By Hala Al-Qahtani
Lebanon’s Ticking Bomb: Hezbollah’s Defiance And Political Paralysis
By Joyce Karam
The Muslim Brotherhood Assassinated Barakat
By Mshari Al Thaydi
What’s The Point In Talking To Taleban?
Daesh Terrorists Strike Tunisia From Libya
By Saudi Gazette
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
An encounter between a Yemeni and an Indian
By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
Mar 9, 2016
These are difficult times. At a time when the news is buzzing with the latest incident of a bomb blast or a terrorist attack somewhere, lost in space are moments that draw out the real human spirit between people.
One such event came to my attention during a chance meeting between a Yemeni and an Indian, both long-term residents of the Kingdom. The Indian, an IT specialist working on several large projects, stopped by a shabby shack in a locale in Jeddah that was reputed to serve the best kunafah (Arabic dessert) in the city. The shack was manned by an elderly Yemeni with a young assistant who could have been his son. The long line of customers attested to the popularity of this run-down joint, with the sweet aroma of the desserts being prepared from scratch.
After having placed his order, the Indian gentleman loitered about by the cash register where the old Yemeni sat dispatching orders to his young assistant who was busily preparing the dishes. While waiting, the Yemeni asked the Indian where he was from. “I’m from India. Do you know about India?” was the IT man’s reply. “Yes,” said the Yemeni. Beaming with pride over the knowledge he possessed, he replied, “An Indian is the head of Google. Indians very good, very smart,” he added.
The Indian was momentarily at a loss for words. The appearance of the elderly Yemeni sweet seller gave no indication that he knew of a world beyond his little shack. And yet here he was, spouting a fact that not many learned people could possibly know or care to remember. As he drove home with the sweet delicacy safely ensconced in the seat next to him, the Indian reflected on the brief interchange with the Yemeni. Here was an elderly man who probably never opened or read a book in his life, possibly not out of choice but because of life circumstances. And yet the Yemeni displayed an acumen and was abreast of things around him, a fact that amazed the Indian as he told me about his encounter.
India, I explained, is a well-known entity to the Arab world. From a historical perspective, Arab traders had successful enterprises with the Indian subcontinent for centuries. Imam Al-Bukhari, the Islamic scholar and author of the hadith collection Sahih Al-Bukhari, regarded by Muslims as the most authentic of all compilations of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), crisscrossed the Indian subcontinent on his way to Makkah in the 9th century from Bukhara.
In the 14th century, Arabs controlled the trade with India and trade routes in the Indian Ocean including the east coast of Africa, followed by Portuguese sailors who discovered other trade routes. In the 14th century, the renowned voyager Ibn Battuta, recognized as one of the world’s greatest explorers, visited India, Africa, China and Europe, which during his time was the whole known world.
Indeed, India is no stranger to the people of the Arab world who have marveled at the progress by this great nation made of people from so many different religions and backgrounds. India is not a Hindu nation. It is a secular nation made up of Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and a host of other faiths and beliefs. This mixture has contributed to its greatness and has produced some outstanding architecture that has stood the test of time. From the 10th century Hindu temple complex at Khajuraho in central India, to the famous icon of Muslim presence in India- the Taj Mahal- India has reveled in its diversity. The Golden temple or Sri Darbar Sahib in Amritsar was founded in the 16th century by a Sikh Guru, while the Christians of early India founded Marth Mariam Catholic Church in Arakuzha, Kerala.
Christian organizations in India have raised alarm at the rise of violence directed toward people of their faith by extremist Hindu nationalists in recent times. Perhaps encouraged by the lack of a heavy-handed response by the BJP government toward such violence, Hindu mobs in many states have been organizing and attacking people of other faiths. It is important not just for the people of India, but also for its friends that India remain on the course of its secular destiny. Just as a great nation like Germany in the 1930s was reduced to rubble by the rhetoric of fascism, so could be the destiny of any other nation which chooses to adopt an atmosphere of intolerance alien to its democratic constitution.
We wish India well as it proceeds on the course to further prosperity.
By Hala Al-Qahtani
Mar 9, 2016
The bitter experience of the past has taught us that when a government agency fails to shoulder its responsibility in the best form, it will not only harm most members of society but also have dangerous consequences as people will grumble and lose their confidence.
A government department’s negligence would lead to a series of incidents and accidents including death of innocent people like the catastrophes that have occurred during the past few years.
When the Education Ministry showed negligence in ensuring safety, many girl students and female teachers lost their lives in school fires. There were reports of roofs falling on students while beams of stadiums fell on heads of innocent students killing them instantly.
On the other hand, when health officials failed to shoulder their responsibilities a little girl was injected blood contaminated by AIDS, MERS coronavirus killed many people across the country, hospitals turned into homes of insects and medical errors led to the death of patients with minor diseases.
We have all seen the horrendous aftermath of Jeddah mayoralty’s negligence as a massive flood swallowed the whole city, killing many people including members of a whole family. We read endless stories of people falling to their death in open manholes in the streets.
These incidents take us to the issue of recent terrorist operations that ring warning bells about the danger of religious extremism and deviant ideologies. What is the Islamic Affairs Ministry’s role in the government’s continuing fight against terrorism?
We have seen the Interior Ministry changing its anti-terror policy focusing more on awareness programs with the support of print and visual media. But we did not see any substantial move by the Islamic Affairs Ministry in this respect. We have been expecting a greater role for the ministry in support of the Interior Ministry’s anti-terror campaign to enlighten the public and correct their wrong religious notions.
The Islamic Affairs Ministry might have done many things to confront extremism and terrorism but ordinary people have yet to see its impact. For the last two years we have been hearing that the ministry has recalled some mosque imams and khateebs to investigate on the comments they have made on the social media, supporting followers of the deviant ideology.
Showing sympathy with followers of the deviant ideology is a serious issue that demands criminal investigation and punitive action. But we have not seen any such imam or khateeb or Islamic propagator being banned from appearing on the podium of the mosque or the public media. The ministry has not explained the mechanism for such investigations. I believe that investigation into such issues should be carried out by an independent body or the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution.
We have not seen any action taken by the ministry against imams and khateebs who violate its rules and regulations. Some imams used to install speakers outside their mosques to give lectures loudly outside the prayer time. We have not seen the ministry taking any action against khateebs who use their Friday sermon to spread hatred, without considering its negative impact on the new generation.
We would like to know the ministry’s stand on some individuals who call themselves sheikhs and issue medical and religious rulings or fatwas on satellite channels as they affirm their personal beliefs that have no religious basis or nothing to do with medical science. We would like to understand the ministry’s new program to redress this rift and promote the concept of peace in Islam because people would not believe words when it is not supported by action.
Arab societies, especially Saudi society, are facing a lot of challenges and we should not show any leniency even to name them. The biggest pain is the one caused by treason. When a terrorist cheats his family members and pierces his poisoned dagger on the nation’s chest we cannot simply say that he was deceived by the deviant thought. On the other hand, by involving in such heinous crimes he joins the group of criminals and terrorists who opted to spill the blood of innocent people.
The state alone cannot face this challenge and we all have to join hands to fight terrorism and extremism. We are responsible to bring up our children in the right manner. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs should play a leading role in the fight against religious extremism, by promoting moderate Islamic teachings and generating confidence among the followers of Islamic faith.
Lebanon’s ticking bomb: Hezbollah’s defiance and political paralysis
By Joyce Karam
8 March 2016
Few are the countries that can promise a Guinness book record for the longest garbage lanes, a two-year vacuum with no president, a dysfunctional government and a parliament that convenes less than ten times a year. Lebanon happens to be that country, staring closely at the abyss, as its GDP growth slumps, and indicators of instability multiply.
Paralysis on every economic, political, and environmental front has defined the situation in Lebanon for the last two years. It is threatening to move the country from fragile stability to sporadic state of instability if the internal and regional polarization continue to dictate the direction of country’s politics.
With more than a million and a half Syrian refugee (37 percent of population), a porous 375-km border with Syria, deepening sectarian Sunni-Shia rift, and a weakening moderate leadership on all sides, the indicators of instability are at their highest mark in Lebanon than they’ve ever been since January 2014.
A more defiant Hezbollah
The conventional wisdom that the war in Syria and its combat and financial toll on Hezbollah would drive it into compromise, is proving to be flat wrong inside Lebanon. Even with an estimate of more than 1200 fighters dead and reports about a serious financial crisis, Hezbollah is only growing more defiant in its home base, and flexing its muscles regionally.
The Hezbollah defiance is most evident in its response to the presidential void in the country. After 635 days with no president, and even when the anti-Hezbollah camp nominated two candidates, General Michel Aoun and MP Suleiman Franjieh, who are strong allies of the party, their candidacy never materialized and the Lebanese militant juggernaut chose to continue with the void.
For Hezbollah, the overarching goals in Lebanon go way beyond the presidency. The compromise from its opponents namely former prime minister Saad Hariri and head of the Lebanese forces Samir Geagea to nominate Hezbollah’s allies Aoun or Franjieh is neither a deal maker nor breaker for the party.
Instead, its strategy appears to be focused on avoiding a larger compromise on the cabinet formation that would accompany the election of a new president. In this context, Hezbollah still rejects the return of Hariri as a prime minister, and is clearly opting for the current status quo of a weak government, rather than a grand bargain with its opponent.
The conventional wisdom that the war in Syria and its combat and financial toll on Hezbollah would drive it into compromise, is proving to be flat wrong inside Lebanon
Hezbollah’s hardline position on the Lebanese presidency cannot be seen apart from its escalating rhetoric against Saudi Arabia and other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries. Following the halt of the Saudi aid to the Lebanese military, and the designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization by the GCC states, the party’s leader Hassan Nasrallah delivered a scathing speech, that came very close to declaring war on Riyadh. Nasrallah did not shy away from talking about his party’s role in three regional wars: Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
In essence, Hezbollah today is in the midst of regional polarization between GCC countries and Iran. Instead of formulating a policy to insulate Lebanon, Hezbollah’s intervention in regional conflicts and inability to accept larger compromise in Lebanese politics, is dragging Beirut into the eye of the storm. It’s a lose-lose situation for the Lebanese, who are paying the heavier cost for a tougher GCC policy, and a more bullish Hezbollah.
Threat of radicalization
The polarization inside Lebanon and regionally over politics in Beirut is only prolonging the stagnation and feeding the threat of radicalization inside the country.
Hezbollah’s defiance and rejection of a deal with the strongest Sunni leader today Saad Hariri, is both weakening the former Prime Minister and increasing the Sunni-Shiite rift inside the country. In a recent visit to Washington, an ally of Hariri said on background that his moderate party, the Future Movement, “cannot hold forever the resentment and anger on the street.” He referenced disaffected Sunnis in the far North who are turning to Salafism and extremism because of the toll of the Syrian conflict and in response to Hezbollah’s actions.
A military source in the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) told me that a major concern is the infiltration of Syrian refugees in Lebanon by extremist groups such as ISIS and Nusra. “Of course we have sleeping cells amongst the refugees” the high-ranking Lebanese officer said, adding that “containment and being vigilant is the only approach we can afford, and we are cognizant of the fact that there will be attempts in the future.”
While the LAF has been receiving steady aid ($75 million annually) from Washington, and has taken a more robust role in stabilizing Lebanon, its capabilities are being challenged by the divisive political environment and the stagnation.
Absent of a grand compromise in Lebanon that would end the Presidential void, produce a functional cabinet and a new parliament, the country is sitting on a ticking bomb as Hezbollah grows more defiant and as the fire goes on with no end in sight in neighboring Syria.
The Muslim Brotherhood assassinated Barakat
By Mshari Al Thaydi
Egypt’s public prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, died in a car bombing on June 29, 2015. Interior Minister Magdi Abdel Ghaffar revealed in a recent press conference evidence implicating members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, who were supported by security and intelligence elements from the Palestinian Hamas movement.
This shows the depth of the existential conflict between the Egyptian state and the top extremist organization, the Brotherhood.
Abdel Ghaffar said six perpetrators were arrested, all of whom admitted being affiliated to the party. A video of their confessions was shown at the conference. According to Egyptian newspaper Youm7, the terrorist cell consisted of 48 members.
Fourteen members, most of whom graduated from Al-Azhar, participated in the assassination. Their ages ranged between 20 and 30 years, and they were trained in Gaza. The principal accused of managing the operation is fugitive Brotherhood doctor Yahya Mussa, who was spokesman for the Ministry of Health during the party’s rule in Egypt.
Egypt public prosecutor’s death shows the depth of existential conflict between the state and the extremist organization
The organization is no stranger to this kind of terrorism, starting from the assassination of Judge Ahmad al-Khazindar during the reign of King Faruq.
Hamas is also an expert in special operations of that kind, specifically in Egypt, where it worked with Lebanese movement Hezbollah to exploit the country’s uprising and security the day President Hosni Mubarak was ousted, when prisons were stormed and prisoners escaped.
The involvement of Palestinian Islamist extremists has proved to be a constant element in the most infamous terrorist operations in Egypt, starting from the days of Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna.
What’s the point in talking to Taleban?
March 8, 2016
The Taleban’s strategy of fighting and talking reveals a larger gameplan. The fact is that the militia is not interested in talks, and believes in dividing the country on ethnic lines.
Peace talks in Afghanistan are in a limbo. The Taleban’s refusal to become part of the peace process has upset the calculations of Kabul and Islamabad. Both neighbours had carefully choreographed a strategy to present the Taleban as willing partners in the dialogue process, and in return reap the benefits of trans-regional investment.
China and the United States, the other two members of the group of four, are clueless as to how peace can be institutionalised in the war-torn country. Terrorism is hurting development in the country. Washington’s nervousness is understandable after the blows it received in the region for more than 13 years.
The Pashto militia, well-entrenched in the southern provinces of Afghanistan and capable of operating on both sides of the Durand Line, has again come up with preconditions for talks. The prime demands are: release of prisoners, lifting of travel restrictions, and last but not the least, withdrawal of foreign forces. What’s worrying is the rise in violence across the country, which the Taleban claim as their spring offensive.
The Taleban’s strategy of fighting and talking reveals a larger gameplan. The fact is that the militia is not interested in talks, and believes in dividing the country on ethnic lines. Afghanistan and Pakistan should stop appeasing the Taleban. It hasn’t worked in the past, and it won’t in future as well. If Daesh and Al Qaeda are terrorist outfits, so are the Taleban. They have indulged in mass massacres and should be tried for crimes against humanity. The so-called reconciliation process is no less than a sham. It will only exacerbate tensions and push the country deeper into anarchy.
Daesh terrorists strike Tunisia from Libya
By Saudi Gazette
Mar 9, 2016
Tunisia is paying the price for the political collapse of neighbor Libya and the emergence of Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) in the power vacuum created by warring militias. Like their forerunners, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Daesh terrorists who have turned Muammar Gaddafi’s old hometown of Sirte into their North African Raqqah recognize no borders, either to countries or to the vicious brutality of their violence.
Last year Tunisia was hit by three terror attacks. Two, in the capital’s Bardo museum and the beach resort at Sousse, targeted tourists and effectively destroyed the greater part of a sector of immense importance to the economy. The third murderous attack was the bombing of a bus carrying members of the presidential guard.
Now the terrorists have struck again, once more at a so-called “hard target”. They attacked an army base and a police station in the Tunisian border town of Ben Guerdane. Nine members of the security forces and seven civilians, including a young girl, were killed in several hours of fighting. But the Tunisian army said they killed 28 of the terrorists and captured several others.
The incident is probably more complex than a mere cross-border raid. First of all the Tunisians claim to have completed a ditch and sand barrier along their entire border with Libya. This is now being reinforced with monitoring equipment supplied by the Germans and monitored with the help of a small force of British troops. Therefore, it has to be asked how the terrorists managed to sneak across.
Then there is the long-standing issue of smuggling of which the town of Ben Guerdane is a center. Berber families split by the frontier have long worked to run cheap fuel and foodstuffs from Libya to Tunisia. When the Tunisian government announced its border barrier, there were violent protests in the town, prompted by the smugglers, who blocked the route to Libya on several occasions for days at a time.
But it is more complex still. Tunisians make up the largest number of recruits to Daesh ranks – more than 7,000 by some estimates. Even though Tunisia is the only country to have hung on to the changes brought about by its Arab Spring, it remains politically fragile. Unemployment is soaring, not least because of the collapse of tourist numbers. Prosperous and bustling Tunis is by no means representative of the rest of the country. Daesh, therefore, has a vested interest in expanding its savage mayhem, even as it prepares for an aerial onslaught by the multinational partners in a US-led coalition. Effectively the terrorists will be diffusing the target they represent as well as opening a new front in their bloody campaign.
Monday’s Ben Guerdane attack is most unlikely to be the last to be launched from Libya. But properly protecting the 400-kilometer frontier, even with state-of-the-art surveillance equipment, will be a big challenge for the 27,000-strong Tunisian army with its significant component of conscripts.
Although many Daesh killers in Libya are Tunisians, it is the selfish criminal rivalries of the Libyan militias that have allowed the terrorists to flourish. Time and again militia leaders protest that they are acting in the best interests of Libya, when in reality they only care about what they can do for themselves and the idiots who follow them.
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