x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Al Azhar comments on Iran 'saluted' in the Gulf

Arabic newspapers commented on the meeting between the Iranian president and the chief Sheikh of Al Azhar University in Egypt. Other topics include the Arab Spring and Egyptian Hamada Saber's denial he had been a victim of police abuse.

Arab Gulf states 'salute' the Sheikh of Al Azhar for telling Ahmadinejad what he had to hear

The Sheikh of Al Azhar, Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, did not mince words as he received the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during his visit last week to Egypt to attend the summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Emirati columnist Mohammed Khalfan Al Sowafiwrote in an opinion article in the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper, Al Ittihad.

Sheikh Al Tayeb, the head of the Cairo-based top Sunni institution, told Mr Ahmadinejad that Arab countries would never tolerate Iran's interference in their own affairs.

Al Sowafi wrote that Sheikh Al Tayeb's forthright criticism of Tehran's regional politics had earned him words of praise and respect from various Arab politicians.

"Indeed, social media websites have been awash with comments from Gulf nationals in approval of the Al Azhar sheikh's position," the columnist said.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, tweeted: "Salute from the Gulf to the high-minded Sheikh of Al Azhar."

This tweet alone, the columnist wrote, summed up how the people and the rulers in Arab Gulf nations really felt. Sheikh Al Tayeb also asked Iran to stop using its negative influence to destabilise Bahrain.

"Iran's attempts to infiltrate Arab societies …, politically and religiously, go back a long time and are well-known," the columnist noted. "So what the Sheikh of Al Azhar did is lay down some ground rules, which are really the ABCs of sound relations between nations.

"He basically advised Iranian decision-makers that, before thinking about a rapprochement with Egypt - a nation with a particular weight and significance for Arabs - they must understand that the sovereignty of all other Arab nations is a red line."

As the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, rightly pointed out: President Ahmadinejad is wrong in thinking that he could turn a small, easily bridgeable post-Arab Spring "loophole" in GCC-Egyptian relations into a deep rift.

"The perennial problem of Iranian politicians, whether in the way they handle their domestic affairs or deal with Arab nations, is that they consider public opinion to be 'dumb'," the author said.

"Iran ignores all the Egyptian officials who keep repeating that Cairo's relationship with Tehran will never come at the expense of Egypt's relations with GCC and other Arab nations," he went on.

Sheikh Al Tayeb has made it clear to the Iranian president that differences between Arab nations do not amount to an acceptance of Iran into the Arab fold. In fact, Mr Ahmadinejad was made to understand that there is "an implicit Arab consensus that Iran's way of doing politics is not welcome", the writer noted.

Hamada Saber case exposes Islamists

After Hamada Saber denied he had been a victim of police abuse - although he had been filmed being stripped and beaten by police - people were angry with him. But no one was angry at themselves for resuming normal life the following day, after having seen police personnel - who are paid by their taxes - dragging and stripping Hamada, wrote Nawara Negm in Egypt's Al Tahrir newspaper.

The scene, as horrific as it was, is less painful than the comments from those Brotherhood-linked clerics who attacked the victim, justified the assault, and concocted accusations that Hamada was a vandal, a member of Black Bloc, that he was in possession of 18 Molotov cocktails when he was arrested, and that he deliberately stripped himself to run away, the writer noted.

People who said this are those who call themselves "Islamists". They are the ones who won the ballot through trading on the persecution they had suffered from the ancien regime's security forces- the very forces that they are now defending, she wrote.

"I won't dwell upon my astonishment at the behaviour of the so-called Islamist trend, which not long ago used to arouse people's sympathy over being oppressed by the ministry of interior," she said. "No wonder, Egyptian people have come to the conclusion that 'Islamists and God-fearing are poles apart'".

A fight to reclaim the hijacked Arab Spring

History is repeating itself in Egypt. Protests in the squares of Cairo, Alexandria and other cities against President Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood and their radical allies bring back memories of similar demonstrations two years ago against the former Mubarak regime, wrote the columnist Elias El Diri in the Lebanese newspaper Annahar.

"The Egyptians held out for 30 years before they rebelled against the new 'pharaoh' who, along with his family and entourage, controlled every aspect of their livelihood. But those same Egyptians couldn't endure president Morsi's rule and the Brotherhood's 'blitz' for longer than one year and a few months," he said.

Egypt has been in turmoil ever since the Brotherhood rose to power. President Morsi has been unable to offer the Egyptian people a satisfactory form of rule.

Observers confirm that Egyptians' hopes for change, development, modernity and openness came down plummeting as soon as the Muslim Brotherhood's truth was revealed.

However, it isn't only Egyptians who are disappointed with the Brotherhood. Tunisians, too, have taken to the streets against Brotherhood's practices. The Brotherhood hijacked the Arab Spring and the people of Egypt and Tunisia will not relent until they regain it.

* Digest compiled by the Translation Desk