x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Violence in Sudan is putting prominent cleric to the test, an Arabic-language writer says. Other topics: Iran, and water and food security in the UAE.

Arabic News Digest

The ability of Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi, the prominent Muslim cleric and chairman of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, to remain consistent is being put to the test these days as the death toll from protests in Sudan – a country run for years by Islamists – has climbed to about 70 deaths at the weekend, wrote Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the recently launched online news website Rai Al Youm, in a column on Friday.

The mass protests in Sudan, which were sparked by the government’s lifting of fuel subsidies, has been countered with fierce repression from the security forces, leaving hundreds wounded besides the dozens dead, he noted.

“For Sheikh Al Qaradawi – as is the case of many other Muslim clerics in Egypt and the Gulf – the embarrassment comes from the fact that he has come out vigorously in favour of the Arab uprisings that sought the downfall of regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Libya and Yemen” but not in Sudan, the editor wrote.

“Now these clerics are in a bit of a dilemma … for the simple reason that the ruling regime in Sudan is ‘Islamist’, and the Salvation Front banner, under which that regime rules, is considered an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Sheikh Al Qaradawi, the famously pro-Muslim Brotherhood scholar who, for years, has had a regular show on life and religion on Al Jazeera Arabic, is not alone to bear the embarrassment of having to show his double standards, he suggested.

Some of these clerics, who have been trying to grab the stick from the middle about the events in Sudan, were intransigent when similar events took place in other parts of the Arab world.

“Some of these clerics actually issued fatwas authorising the murder of heads of states,” the editor wrote.

“Major pan-Arab news channels like Al Jazeera … are also stuck in the same tough bind that Sheikh Al Qaradawi is in today,” he added.

While the Sudanese authorities shut down the office of the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel on Friday and evicted its staff, it is not yet clear whether they will take similar action against Al Jazeera, he wrote. “Many experts rule out this possibility, because al Jazeera’s coverage, in their opinion, is more sympathetic with the government’s point of view.”

At his Friday sermon, Sheikh Al Qaradawi called on the rulers of Sudan to stop killing the protesters and to “talk to them”, adding that “we don’t want our brothers in Sudan, who are Islamists, to behave like the criminals in Egypt and Syria and other countries”.

The softness in Sheikh Al Qaradawi’s tone is unmistakable. All he did was “give polite counsel” to the Sudanese regime, which will further irk his detractors, the editor argued.

Urgent interests win in the US-Iran relations

The landmark meeting last week between the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on the sidelines of the United Nations’ General Assembly meetings comes as further proof that, in politics, mutual interests beat all other considerations, the Cairo-based newspaper Al Ahram stated in an editorial yesterday.

Forget all the fiery statements that were made in Washington and Tehran over the past 34 years, as both capitals were taking jabs at each other and criticising each other’s foreign policy, the paper added.

Despite the array of issues – particularly fears over Iran’s nuclear programme – that have pitted the two sides head to head, now both Washington and Tehran are yielding to the reality that they have to work together; a reality that the Syrian civil war has made crystal clear.

Several positive signs have been made on both sides to smooth over their lingering dispute, including the expression of readiness by the US and its European allies to alleviate crippling economic sanctions on Iran, while Tehran promised more transparency on its nuclear programme and guaranteed that it is being developed solely for peaceful purposes.

“A whole new era seems to be ushered in … perhaps carrying more peace and stability to the region and the world, for years to come,” the newspaper concluded.

Enhancing UAE’s water and food security

The UAE is one of the world’s least agriculturally endowed nations, given the scarcity of its arable land and the severe shortage of water. This raises serious questions about its water and food security, the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research said in an editorial in the Abu Dhabi-based Al Ittihad yesterday.

The UAE has enjoyed decent stocks of groundwater – which are now depleting at alarming rates – but it still suffers from a complete lack of surface water.

Conscious of these facts, the UAE is developing a strategy to ensure that its water and food security is not compromised by urbanisation, the editorial said.

With the high cost of desalination, a new stance has been taken.

Speaking at the Ministerial Conference for the Near East and North Africa, held in Oman last week, the UAE Minister of Environment and Water, Dr Rashid Ahmad bin Fahad, said: “Over the past few years, the UAE has started revisiting its agricultural policies and has adopted a new approach to agriculture, which hinges on striking an optimal balance between water and food security, through the use of modern irrigation methods and adopting new agricultural processes, like aquaculture and organic cultivation.”

That is the way to go, the editorial said.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk