Islam Edit Bureau
06 November 2017
defeat of ISIS may not correspond to victory for women
By Hazem Saghieh
Iran and dying for a tomb
By Yahya Alameer
Lebanon on the verge of another conflict?
By Halim Shebaya
'humanitarian technology' can help deal with Rohingya crisis
By Md Saimum Reza Talukder
purge in Saudi was long overdue
The Khaleej Times
adapt our democracy to the information age – or suffer a new totalitarianism
By Juliet Samuel
by New Age Islam Edit Bureau
It is assumed that women are the worst victims of ISIS
— its savage acts, its virulent ideology and its organized sexual slavery.
Therefore, it is assumed that any defeat of the ISIS will invariably be a
victory for women.
However, as our colleague Khaled Suleiman stated in an
article published by Daraj.com, what has happened is quite different. Up until
now the marriage of a girl at the age of nine was illegal. But attempts began
to reduce the age of puberty ironically when ISIS’ defeat began, as the article
As such there is nothing new about the amendment to
the Personal Status Law in Iraq. On 8 March 2014, Iraqi Justice Ministry Hassan
al-Shammariat announced the Jaafari law (followed by most Shiite) approved a
girl’s marriage at the age of nine, which he believed is fair to women. It was
said that reduction in the age of puberty gave the girl a great privilege as
she could not be considered a minor and so became a legitimate heir to her
father if he dies. It has also been stated that this law would lift injustice
that women have been subjected to over the past several decades by
underdeveloped social traditions and laws.
These arguments were central to the justification
regarding the decision taken in 2014. However, in a span of three months ISIS occupied
Iraq’s second city Mosul, and took control of large parts of the country. It
was at this time that this so-called progressive law, which allows girls to get
married at the age of nine, was shelved and had to wait for the right time to
be implemented. Meanwhile, ISIS started to enslave and rape girls, especially
of the Yazidi community. But with the liberation from ISIS, doors swung open
for the implementation of the aforementioned legislation that is “fair to
women”. With no ISIS in their way, it was claimed that women had emerged
victorious and marriage of nine year old girls marriage became applicable.
Currently, parliamentary majority in Baghdad seems determined to bring about
The promised new legislation has other so-called
“progressive features”. It prevents civil marriage between sects, or at least
hinders them and makes them temporary. This calls for an amendment to the 1959
law, which exempted personal status from intervention by sectarian leaders and
set the age for marriage of both sexes at 18 years.
The new situation may exacerbate sectarianism. The
amendment also wants a nine-year-old girl to be able to sign her own marriage
contract if there is no guardian! There is no need to be afraid here as well,
because according to the votaries of this law a girl at the age of nine is
fully aware about what is good for her.
“The issue is not just as some civil society
organizations and women's rights organizations say, an issue that infringes
upon women's rights and gives men the power to determine marriage only, but
primarily infringes on the rights of children. A nine-year-old girl is still in
elementary school, is not physically ready and understands nothing of sexual
relationship. Nine years does not qualify her to bear responsibility of a
family; actually she is not aware of it in the first place,” the aforementioned
Thus this proposed draft law is a violation of women's
rights as well as a violation of children's rights. There is also an ISIS
within us. It is hard for women to win, for children to play and for Iraq to
flourish as long as there is this ISIS among us. __________
Hazem Saghieh is a
Lebanese political analyst and the political editor of the London-based Arab
In Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, people are growing wary of
sectarian figures and leaders who have hindered development of their countries
and dragged them into internal conflicts and regional wars.
This is pretty clear in the case of Lebanon. The
secretary general of Hezbollah Hasan Nasrallah is fast losing appeal among
Lebanese youth. His speeches are only watched by either people who make the
programs or those who find them funny. In fact, the catchword ‘Al Sayed’ has
now become the butt of many jokes and videos in Lebanon.
‘glory’ of 2006
The party still basks in the glory of 2006, when some
Lebanese and Arab communities were deceived by the idea that it had resisted,
confronted and defeated Israel. Soon a murderer joined the party, who did not
find any justification for his deeds except the protection of tombs — a
primordial sectarian excuse that is of no significance for the Lebanese people.
In fact, funerals of party members became a daily occurrence in the districts.
The party is no longer drawing even the young Shiites
in Lebanon to its ranks, who earlier saw in it a model for resistance and its
secretary-general as a charismatic leader. That false image has started to come
off a tad.
As countries in the region gradually overcome the
chaos that sprung in Arab capitals in 2011, with the young becoming more aware
of the political realities, the appeal of Hezbollah has started to taper off,
and many now view it more as a threat to stability.
The radical Shiite discourse is based on historical
events and its obsession with the past constitutes the most problematic part of
its narrative. Similarly, Sunni extremism dwells excessively on ideas from the
past and seeks to impose them in the present and this is where conflict occurs.
Shiite extremism goes a step further in that it does
not just seek to revive history, but also seeks to evoke old emotions and
sentimentality associated with them. Sunni extremism is motivated by its
excessive adherence to certain beliefs and ideas, but Shiite extremist is
impelled by certain interpretations of historical events. The danger here is
that it is easier to intellectually counter the radical ideas of Sunni
extremism than to address the sentimentality associated with Shiite historical
narratives. Events of the past cannot be changed and their imagined nostalgia
is difficult to remove from a collective psyche.
The reason for the growth of Shiite extremism in the
region is that it is supported by a state, which is established on extremist
ideas. However, current developments in the region are increasingly posing a
challenge to Iran’s expansionist designs, which includes its attempts at
political and socio-cultural transformation.
One can only imagine how a group of young, war-weary
Shiite fighters would feel on their return from Al-Hussein and Al-Zahraa
missions in Syria, when they watch news on television about the Neom project in
Saudi Arabia or Al Nahda projects in Dubai. Their hearts will be filled with
rage against Iran and toward the distorted interpretation of history presented
to them. These men will think about their children and whether they would also
be forced to defend historical shrines and tombs.
Yahya Alameer is a Saudi
researcher and writer on society and politics. He tweets @yahyaalameer.
Saudi minister of state for Arab Gulf Affairs Thamer
al-Sabhan has become a household name in Lebanon.
Last Sunday, Sabhan considered the silence of
Lebanon's government and people "bizarre" in relation to "the
war on Saudi Arabia" which the "terrorist militia party"
Hezbollah is waging.
Two days later, then Prime Minister Saad Hariri
tweeted a selfie with "his excellency and friend" al-Sabhan in
Riyadh. The latter reciprocated by praising the "long and fruitful meeting
with my brother that led to an agreement on many issues that are of interest to
the good Lebanese people. God willing, what is coming is better".
Little did the Lebanese people know that "what is
coming" would be the resignation of their prime minister, who headed a
government supposed to be "regaining the trust" of its people.
Hariri's cabinet was part of a settlement that saw General Michel Aoun elected
president, ending a two-year political deadlock in Lebanon.
On November 4, Saad Hariri announced his surprise
resignation on Al-Arabiya channel, speaking from Riyadh rather than Beirut.
There was obviously no subtlety in the choice of
location and what it meant in terms of Saudi Arabia's role in the decision.
The surprise resignation, coupled with reports of a
crackdown on several ministers and princes in the kingdom, led some Twitter
users to joke about Hariri's "abduction" calling on him to
"blink twice if you want us to save you".
Wiam Wahhab, a Druze pro-Hezbollah politician called
for the Lebanese state to do what it can to ensure Hariri's "safe
return" to Beirut.
To be fair, Hariri yesterday spoke of threats to his
life and an environment similar to the one in 2005, the dark year his father
was assassinated triggering a series of targeted killings of politicians and
journalists. It is worth noting that the Internal Security Forces denied
reports about a botched assassination attempt against Hariri prior to his
travel to Riyadh.
Now Hariri's resignation may well be a calculated
political move aiming to boost his standing in the eyes of his constituency, as
having stood up to Hezbollah.
But there is also a very good chance that this move is
part of the ongoing cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia which has dragged in
Lebanon, as well.
war in the Middle East
Yesterday on Kalam al-Nass, Lebanon's premier political
talk show, Sabhan claimed that there is no difference between Hezbollah and
other terrorist groups. In response to the host's question on whether there
will be a broad anti-terrorism international coalition against Hezbollah, he
said that the roots of terrorism lie within the Islamic Republic of Iran alone.
Riyadh has officially declared war on Hezbollah with
al-Sabhan noting that there is no room for a "terrorist organisation"
in Lebanon's government signalling that there will be no "Sunni"
legitimacy for any government that includes Hezbollah ministers in the future.
In other words, President Aoun will need a lot of
patience and creativity in order to secure a second government during his
The reason is that the Constitution states:
"There shall be no constitutional legitimacy for any authority which
contradicts the pact of mutual existence". This has been interpreted as
the need for all religious groups to be represented in government for any
authority to possess constitutional legitimacy within Lebanon's confessional
system. Hariri's opponents used this argument in November 2006 when the
government at that time was deemed unconstitutional after the resignation of
the Shia ministers.
Now Saudi Arabia's role is only half the story. The
other half is the ever-growing Iranian influence in Lebanon and the presence of
an armed party that openly pledges allegiance to the Islamic Republic's supreme
Hezbollah's decision to enter the Syrian conflict was
seen by many as the inability of the Lebanese state to control major foreign
policy and military decisions, allowing the armed party to cement its
"state within a state".
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani added oil to the fire
two weeks ago when trying to bolster his internal positioning vis-a-vis
hardliners he blasted "imperialism" and America's arrogance and spoke
of Iran's greatness as being "more than at any other time".
He didn't stop there, unfortunately.
Rouhani went on to say: "In Iraq, Syria, Lebanon,
northern Africa, in the Persian Gulf region - where can action be taken without
Obviously, this did not go down well in Lebanon. Ever
since the political settlement on the presidency, Hariri has been facing fierce
criticism of his "surrender" to Iranian hegemony.
Hariri flatly denied such accusations and claimed he
was only acting in Lebanon's interest and stability. In a recent interview, his
adviser Okab Sakr passionately defended Hariri's achievements saying any talk
of "Sunni frustration" is out of place.
Yet, clearly, there must have been some perceptions of
frustration in Riyadh, where Hariri's decisions are now taken. And clearly, the
resignation is a direct response to Rouhani's claims of having a monopoly over
decision-making in Lebanon.
Lebanon has long been the stage for the Iranian-Saudi
regional cold war. But what makes this round of the fight special?
It is at this point no secret that Israel and Saudi
Arabia are adopting an almost identical approach to the region following the
dictum "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".
To both, Iran presents an "existential
threat" and countering its expansion is their number one priority.
In September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu praised cooperation with Arab countries saying: "it is much
larger than any other period in Israel's history. It's a huge change." In
a speech to Chatham House last Friday, he said: "The good guys are getting
together with Israel in a new way, forming an effective alliance to counter the
aggression of Iran."
For Netanyahu, Hariri's resignation and statements are
"a wake-up call for the international community to act against Iranian
The escalation in Lebanon has also been fuelled by the
fact that the Trump administration has shown to be much more receptive of Saudi
and Israeli demands than Obama's.
Talk of scrapping the nuclear deal and an increased
concentration of efforts to target and sanction Hezbollah has created a context
in which a confrontation in Lebanon is becoming increasingly likely.
And as researcher Joseph Bahout recently noted:
"Regionally, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are now seeking
ways to compensate for the loss of Syria as a place where they could defy and
bleed Iran … If ever they seek to rebalance the regional relationship with
Tehran in the Levant, the only place to do so would be Lebanon, despite the
many risks that would accompany such an effort."
de-escalation can save Lebanon
Seeking to capitalise on regional and international
efforts to curb Hezbollah's growing influence, Hariri and other Sunni leaders
might end up driving the country back into an abyss of Sunni-Shia escalation
and another violent conflict.
Cornering Hezbollah through regional and international
pressure or an Israeli war will not do anything good for the country. This is
especially true because Hezbollah thrives in an atmosphere of "us against
the world". Apart from the fact that they are the only armed and trained
political party in the country with experience of fighting Israel and a civil
war in Syria.
At the same time, Hezbollah would do well to remember
that one reason Saudi Arabia has supporters in Lebanon is because the party
affords itself an armed wing.
The threats of "cutting the hands" of
whoever wants to call for disarming Hezbollah is not winning hearts and minds
in Lebanon. And putting the thorny issue of Hezbollah's weapons back on the
table of a potential "national dialogue" is equally important to
de-escalate rising tensions.
Of course, it is too soon to tell what Hariri's
resignation will mean for Lebanon. In the meantime, non-aligned Lebanese
citizens can only hope for the day when both Saudi Arabia and Iran cease their
interference in their country's affairs.
Halim Shebaya is a Beirut-based political analyst and
Saimum Reza Talukder
November 06, 2017
Since August 25, 2017, the world has experienced one
of the most brutal and fastest-growing humanitarian crises that led to the
“textbook example of ethnic cleansing” involving the Rohingya community in
Myanmar. Being a neighbouring country and respectful of their human rights,
Bangladesh has since provided shelter to more than 600,000 Rohingyas who fled
persecution by the Myanmar army and their local cohorts. Most of these refugees
(although Bangladesh doesn't give them the refugee status, and instead
considers them as displaced Myanmar citizens) are women and children.
We would not have realised the actual level of
devastation on the ground had it not been for the satellite images and drone
footage showing burnt villages and houses as frightened people, with whatever
left of their belongings, crossed over into Bangladesh to save their lives. We
also had audio-video clips and still pictures shared on social media by the
victims, journalists and human rights activists. These digital technologies
have revealed the gravity of the situation, mobilised popular opinion and played
a crucial role to make the international community and governments listen and
The role of information and communications technology
in bringing up real stories about the humanitarian crises unfolding in
different parts of the world has been the subject of much discussion in recent
times. These technologies, besides collecting evidence, are also being used to
coordinate distribution of humanitarian aids in remote areas and conflict
A new term coined to address this emergent field of
technology—“humanitarian technology”—is now being used by the rights activists,
aid workers, social and political activists, scientists and researchers, and
applied to a broadly defined context of crises, including humanitarian
disasters. They are using the technologies to collect, process and disseminate
information from the conflict and crisis zones worldwide.
According to an article published by the International
Committee of the Red Cross, humanitarian technologies have fundamentally
altered how humanitarian crises are detected and addressed, and how information
is collected, analysed and disseminated. These developments are changing the
possibilities for prevention, response and resource mobilisation for the
humanitarian actors and the affected communities alike. They have been helping
us to understand the gravity and impact of the situation on which short- and
long-term policies for action are being made by the state and non-state actors.
Also, these humanitarian technologies can help in evidence documentation during
a crisis or conflict, which can later be used to find its root cause(s) or
punish the offenders.
But using humanitarian technology can also compromise
the objective of the humanitarian action and obscure issues of accountability
towards the victims. Therefore, how technological innovation affects
humanitarian action needs a critical enquiry. For example, Bangladesh
government is collecting biometric data of the Rohingya refugees although it
does not have any data protection law. It has purchased software from Tiger IT
(The Daily Star, September 11), a private company, and we do not know under
which policy this software company will ensure the protection of the personal
data of the Rohingyas.
There is also the risk that the data might somehow be
leaked to an adversary group (through hacking, for example) which will put the
Rohingyas in danger during future repatriation. Moreover, international
organisations like the UNHCR are also collecting baseline data of the Rohingyas
through a data-gathering smartphone app. If there is no coordination among
Bangladesh government and international humanitarian organisations on this
matter, any difference between the databases might create an opportunity for
the Myanmar authorities to discredit and delay the repatriation process.
Meanwhile, the Rohingyas are contacting their
relatives inside Myanmar through WhatsApp, Viber and other social media
services (Dhaka Tribune, October 26). As the mainstream media has largely
failed to provide real-time information, victims are finding alternative ways
(new media) to communicate inside Myanmar. For example, Rohingya refugees are
reportedly receiving various video clips, text messages and still pictures of
atrocities through dozens of WhatsApp groups to fill the information gap. But
often the source of information is untraceable, and some of them are found to
be fake news. This also raises the possibility of politically motivated
disinformation which might be spread by adversary parties like ARSA and the
Myanmar military junta. It also raises security concerns for the governments of
Bangladesh, India and Myanmar.
But there is also the concern that over-securitisation
might curtail the freedom of expression and the right to information of the
Rohingyas as well. Any restriction on using humanitarian technologies might
hamper the re-unification and repatriation initiatives for the Rohingyas in the
long run. For example, without the humanitarian technology, Kamal and his
younger brother Nazir would not have been able to reunite lost Rohingya
refugees with their family members through “lost and found” booth in Kutupalong
Refugee Camp (Al Jazeera, September 27; Dhaka Tribune, October 17).
It's important that the human rights of Rohingyas,
despite being a stateless community, are respected and protected by all the
government and non-government actors. I think there should not be any limit on
the use of humanitarian technologies. Rather, the victims, governments and
humanitarian aid agencies should be allowed to use them as per the “Responsible
Data Principle,” according to which the collection, storage, and use of data
should be carefully planned; and data should be collected for a specific
purpose and deleted once that purpose has been fulfilled.
Any surveillance on the Rohingyas or restriction
against the spread of fake news and politically motivated propaganda should be
strictly targeted and duly authorised by a judicial authority. Also, there
should be greater coordination on the use of humanitarian technologies,
supported by a multi-stakeholder right-based approach which will include the
victims, local people, government and non-government organisations involved in
Md Saimum Reza Talukder is
an advocate in District Court, Dhaka.
November 5, 2017
Saudi nationals have long complained of rampant
corruption and squandering of public funds.
By sacking at least 11 princes and dozens of former
ministers on the grounds of corruption, Saudi Arabia has shown that it is
rightly on the path to progressive reforms. The fact that the ousted
high-ranking officials include Prince Miteb bin Abdullah who headed the National
Guard - a powerful force tasked with
protecting the ruling Al Saud family and the holy sites in Makkah and Madeena -
and billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, only enhances Crown Prince Mohammed
bin Salman's stature. He has not wasted much time since he took office as crown
prince a little over four months ago. And now, as the head of the newly formed
anti-corruption committee, he has taken the daring decision to purge the
society of the corrupt disregarding their clout and influence, which only magnifies
the faith in his leadership and his controversial, yet ambitious, reform
In complete support of the crown prince's efforts and
efficiency in functioning, the Custodian of the Two Holy Shrines, King Salman
bin Abdulaziz, has bestowed on the committee the right to issue arrest
warrants, impose travel restrictions, freeze bank accounts, trace funds,
prevent transfer of funds or liquidation of assets, and take precautionary
measure until the cases reach the judiciary. The statement issued by clerics
saying it is an Islamic duty to fight corruption further provides religious
backing for the move. The anti-corruption drive augurs well for the region
where Saudi Arabia plays a major role.
Saudi nationals have long complained of rampant
corruption and squandering of public funds. This dismissal is an endeavour by
the 32-year-old crown prince to create a corruption-free society, at every
strata, and he has rightfully begun from the top. His aim is to attract greater
local and international investments by improving the country's reputation as a
place to do business. This, again, is part of a larger effort to diversify the
economy and wean it from its dependence on oil revenues.
5 NOVEMBER 2017
One year ago, an “impossible” thing happened: Donald
Trump was elected President of the United States. His election, on the back of
promises to build a wall and dismantle the West’s major geopolitical
institutions, was greeted with hysteria and prophesies of doom. A year later,
his administration is mired in scandal, unable even to staff its departments,
and it looks like much ado about nothing.
Don’t assume, however, that normal service will resume
in a few years. Yesterday, thousands marched through London wearing Guy Fawkes
masks to protest against voting, against capitalism, against government. The
marchers think they are cool and alternative. But they also have much in common
with the older, reactionary voters who brought Mr Trump to power. Both groups
have lost faith in the institutions, conventions and values of Western liberal
It seems fitting that, with the political tectonic...