x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Film rooted in anti-Islam history

Arabic editorials also comment on the possibility of a Russian Spring and international help for Syria.

Anti-Islam movie has roots in a history of brutal confrontation between the West and Islam

Muslims around the world, be they moderate or hardliners, religious or non-religious, have come together to protest the defamation of Prophet Mohammed through a cheap movie produced in the US with suspicious money and for cheap goals, Taoufik Bouachrine wrote in the Moroccan daily Akhbar Al Youm.

The movie Innocence of Muslims, which coincided with the 11th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks of 2001, is not a "road accident without history", he wrote. In the West the practice of denigrating Islam has been continuing for at least 20 years now.

In the late 1980s, the issue of the hijab arose in France, followed by a big stir caused by Salman Rushdie's novel Satanic Verses.

Then the "contagion moved to the US following the World Trade Centre bombing in 1993".

"The collapse of the Soviet Union played a major part in the emergence of the new enemy … the green threat that came to replace the red threat," the writer noted. In fact, western culture was formed, for 70 years, around the presence of and confrontation of an external enemy.

"After the fall of the Iron Curtain ... the crescent was branded as the new enemy, fuelled later on by the September 11 events", he wrote.

The machines of propaganda and lies, like claims that Al Qaeda "is a product of Islam, and Islam is the largest factory for producing terror", came to dominate the realms of media, politics, scientific research and cinema".

The debate first started among evangelical Christians, one of whom, Franklin Graham, once described Islam as "evil", adding that "the God of Muslims is not the same God of Christians".

The contagion spread to politicians, notably the right wing - which is thirsty for a return to the crusades - as illustrated by the actions of former president George W Bush.

Curiously, even Europe's political jesters have put in their two cents on culture and religion: "Our Christian civilisation is superior to that of Islam", the former-Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, once said.

The events of September 11 were political, not religious, but when it was "taken to the heavens" the right wing discovered a "big mine to supply the journey to power: the wicked Muslim, the fundamentalist immigrant, the Jihad-inciting Quran, the Taliban that destroy heritage, Egyptians who circumcised girls, honour killings by Jordanians ... the list goes on".

Thus, a political platform was carved out to portray the danger engulfing western civilisation, that 10 per cent of Europe's population are Muslims and they are the "first battalion to destroy the West, Christianity, secularism, Israel and the prosperous way of life".

And now, amid the demise of ideologies, a movie has been shot to fill the void.

Is a Russian Spring becoming possible?

Vladimir Putin's "inheritance of power" as Russian president continues to cause trouble for him and his country, columnist Mazen Hammad wrote in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

Tens of thousands of Russian citizens took to the streets of Moscow this week to demonstrate their opposition to him.

"Despite the Kremlin's attempts to nip protests and opposition in the bud, the renewed wave of anti-Putin activity proves the opposition's resolution to bring down the president," said the writer.

Last winter, more than 100,000 Russians took part in rallies to oppose Mr Putin's re-election to the presidency. After he was sworn in, "his supporters anticipated that the opposition would go into hibernation, but the new series of rallies proves that the people's appetite for large-scale demonstrations hasn't waned".

The sheer number of participants these demonstrations have brought together foretells a Russian Spring, the writer went on.

Leftists are aiming to increase pressure on the Kremlin and protesters pledged to continue to keep it up until they are freed from Mr Putin's dictatorship.

Meanwhile, analysts agree that the Russian president opened the floodgates of protest when he manipulated his way to authority by "lending" the presidency to his close friend Dmitry Medvedev for a term, then reclaiming it once again; a process the opposition deems fraudulent.

Syria needs still more international help

Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, met with President Bashar Al Assad on Saturday, and said afterwards that the situation in the war-torn country is "escalating and threatening for the Syrian people and the entire region".

The statement only adds to the complicated situation in country, the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan said in its editorial.

"The deteriorating conditions in Syria require additional salvation efforts from the international community," the paper's main editorial went on.

The continuing battle in Syria has so far left more than 26,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands more displaced.

With every passing day, as the regime intensifies its oppressive measures, humanitarian conditions in Syria continue to deteriorate and the numbers of refugees in neighbouring countries just keep growing.

"The Security Council of the United Nations must play a bigger role to ensure the provision of humanitarian aid to civilians who suffer from shortages at every level," suggested the paper.

The situation also calls for bigger and more palpable efforts on the part of the Arab League; that body should be responsible for the distribution of humanitarian aid among those who are in dire need of it.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk