x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Qatar-based cleric’s fiery sermons are souring Doha’s relations within the Gulf

Fiery sermons by Qatar-based Egyptian cleric threaten to sour relations with Saudi, writes Abdel Bari Atwan. Other views: Anniversary of the United Arab Republic (Akram Al Bunni) and deaths of three Arab poets (Ismail Haydar)

The fiery sermon last Friday by Qatar-based Egyptian cleric Yousuf Al Qaradawi, in which he repeated attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE, threatens to further sour relations between Qatar and its neighbours, wrote Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the news website Rai Al Youm.

Many thought that Saudi Arabia’s threats to close its border and airspace and even freeze its relations with Qatar would prompt Doha to “silence” Al Qaradawi and prevent him from giving sermons. The cleric was also behind the crisis with the UAE which, three weeks ago, he accused of being against Islamic rule. The Saudi threats appeared in a London-based newspaper with close connections to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

As the last fiery sermon showed, these threats have failed to stop Al Qaradawi from attacking Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the rule of Field Marshal Abdel Fattah El Sisi in Egypt. Sheikh Al Qaradawi would not make his blistering attacks again without consent from Qatari authorities, according to the writer.

The UAE had summoned the Qatari ambassador in Abu Dhabi to protest against the previous remarks made by Al Qaradawi that it deemed insulting to the UAE. The Sheikh’s latest diatribe is likely to further anger many. “Were you angry at me because of two lines I said about you. What if I gave an entire sermon just on your scandals and injustices,” Al Qaradawi said in his sermon in Doha last Friday.

That most recent sermon was broadcast on a state television and smashed the reconciliation deal and the pledges made by Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia with Kuwait in attendance, during a tripartite meeting in Riyadh in December last year.

The Qatari Emir vowed to stop backing the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf and Egypt, stop Al Jazeera’s campaigns against the Egyptian authorities and adhere to the line of the GGC States.

Possible actions, immediate and non-immediate, could be taken by Qatar’s Gulf neighbours in response to the last remarks. The first is withdrawing their ambassadors to Doha and expelling Qatar’s ambassadors from Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, and possibly also from Manama and Kuwait. Secondly, closing the borders and airspaces with Qatar. This action amounts to a siege because Saudi Arabia is the Qatar’s only land gateway to the world. Thirdly, freezing Qatar’s membership in the Arab League and then the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Egypt’s authorities are particularly agitated by Qatar’s policies and that may play a pivotal factor in freezing Qatar’s membership of the Arab League.

The sermons of Al Qaradawi have added oil to an already blazing fire and surprises should be expected in the coming weeks, the writer concluded.

Democracy can alter ideas on pan-Arabism

The 56th anniversary of the declaration of the United Arab Republic, a union that made Egypt and Syria one state from 1958 to 1960, was marked yesterday. The anniversary would not have drawn criticism had some pan-Arab figures not used it to attack the Arab Spring, argued Akram Al Bunni in the London- based newspaper Al Hayat.

The Arab Spring has been slammed by some pan-Arab figures as being detrimental to the pan-Arab project. They contend that it has promoted Islamist and liberalist trends that are hostile to pan-Arab views and has undermined Arab unity.

It is true that the Arab revolutions came in succession and the battle for freedom seemed one among all Arab Spring countries. But is also true that the slogans of pan-Arabism – such as Arab union and anti-imperialism – were not a driving factor for protesters.

The shrinking interest of the Arab public in the role of Arab nationalism as a stimulus for struggle and renaissance might be due to the fact that Arab regimes used pan-Arabism to justify tyranny and monopolise power. Pan-Arabism has also failed to provide convincing answers about human rights and democracy.

Yet, when the Arab Spring establishes democratic governments, this will give a new meaning to pan-Arab union and struggle, especially if that is accompanied by a review of pan-Arab ideas –namely a recognition of cultural plurality and freedom.

Three Arab poets have gone in no time at all

In a short span of time, three Arab poets passed away: Egyptian vernacular poet Ahmed Fouad Negm died in December last year, Lebanese poet Joseph Harb died in February 9 this year and most recently Lebanese poet Unsi Al Haj passed away on February 18, observed Ismail Haydar in an article for the UAE-based newspaper Al Bayan.

Their fans have been saddened by the passing of the three poets. But the poets’ beautiful legacy will alleviate their sadness and loss and instil hope in their hearts, the writer said.

He said a poet steals time more than the rest of the people because he feels that life is a poem, so he constantly has to be on the lookout for words to give meaning to this life.

Freedom and people are present in the legacy of the poets. Negm chose the Egyptian dialect to write verses that used satire, realism and love as weapons against injustice and as a means to freedom and social justice.

Harb depicts the beauty of the countryside, love of the homeland and the value of love, using both an elegant standard Arabic and a warm Lebanese dialect. Some of his poems were sung by Fairuz.

And Unsi’s prose depicts feelings of compassion and revolution with remarkable beauty, the writer said.

* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni

AEzzouitni@thenational.ae