippines. Since founding Rappler in 2012, Ressa's website has become an invaluable source of information about the extrajudicial killings linked to President Rodrigo Duterte's “war on drugs.” For her enterprising reporting, Ressa has received more than 80 death threats in September alone. Many of these warnings have come from anonymous bloggers, with IP addresses traceable to the president's associates.

Then there is the case of William Ntege, a journalist who reported on recent protests against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's decision to run in the next presidential election, despite constitutional prohibitions preventing him from doing so. Ntege was severely beaten by police for his coverage, and held in jail for more than ten days.

Finally, there is the erosion of press freedoms in Myanmar. A new clause written into the country's media law allows citizens to file a lawsuit if they have a complaint with an article or news item, even if the reporting does not directly mention them. This legal provision – in sharp contrast to international norms – has led to 61 cases filed against journalists since February 2016, when Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy came to power.

Infringements of press freedom like these have become common tactics for autocratic regimes, from Turkey to Russia and beyond. But it is not only despots and strongmen who have declared war on the press. In Colombia and Mexico, hundreds of journalists have been placed under armed guard to protect them from criminal syndicates. Yet this hasn't stopped journalists across Latin America from leaving the profession in droves. A favourite strategy of Mexican drug gangs seeking to stay out of the headlines is to threaten investigative journalists' children. No wonder the media's ranks are shrinking.

Part of the reason most consumers of news do not know these stories is that organisations like mine have long worked to ensure that journalists never become the story. Press freedom groups have typically operated under the assumption that the best way to protect fact-based, investigative journalism is to shield the storyteller from violence. And, like most journalists, we have opted to do our jobs quietly, rather than burdening readers and viewers with how dangerous the profession has become. But it is time to change our approach, and make a point of highlighting the hazards.

For example, Ntege was released only after considerable effort by a team of lawyers retained by Reporters Respond, the Free Press Unlimited emergency fund for journalist safety. Since the fund's inception in 2011, it has helped dozens of journalists around the world, including, most recently, a group of reporters fleeing mob violence in Burundi. And a huge number of organisations aid journalists in distress in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe, and elsewhere. These stories behind the news must be told.

Of course, telling these tales is just the beginning. Press freedom advocates must also deliver journalists a stronger, more coordinated framework for their protection and safety. To that end, my organisation is engaging with other global entities to strengthen the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. We have also begun holding regular meetings with other media freedom groups to devise a path forward. And, we have started working to ensure that media protections are backed up by legislation and enforcement. Journalists will need brave prosecutors and judges to hold attackers accountable if impunity is to end.

But the most important changes must come from within the media industry itself. Because journalists' safety directly affects news organisations' employees, freelancers, and audiences, these organisations should report on the topic. With attacks on the press increasing, the old approach – prideful silence – no longer makes sense. If the journalists use their platforms to inform the world of the dangers they and their colleagues face, the world will have to listen.

Violence against journalists has historically been an issue that has remained behind the headlines. On November 2, the world recognised the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. Let's commit to making these stories front-page news now.

Leon Willems is Director of Free Press Unlimited.


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