x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Quake near Bushehr is ominous

The deadly earthquake near Iran's nuclear plant reminds us all that real catastrophe is possible there, an Arabic columnist says. Other topics: wall propaganda and Egyptian co-existence.

Deadly earthquake not far from nuclear plant hints at what Iran's ambitions could bring it

As Fereidoun Abbasi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, announced on Tuesday that the Russian contractor will hand over the Bushehr nuclear plant to Iranian experts this month, an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale struck Iran at a location dangerously close to the nuclear site, wrote Tariq Al Homayed, a contributing columnist with the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

He wrote: "This latest earthquake is yet another proof, a dry run, of the menace that a nuclear Iran poses to itself and to the region."

The hazardous situation is the result of not only Iran's politics - which is reason enough for concern - but also of its dangerous geographical location and poor safety systems and procedures.

The country has experienced several tremors in recent years that caused enormous damage. so much that Iran required assistance from foreign countries and organisations.

Aftershocks from Tuesday's earthquake were felt in several Gulf countries, including Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar and the eastern part of Saudi Arabia, causing panic in a few places.

One can only imagine what the effect of a similar incident would be if Iran, not Russia, had been in possession of the operational nuclear plant, the writer said.

"The earthquake is only a rehearsal this time as western powers have yet to make a breakthrough in the negotiations over Iran's nuclear issue," he wrote.

Tehran continues to offer flimsy justifications for enriching uranium. It takes advantage of some countries' manoeuvres to secure political gains in the game of interests with the West, as it does with Russia.

"The entire region is facing substantial and real danger, partly due to Iran's adventurous politics, and partly because of a lack of safety measures in the country. This puts the Arabian Gulf's security at risk," Al Homayed added.

The earthquake that left 37 people dead and more than 850 injured should be seen as an ultimatum to the international community that nature is controlled by none and that a nuclear disaster would prove to be far more lethal.

A hardline stance towards Iran's nuclear projects is imperative, especially at a time when the world faces threats from the reckless behaviour of some countries and leaders.

Only last week, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un threatened a nuclear attack on the US, and no one can say for sure that Iran would not make similar threats in the future.

"In short, as an Arabic adage goes, one madman's mistake could wear down a hundred wise men. Similarly, the Iranian extremists' project could wear down the entire world. Therefore, the situation must be dealt with steadfastly," the writer concluded.

Egypt's Muslims and Christians are at peace

"So a Christian family lives right across from your apartment. You are a practising Muslim, your wife wears the hijab and your neighbour's wife does not. Your kids never miss the Friday prayer, and your neighbour's kids go to church every Sunday. How do you perceive your neighbour?"

This was the introduction to Sameer El Shahat's opinion article in yesterday's edition of the Cairo-based newspaper Al Ahram. He went on to make the argument that Muslim and Christian communities in Egypt are as close as siblings, contrary to how sectarian elements try to portray them.

"Have you ever tried to hurt your Christian neighbour or offend his family, just because he is from a different faith? Do your demons ever whisper into your ears that you, the Muslim, are better than him, because he is Christian? Have you ever secretly said to yourself that he is a second-class citizen, and you - because you are Muslim - are a first-class citizen?"

Those who try to project the common mindset of Egyptian Muslims along these lines must be mercenaries with an insidious agenda, the writer said.

"Do your neighbour's children play hockey, golf and baseball, or do they rather play football together with your children - Muslims and Christians on the same pitch?" he asked.




When walls turn into media battlegrounds

Walls, long used to avert clashes, are also used as a medium to wage media wars, wrote Khairi Mansour in the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

During the Lebanese civil war, walls carried political advertisements which, for some time, seemed like alternative journalism. At times, some walls turned into peaceful battlefields, as some painted on them and others erased those paintings. In today's Egypt, graffiti competes with newspapers and TV channels, the writer noted.

Arabs have an exceptional relationship to this form of art. During the time of the authoritarian regime, the streets were filled with pictures and statues of rulers. Asked about his opinion of the many bad statues, a ruler replied that people had the right to express their ideas and sentiments. Arab dictators allowed the people to express their ideas in that particular way, but prevented them from expressing their miseries.

Art, like a sword, is double-edged. It does not derive its value from its topics as much as from aesthetic dimensions, which in this case are tolerated because graffiti is popular and temporary.

Little has been said about wall paintings and statues of leaders who made themselves icons before they crumbled; change-seekers must avoid a repeat of that.

* Digest compiled by the Translation Desk