x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

The lesson from Tunisia's people

A news round up from throughout the Arab world.

"Despotic regimes in the Arab world are extremely annoyed at what befell the regime of the deposed president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali," commented Ali al Ghafli, the head of the political science department at the United Arab Emirates University, in the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej.

"They are adamant in thinking that the Tunisian grassroots intifada is just a phase that will see the mere substitution of one president for another, whereas the spirit and form of despotism will remain in place."

In his address to the Tunisian people, the Libyan leader Col Muammar Qadafi stated just that. Col Qadafi said he was saddened by Mr Ben Ali's ousting and that Tunisians should have waited till 2014 to make their voice heard in the presidential elections.

Yet one of the lessons to be learned from the Tunisian uprising, which brought down a 23-year-old closed system of rule, is that every despot-led Arab regime lays the foundations for its own undoing. The greedy lust for power, economic monopolies, the exclusion of the people and the oppression of intellectual elites are bound to make the citizens turn the tables.

The Tunisian regime was not the weakest in the region and the Tunisian people are not necessarily the fiercest. For many Arab governments, this should be food for thought.


Lebanon must be ashamed of summit

The three-way summit photographs that were coming out of Damascus on Monday - where the leaders of Syria, Qatar and Turkey appeared seated next to their foreign ministers at a round table, discussing ways to defuse the political crisis in Lebanon - must make every Lebanese citizen feel ashamed, observed Ilyas Harfoush, a columnist with the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

It is shameful for Lebanese leaders to be so incapable of solving their own issues.

"The absence, voluntary or forced, of the Lebanese president makes the pictures look even more depressing. Was the Lebanese president Michel Suleiman invited to that summit at all? Or did he spare himself a meeting that looked more like a medical conference where prominent specialists have gathered to find ways to rescue an intensive care unit patient?"

The importance given to Lebanon is not due to "its weight in the region and the world", as some ultra-Lebanese folks like to daydream. "It has more to do with the regional leaders being aware of the potentially serious repercussions the crisis in Lebanon may have in their own countries."

And how on earth is a summit held in a neighbouring state supposed to pull the magic strings of this crisis if Lebanon's leaders were not pegging their decisions on foreign dictats in the first place?

Islamophobia grows in Europe today

"The issue of the permanent establishment of Muslims in European societies raises never-ending questions and intricate discussions about the extent to which Islam can co-exist with European democracies," wrote Abdelhaq Azzouzi, a Moroccan academic, in the opinion pages of the Abu Dhabi-based daily Al Ittihad.

In recent months, these debates were fuelled by hardline right-wing parties across Europe.

According to an opinion poll conducted by the Paris-based IFOP institute in Germany and France last month, 42 per cent of the French and 40 per cent of Germans consider the Muslim community in their respective countries to be a serious threat to national identity, while 68 per cent of the French and 75 per cent of Germans think that Muslims are not integrated enough in their respective social fabrics.

The respondents attributed that to cultural and moral differences more than socio-economic reasons.

In a recent article, the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas pointed to the "elections factor" and the need for political parties to mobilise voters by promoting stereotypes of Islam and Muslims. This is truer of younger European politicians who, having no experience and no following, find in antagonising Muslims an easy vote-winner. And this is creating an atmosphere where Europeans are made to feel that Islam is a threat today more than ever.

Sadr poised to become Iraq's Nasrallah

The leader of the Shiite Sadrist Movement in Iraq, Muqtada Al Sadr, is getting ready to become "the Hassan Nasrallah of Iraq and play an influential political role", a source from the city of Najaf, the centre of Shiite political clout in Iraq, told the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

Speaking under the condition of anonymity, the source warned of "party conflicts that may rise to the surface - in Najaf, Karbala and other towns of the middle and southern Euphrates - over the political leadership of Iraq's Shiites".

Mr Al Sadr is said to be holding "intensive meetings" in his family's home with leaders in his movement to resolve differences, "especially conflicts between the turbaned and non-turbaned members". The former maintain that they were the ones who preserved the movement and kept it going, while the latter feel that the movement became politically structured thanks to them.

"Al Sadr came back to Iraq feeling strong after he left Najaf secretly for fear that the US forces may arrest him. But now the movement has 40 seats in the Iraqi parliament and seven ministers in the government; and that expedited his return to play a significant role, quite like Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon," the source told the newspaper.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi