x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Muslims have aggravated defamation of Islam

Muslims need to reconsider their reaction to the defamation of Islam, a commentator in Cairo writes. Other Arabic-language media commentary concerns the "death" of Al Qaeda and empty Syrian schools.

Muslims have unfortunately lost all their legitimate battles to express their fury over Western defamation of Islam, Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswani wrote this week in an opinion article, in the Cairo-based paper Al Masry Al Youm.

From the Danish cartoons denigrating the Prophet Mohammed, to Geert Wilders' 2006 anti-Islam movie Fitna, and the recently produced film Innocence of Muslims, Muslims were in a favourable position to convince the world that Islam should be respected. But, unfortunately, their acts only helped in further defamation of Muslims and Islam.

Muslims missed the following facts. First, western societies ceased to uphold the sanctity of religion decades ago, and so criticism of any religion is permissible under the right to freedom of speech. People in the West can mock the Prophet Jesus and the church, but they cannot incite for hatred as per the law.

Second, Arabs live in a despotic society. "In Egypt, if you quarrel with the building caretaker, you will seek your connections at the police - an officer - to punish him, and if you quarrel with the officer, you will seek someone who knows the head of security to punish the officer," the writer explained. Not to mention the absolute powers of Arab rulers in deciding the fate of people.

But in the West, the president cannot dictate the contents of the media, shut down an outlet, or ban a movie. In contrast, the media can unseat the president if it convinces the electorate that he is inefficient.

Third, the Arab world must not use double standards over respect of principles. Muslims get angry when Islam is ridiculed or Muslims are discriminated against in the West, but unfortunately "we do nor respect the rights of our fellow citizens with different faiths", he noted. Baha'is, Shiites and Copts are a few examples.

The writer concluded that "our battle to stop insults against Islam is legitimate" and can be won with these guidelines:

Muslims must set a good example in respecting others' religions and rights. "When we respect the religious sanctities of others, we will be in the right to defend ours, and our consistent moral stand should convince the world public opinion to join us in preventing insults to Islam".

"We must enlighten the Western world about the truth of Islam," he said. "I hope that a tiny amount of oil revenues will be allotted to produce international movies that show the truth of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)."

Producers of anti-Islam movies should be detected, and coordination maintained with Muslim communities in the West to boycott goods produced by any involved institution.

Lawsuits could be filed through specialised agencies against anti-Islam moviemakers for incitement to hatred against Muslims, the writer noted.

Contrary to belief, Al Qaeda is thriving

Earlier this week, Time magazine published a report anticipating the end of Al Qaeda based on a series of facts from the assassination of its leader Osama bin Laden to the vanquishing of large sections of its affiliates in Yemen.

"The report was accurate in detailing Al Qaeda's failures, but I disagree with its final deduction that predicts the organisation's end," said the columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed in a comment article in the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

"Facts indicate that the organisation is on the rise in various parts of the world. Al Qaeda isn't only alive, but it is gaining in power and recruitment capabilities. It succeeded in striking new alliances and achieving mergers in numerous regions," he added.

The upsurge of the political Islamic rhetoric that came about as a result of the Arab Spring may have given jihadists a wider platform to spread their ideas and perform their activities. This isn't to say that Islamic governments encourage Al Qaeda's return to fame. On the contrary, they themselves are victims to the terrorist organism's multiple groups.

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda continues to grow in Africa, where it has managed to impose its control over cities and airports.

Al Qaeda isn't a military organisation, but an ideological one. To contain it, the world must find a way to confront the radical ideas it promotes so easily in host environments that are multiplying everywhere on the globe.

Syrian schools open to empty classrooms

In yet another of its eccentric decisions, the Syrian government announced earlier this week a decision to reopen schools for the new academic year at a time when civil communities have surrendered to the call of war and teachers have been seen idly drinking tea outside empty classrooms, said columnist Mazen Hammad in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

Teachers in war-torn areas realise that there are more pressing issues than education now in the country. Rebels have taken over schools that are now used as barracks or refugee camps.

"In a desperate attempt to pretend that the situation is under control, the minister of education ordered schools to open, knowing that a return to school is out of the question at the moment in light of escalating violence," he said.

Challenges face the monolingual Syrian students who were forced to flee to neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and attempt to enrol in schools there where many subjects are taught in French or English.

Students at refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan voiced their frustration to the UN and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi during his visit to the camps, but as solutions to the crisis are stalling, nothing indicates that there will be an end to their angst.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk