x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Oppositions have lessons to learn

The leadership of Arab oppositions must be careful in the way they repsond to Muslim Brotherhood governments, an Arabic-language columnist says. Other topics: Saudi children and bankers' bonuses.

Arab oppositions' mistakes in dealing with Brotherhood governments can be corrected

Muslim Brotherhood-led governments have made grave mistakes that threaten the very essence of the democratic process, but it is fair to say that post-Arab-Spring oppositions have also made blunders that might eventually backfire on them and further empower the Brotherhood, noted Mohamed Al Haddad in an article in the London-based daily Al Hayat.

Many Arab oppositions have a tendency to dismiss parties with Islamic backgrounds. People who are adamant that Islamist parties have no right to be in politics have to understand that this point of view cannot be imposed on societies, the writer said.

Islamist parties are a given. The Arab oppositions must focus on the Islamists' political platforms, tally their broken promises, and show that the Arab revolutions were driven by social, not religious, demands, and that Islamists' success or failure will be determined only by how far the people's demands for a better life, dignity and freedom are met.

The writer continued: "Fixating on the nature of the Brotherhood organisations, moving the debate into the religious arena ... leads nowhere, and is of no benefit to Arab societies in the current circumstances."

It is unrealistic to seek to eliminate Islamist organisations from the political sphere. This is only going to drive them, once again, into clandestine activity. What is needed is to prevent them from monopolising power or creating single-party systems. In opposition or in power, Islamists gain when confronted with undemocratic means, because they can then play the victimisation card to mobilise people, he wrote.

The good news is that political debate and freedom of expression will eventually cause Islamists to fade away, because the gap between their rhetoric and the reality they are faced with will push them to turn into civil organisations, concerned chiefly with issues of bread and fuel. They will have to borrow from the World Bank, take diplomatic stances suitable to their respective countries, and bow to the pressures of the world's major powers. This is enough to make their followers forget about their often-repeated rosy promises.

Oppositions have made a serious mistake by betting on the Arab publics to topple Islamist regimes. Involving people in chaos and questioning election results won't lead to victory for the oppositions. On the contrary, it runs the risk of providing space for more radical elements to establish domination.

The Arab oppositions must develop their discourse according to the radical transformations unfolding since 2010, propagate a clear-cut platform, and move from a reactive to an active approach. A time in opposition can be useful in getting rid of behind-the-times leaders and rhetoric, and give opportunities to the youth, who deserve the largest credit for the revolutions.

More must be done for Saudi children

Children born to Saudi women and non-Saudi husbands are still treated like foreigners in the kingdom, wrote Khaled Al Sulaiman, a Saudi columnist, in yesterday's edition of the Jeddah-based newspaper Okaz.

"In the past, I have called for granting people who were born in this land - and who never knew another country as their homeland and shelter - to be granted extended residency visas … Now it is time for me to demand a more privileged status for children born to Saudi women [by non-Saudi husbands]," he wrote in a column titled My mother is Saudi.

In civilised nations, children acquire the nationality of their mothers as a birthright, in line with the principle of gender equality, Al Sulaiman argued.

"It doesn't stand to reason that the children of Saudi women should be treated like aliens, being required to apply for residency visas and pay the ensuing fees, as if part of their genetic and emotional structure does not belong to this country," he noted.

"These children are born like strangers and would die like strangers in their own homeland, although it would be a reasonable and fair option to grant them the right to their mothers' nationality if they give up the right to the father's nationality," he wrote.

"In the meantime … I entreat Saudi women to think more than twice before getting married to foreigners."

Exorbitant bonuses can't be justified

"A government financial official once told me: 'Would you believe that some top banking executives take home up to Dh18 million ($4.9 million) in annual bonuses each, not to mention their monthly salary?' " Sami Al Reyami, editor of the Dubai-based newspaper Al Emarat Al Youm, wrote yesterday.

"I was not convinced at the time, but now I have to apologise for my brain's failure to process that figure," the editor said. "Worse still ... it turns out that the real numbers are much higher than that."

Last week, Al Emarat Al Youm published figures relating to the income packages of board members and executive officers of 19 listed banks in the UAE. The banks were not referred to by name and the numbers were not broken down, but the newspaper revealed that the sum of bonuses, benefits and salaries of the top executives in those banks reached Dh687.9 million in 2012, marking a 7.7 per cent increase on the previous year.

Some financial experts tried to play down these figures by comparing them to what top bankers make in the United States and Europe. But this is misleading, Al Reyami argued.

He wrote: "How could such a comparison hold when the size, scope and capabilities of these banks are not comparable?"

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk