x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Egyptians won't fall for effort to divide them

That anti-Islamic movie released in the US is an attempt to split Egyptians on sectarian lines but it won't work, a pan-Arab newspaper says. Other topics: jobs in Morocco and smoking in Saudi Arabia.

Film mocking Prophet Mohammed is an attempt to make trouble between faiths in Egypt

A film made available on YouTube on the anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, insulting Prophet Mohammed, sparked frenzied protests and assaults on US diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya on Tuesday. The US ambassador to Libya and three other diplomats were killed.

In its Wednesday editorial, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi commented on the events this way: "Documentaries and caricatures deriding the Prophet Mohammed are nothing new. They have become a recurrent phenomenon in Europe and the US," the paper claimed, "in light of ever-growing Islamophobia."

What is new about this film in particular, the paper added is that those involved in its production reportedly include Egyptian Copts, and some in the Coptic diaspora work with some radical American Christians.

"The film, described as weak and provocative, is nothing but a sedition device, intended to generate sectarian division and spur hostilities among Egyptians at this sensitive phase in the course of the Egyptian revolution."

In Benghazi, armed protesters were able to break into US diplomatic quarters and set them afire, as well as killing the ambassador and others.

In Cairo, however, the popular reaction reflected the Egyptian people's understanding of the real motives behind such a flagrant provocation. All of the country's churches and spiritual leaders were quick to issue public condemnations of the dubious production.

What was most notable was that large numbers of Egyptian Christians stood side by side with their Muslim compatriots to express their anger and their rejection of the film's divisive affronts.

"Western governments must take firm stand against such offensive actions through rigorous laws. Freedom of expression is one thing, but freedom to offend religious beliefs and the Prophet Mohammed is another."

Last month, in a similar incident, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government had to interfere to stop the publication of an offensive caricature depicting Jesus Christ, following angry protests from the German church and the religious community.

But in an act of defiance to Islam and Muslims, the German chancellor had in 2010 defended the Danish caricaturist whose cartoons poked fun at the Prophet Mohammed. Those drawings led to angry demonstrations throughout the Muslim world.

"Egypt is targeted. Its revolution is targeted. Its democracy is targeted," the paper said.

"But this anti-Islamic group seeking to undermine Egypt's stability and spread sectarian sedition amount to a small handful that can't represent the Christians of Egypt who are proud to belong to their country and who are diligent to safeguard its security," the editorial concluded.

Youths without hope endanger Morocco

Morocco's prime minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, has received some sage advice from Inger Anderson, the World Bank's vice president for the Middle East and North Africa, who recently paid a visit to Rabat, editor-in-chief Taoufik Bouachrine opined in the Moroccan daily Akhbar Al Youm.

Mr Benkirane, who is entangled in political battles on multiple fronts, was told by Ms Anderson that a World Bank study on Morocco, covering more than 3,000 people who are between 18 and 29 year in age - as are 30 per cent of the population - found that this group not only suffers from unemployment and marginalisation, but also, more critically, that many of them have lost any hope of finding a job.

"30 per cent of the total of the Moroccan population constitutes, or will constitute, a very dangerous 'blocking minority'", the writer said.

This cohort could spark a major political transformation, causing instability and widening the scope of threats of religious extremism, crime, narcotics, illegal immigration as well as terrorism beyond Morocco.

"Remember that many youths fought, or are fighting, alongside Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Algeria and now Syria, and we have no idea where and for whom these people could offer 'Jihadist service' in the future."

Youngsters who no longer seek a job, having lost any hope in their government, could put the entire country on the line.

Nobody pays attention to Saudi smoking ban

A ban on smoking in public places has been forcefully proclaimed in Saudi Arabia, yet so far people are ignoring it with the utmost nonchalance, columnist Khalaf Al Harbi wrote in yesterday's edition of the Saudi newspaper Okaz.

"As a long-time smoker, I was less worried about the smoking ban in public places than I was, as a citizen, concerned about this continuing trend of passing legislation and setting fines only to have the whole thing be just ink on paper," the columnist said.

The media have been awash with statements from the authorities, vowing to impose hefty fines on all who dare light up in a public place.

"A friend and I stood at the entrance of a cafe in Riyadh to catch up on some deferred conversation. And there it was: a scary red sign on the facade - the authorities reminding smokers that the hand of the law is sure."

"I stopped for a moment, then suggested to my friend that we go somewhere else, because I wanted to smoke. My friend asked: 'What's wrong with smoking here?' I pointed to the sign. He said: 'You buy into this?' To which I responded: 'Of course not'."

"Inside the place … the young men seemed to have no other pleasures in life except smoking and BlackBerry."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk