Friday, August 28, 2015

Yemen, Mansour al-Nogaidan and Al-Islah: New Age Islam’s Selection From World Press, 27 August

Yemen, Mansour al-Nogaidan and Al-Islah: New Age Islam’s Selection From World Press, 27 August

By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
27 August 2015
Yemen, Mansour al-Nogaidan and Al-Islah
By Jamal Khashoggi
PLO must be resuscitated one way or another
By Daoud Kuttab
Effectively tackling terrorism
By Ali Ibrahim
Afghan graffiti artist strives to beautify Kabul
By Jennifer Glasse
The secret to Indians’ success in America
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Malaysia’s Welcome Wears Thin
By Tash Aw

Yemen, Mansour al-Nogaidan and Al-Islah
By Jamal Khashoggi

26 August 2015
In an interesting article entitled “Yemen post-liberation: The dangers of division and the return of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Mansour al-Nogaidan drew attention to the future of Yemen from a Saudi-Emirati point of view very close to his own.
Whether there are one or two Yemens, the important thing is that they do not go to war with each other or become hostile to the Gulf states. It would be better not to deal with the issue of southern independence until the full liberation of Yemen. Then Yemenis can decide for themselves between unity, separation or federalism. They should do that without armed conflict as there has been enough war, hunger and misery.
Nogaidan’s article highlights above all the danger of the Brotherhood’s return. According to him, it has returned to play a bigger and more dangerous political role than expected. The Brotherhood is taking part in Yemen’s governance. According to Nogaidan, who is a meticulous researcher, since the end of the civil war in 1970 and the 41 years of the Yemeni republic, the Brotherhood has sided with revolution, including the one in 2011.
Third alternative
Yemen’s Brotherhood was involved in the “third alternative” project in the civil war that was backed by the late Saudi King Faisal at the start of his struggle with then-Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. The project put forward the idea of an Islamic state instead of royal and republican systems. This movement was formed and led by the late Ibrahim al-Wazir, who was highly educated and part of a prominent Hashemite family.
The Brotherhood participated directly in the 1948 reformist revolution from its headquarters in Cairo. This cross-border participation created the first rift between the Brotherhood and the Saudi kingdom, which started to grow suspicious of the movement and its aspirations.
An insightful politician takes historical junctures into account and uses them for the benefit of his cause, as did King Faisal. The “third alternative” attracted a number of republican tribal elders to the kingdom’s ranks, even if it happened at the expense of its allies, the royal house and the Hamidaddin clan.
Moreover, one of the most prominent intellectuals Mohammed al-Zubairi was assassinated in northern Yemen while on his way to meet King Faisal in Saudi Arabia, after he broke away from the republicans and formed Hezbollah, which called for an Islamic government rather than a monarchy or republic.
As such, the idea of a “third alternative” seeking wise governance in Yemen is old, was multi-faceted, and does not concern the Brotherhood alone. What happened in Yemen after the military took charge and almost forced out King Faisal’s favorite to rule Yemen, Judge Abdul Rahman al-Iryani, was illusion.
The current multilateral struggle between the Houthis, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), intellectuals, the southern Herak movement and the Brotherhood serves the mother cause: searching for an appropriate formula of wise governance in an unhappy Yemen.
Is the Brotherhood’s “return” a source of danger in Yemen? Of course not. The danger resides in the return of tyranny and the authority of a singular force over a country with different sects, orientations and tribes. Brotherhood monopolization of power in Yemen is as dangerous as the single-handed authority of the Houthis allied to Iran, which sparked the current war. The list goes on with Saleh, who wrongly monopolized power.
The Brotherhood’s Al-Islah party will come back stronger in Yemen after the fall of its Houthi rivals and its former ally Saleh. It is the third force left in the north after the fall of the two other forces thanks to the Saudi-led coalition. It would be unwise to repress Al-Islah and consider it a terrorist group. This would make it turn to Al-Qaeda, though the differences between them are huge.
Nogaidan proposes stopping “the support of Al-Islah and the strengthening of its influence,” and allowing it “to be weighted normally according to the rules of the new civil life, which prohibits the exploitation of religion and sectarianism, and embraces everyone.” This is the wisest thing to do.
This article was first published in al-Hayat on August 25, 2015.
Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels. Twitter: @JKhashoggi
PLO must be resuscitated one way or another
By Daoud Kuttab

26 Aug 2015
Palestinian cartoonist Khalil Abu Arafeh's comic summarised the feelings of many. He drew an old man in a hospital bed in need of new blood and called the patient the Palestine National Council (PNC).
The nearly irrelevant Amman-based legislative body of the PLO was suddenly reanimated when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and 10 members of the executive committee handed in their resignations on Saturday, forcing an emergency meeting of the PLO's top officials.
As a result, the PNC is now obliged to meet within a month under Clause 14C of the PLO charter. The meeting, which will most likely take place in Ramallah, will be held without the need for quorum to elect a new - and hopefully much younger and more active - executive committee.
The action and suspense caused by the unexpected mass resignation follows years of Abbas threatening to exit the political scene. However, some, especially within Fatah, don't expect these to be the president's last threats.
Honourable exit
Abbas' threats of resignation began as far back as 2009, but sources close to the 80-year-old Palestinian Authority president say this time, he is serious. Many suggest that this is the most democratic way for him to have an honourable exit after decades of service to the Palestinian cause.
But the move is unpredictable and risky. It comes on the heels of failures both on the local and international fronts and the inability to hold national elections. The straw that broke the camel's back was when the Palestinian leader was convinced that Hamas was not interested in reconciliation and was instead looking for a separate long-term deal with Israel.
Abbas' possible exit from the political scene follows a major Palestinian failure to execute an internal agreement that would end the split that took place in June 2007. The split was both geographic and political. It cemented the separation of the West Bank and Gaza and kept Hamas and Islamic Jihad outside the national political consensus and the various bodies of the PLO.
Instead of new elections in the occupied territories and a reconstituted PLO, the split was deepened further in Abbas' eyes with talk of a possible truce between Hamas and the Israeli government. The deal is said to have been engineered by former Quartet peace representative, Tony Blair. Because the former UK prime minister has not held an official title since May, he has been able to hold meetings with Hamas officials as an independent actor. He made two visits to Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader, in Doha, Qatar, within six weeks.
The deal engineered by Blair enraged Abbas and many Palestinians and reportedly includes the end of the Israeli-imposed siege on Gaza by means of allowing a water corridor to Cyprus in return for a long-term ceasefire. Israel has denied that it is having either direct or indirect talks with Hamas, and while Meshaal confirmed that talks are going on, there are no indications that any deal has been reached.
Succession issue
Without elections, Abbas had little choice but to resort to his larger nationalist base. The expected emergency meeting of the PNC in September will not resemble the reconstituted PLO (agreed to in the Hamas-PLO reconciliation agreement, but never materialised). Representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are unlikely to attend.
The future Palestinian leadership should not be tied to any single individual. The succession issue should be left to evolve naturally and decided on within the existing political structure. It appears that many, including Abbas, prefer an open democratic mechanism, whereby the position of president would be filled via some type of elections or a consultative process.
With outside actors taking on more of a role in determining Palestine's future, the person or entity to fill the power vacuum could hail from anywhere and should no longer be restricted to the Oslo-mandated Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza.
Many argue that a more logical process would be to mobilise the larger PLO structure to create a kind of global leadership search that can represent, support and benefit the 12 million Palestinians around the world. Perhaps only through such a framework could the final push for Palestinian statehood and liberation be accomplished.
Daoud Kuttab, an award-winning Palestinian journalist, is a former Ferris professor of journalism at Princeton University.
Effectively tackling terrorism
By Ali Ibrahim

27 August 2015
There is no convincing explanation to turning a train, a coach or any civilian place crowded with people into a battlefield. While investigations into the motives and intentions of the attack on an Amsterdam-to-Paris train by a Moroccan gunman are in their early stages, there is no doubt that the brave US servicemen who overpowered the attacker have averted a massacre.
Based on police reports the suspect has links to extremist groups and has traveled to Syria, there is a great likelihood that the attacker was planning to carry out a massacre on board the train. Otherwise, why would he carry all these weapons?
The puzzling question is: Who brainwashed so many youths, mostly of Arab origins, into following this absurd and bloody path? Another question is: How did the Moroccan gunman manage to get on board the train with all these weapons without being discovered?
The former question is more significant as far as counterterrorism is concerned given that it is related to ideology. A generation of youths, most of them in their twenties who were either born or lived in the West for a long time, has fallen into the trap of terrorism. Those youths have failed to integrate into their new societies, instead adopting an attitude so antagonistic and extreme that it justifies the killing of civilians.
This phenomenon will pose a challenge to the world for a long time to come until it manages to address the core problem. With a limited knowledge of Islam, those youths have fallen victim to the extremist ideology being promoted by instigators of violence and terror. No faith justifies random killing. Islam, which once built a great civilization, is a religion that advocates development and peace.
Those youths would have never been used as human bombs and tools of violence, wreaking havoc on the societies that welcomed them and their families, had they been given a better upbringing.
Thanks to the bravery of the US servicemen and some other passengers, the attacker failed this time. But the course of events indicates that there will be similar attempts in the future. The danger of terrorism, like that or, say, organized crime, can be largely reduced but the phenomenon will continue as long as people exist.
People will not stop using public transport or visiting public places, nor will they change their lifestyles because of some deranged individuals who seek to prove their importance through acts of terrorism.
But government and families are responsible for giving those youths a healthy upbringing in order to stop them from being drawn into a life of terror and crime. They need to be made aware that they do have a role to play in their new societies. The international community must step in to stop the growing terrorist activity in the conflict zones of the Middle East. Countries, such as Syria, Iraq and Libya, cannot be left to be hotbeds for terrorists who find in the state of turmoil there a suitable environment to grow.
Afghan graffiti artist strives to beautify Kabul
By Jennifer Glasse

26 Aug 2015
His plan is to make Kabul the graffiti capital of the world, one mural at a time. It won't be an easy task; there are kilometres of blast walls in the Afghan capital, symbols of the perilous security here.
Artist Kabir Mokamel and a group of supporters have started the project with their own money.
"Our first goal is to contribute something to beautify Kabul," he explains. "Plus, Kabul has all of these blast walls, and they look extremely ugly.
"Psychologically, when I come into Kabul I feel under siege. So we're painting some strategic pieces of art in order to educate the public.
"When you put a picture on a wall, the wall disappears and you are in a new space, that's very important for me."
The first piece Mokamel and the volunteers painted is a giant pair of women's eyes, brown, piercing.
The message, against a bright yellow background, reads: "I’m watching you. Corruption is not hidden from God or the people's eyes."
Another piece features Afghans toting hearts in a wheelbarrow, and a heart with a band aid across it. "It’s about healing the wounds of the country," Mokamel explains.
We arrive as Mokamel is starting a new series "Heroes of my City," to celebrate everyday people as heroes.
When we first get there, the mural doesn't look like much - a few bits of colour on the white wall.
"It's a complicated piece, it has 32 colours, the anti-corruption one had only nine," the artist says.
To make the outline of the piece, the painting of three street sweepers has been projected on the wall and drawn in pencil. Mokamel, his volunteers and anyone who would like to participate may help paint it.
Children who usually beg among the busy Pashtunistan square traffic come over to see what's happening.
Soon, painter Maryam Kohi is talking to a young boy then hands him a paintbrush. She has worked on several of the murals, despite recent car bombs that have many Afghans concerned about security.
'Ordinary heroes'
"All people are living in fear so with this art, we can change the look of the city, and give a message of peace to the people and a message of acceptance of each other," Kohi says.
Mohammad Nabi, an old man who was walking by, paints text about ordinary heroes, alongside a policeman who has also accepted a paint brush from Mokamel.
This is what the artist wants, to bring people together.
"They are just passers-by, they're curious about what we are doing. Sometimes they have a bit of apprehension and we just invite them to come and paint," Mokamel says.
"They always say they have never painted in their life, we say, just try it, and then they do and some come back the next day."
Accidental painter Nabi says his few minutes at the wall have made him feel patriotic, that he's helped do something to make the city clean, to show that he loves Afghans and Afghanistan.
"People get messages through these paintings, and godwilling everyone, our children become educated and understand these things," Nabi says.
"Even people who have no education can understand the message when they see this."
That's another of Mokamel's goals with his paintings, to create what he calls visual literacy.
Many Afghans cannot read or write. He wants to use art to simplify the many complications of Afghan life.
"For me the metaphor is we have a lot of problems in Afghanistan very complex problems, being it economical, being it social, or political," he says.
"What we want to do is to show them through these simple paintings, block colors, is that you can actually break down these complex things into elements, and then you can pull them apart and put them together to make something new."
His painting of street sweepers is complex, with many tiny areas for the 32 colours. It takes him and his volunteers longer than he thought it would to complete - about two weeks.
They worked several hours in mornings and evenings, but security concerns halted painting for several days after car bombs and other attacks had the people of Kabul on edge.
The street sweeper painting is the first in the series honouring ordinary Afghans.
"We want to shift the paradigm of heroism in Afghanistan," Mokamel says. "It has always been heroes with guns or with swords, you know?
"So we want to celebrate the people that we see every day who are working on the street."
Other murals will be of boys and girls going to school, and an old man on a bicycle, a hero for not adding to Kabul's pollution and traffic.
Afghan contributions only
Mokamel does not want any international or government aid money. He would like to complete this project with money donated by regular Afghans. That way it's their project, he says.
International money hasn't been well allocated.
"For example, a lot of money was spent on anti-corruption campaigns, more than $700m," he says.
"But you see corruption is actually increasing, not decreasing. There should be initiative from the people and for the people to start combating these things."
Mokamel hopes the project will get even bigger.
He plans to invite international graffiti artists to Kabul to paint their works.
If they don't want to come because of security or other reasons, then he will ask them to donate their designs for his volunteers to paint.
He knows it's an ambitious project, but he hopes it will help change the way the world sees Afghanistan.
"It's time for Afghanistan and for the world to contribute something else other than weapons and war," Mokamel says.
"We have been through war for the past 36 years, it's really time to give art and artists a chance."
The secret to Indians’ success in America
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed

26 August 2015
You rarely hear bad news about Indians in the United States. In fact, you rarely hear about them in general. Recent studies have focused on communities that arrived from India as they constitute a large number of the population, and it turns out that the Indian community is one of the richest, and the most efficient and influential.
The common image of the poor Indian man is the complete opposite of the image of Indians in the United States, as it turns out that Indians there are one of the richest Asian immigrant communities. The yearly income is $88,000 per household.
The sweeping majority of them have university degrees, and most of these degrees are in scientific majors. This is why they are among the best at getting hired, and why they are better off. In addition, they are new immigrants as two thirds of them are born outside the United States, so they are not like other deep-rooted groups such as the Jews and Europeans.
Quality education
The secret to their success lies entirely in education. Poverty and the weak capabilities of the Indian government has not prevented the provision of quality education. This is why most of them attained the right to emigrate to a country such as the United States. They are considered before immigrants from other countries because they specialize in fields required by the job market.
Therefore, they are granted residency, given jobs, and later attain American citizenship. Some Indians there are now high-profile politicians as well. Two U.S. states are governed by men of Indian descent, and a candidate of Indian descent is running for the Senate post in California next year. More than 40,000 Indian immigrants work as doctors, as is the case in other vital fields.
The moral is that he who wants to overcome his circumstances and difficult times must pay full attention to education, and I mean quality education. Education is the only medical prescription we can agree on when it comes to social and economic solutions. Although all countries provide free public education, only a few of them provide quality education that produces people capable of developing their society.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on August 26, 2015.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
Malaysia’s Welcome Wears Thin
By Tash Aw

Aug. 26, 2015
Over the last decade, economic growth — combined with a push to become a leader in education and information technology in Southeast Asia — has made Malaysia a magnet for students and immigrants from Africa. It should be a success story of progress and cultural exchange, but recently tensions have escalated.
In May, a 30-year-old Nigerian student was sentenced to death in Kuala Lumpur for trafficking 1.7 pounds of methamphetamine. It was the second capital sentence handed to a Nigerian citizen in Malaysia in two months, following the sentencing of another student, also for meth trafficking.
Sandwiched between these headline cases was a more minor crime story — but still a revealing one. A 46-year-old Malaysian schoolteacher, who had “met” a man on Facebook and fallen in love, agreed to loan him the huge sum of $31,000. When she finally met him in person, the man, whom she’d thought was Caucasian, turned out to be Nigerian. He offered to repay the debt — but the bank notes he gave her were counterfeit.
The publicity over such high-profile criminal cases involving Africans (mostly Nigerians) has helped inflame widespread prejudices in a country that until recent years had had little contact with Africans.
According to the most recent available figures, 79,352 African citizens entered the country in 2013; and in 2012, 25,467 student visas were issued to Africans. Many, like those on a student exchange plan at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, sponsored by Kano State in Nigeria, are drawn by Malaysia’s fast-growing, well-equipped higher education institutes, which offer the chance of better employment both in Malaysia and back home.
For many African Muslim students, Malaysia also offers the chance to practice their faith in a modern, cosmopolitan environment. One young Nigerian couple I chatted with at the airport last year explained how their master’s degrees in engineering from Malaysia had led to employment with a respected company in Lagos, and they now traveled frequently for work.
Given Malaysia’s efforts to transform itself into an educational hub open to foreign labor and talent, these kinds of stories should be news, but they aren’t. Instead, a narrative of cooperation between Malaysia and African countries has increasingly morphed in the popular imagination into nightmarish scenes involving African criminality.
Malaysia’s modern infrastructure, efficient banking system and reliable Internet connectivity have, according to a Reuters report, made it an “epicenter” of online schemes — with Nigerians in particular said to be using Malaysia as an operating base. American women have been a major target of these frauds, with the United States Embassy in Kuala Lumpur reporting in 2014 that Internet fraud made up 80 percent of inquiries to duty officers, with a dozen new cases every week.
The tricksters use persuasive stories — posing, for example, as an American Christian stuck in a Muslim-majority country who needs cash to get home. American officials report more than 600 cases a year, with most victims losing, on average, sums “in the tens of thousands”; two women each lost more than $250,000.
These con men, like many of the convicted drug mules and dealers, have often entered the country on student visas, which are easy to obtain and rarely attract follow-up checks. As a result, local prejudice is running high against Africans generally.
Malaysians rarely bother to make distinctions between Nigerians and Ghanaians, Kenyans and Tanzanians. The press, politicians and the public refer to them as “Awang Hitam”; the rough translation “black guy” fails to convey the expression’s pejorative edge.
Recently, an upscale condominium development in Petaling Jaya, a city near Kuala Lumpur, tried to ban Africans from renting apartments within the complex. After negative publicity, the developers backed down, but it is an index of how intense the loathing has become in some quarters.
The increasingly entrenched nature of anti-African sentiment was encapsulated in last year’s widely read editorial in one of the country’s most influential Malay-language dailies, Utusan Malaysia. Titled “Malaysia Can Do Without ‘Pak Hitam”’ (a variation of “Awang Hitam”), it summed up a prevailing view of Africans in Malaysia: that all the stories were the same, and all the stories were bad. It went on to list the social problems caused by Africans, from serious crimes like drug trafficking and online fraud to gathering in large groups and “colonizing residential areas.”
It is in this last grievance that a clash of cultures becomes clear: Africans are accused of rowdiness, drunkenness and harassing local girls — all of which represents the antithesis of the behavior expected in a conservative Asian country. Afraid to challenge these African immigrants because of their physical size, large numbers and “coarse character” — according to the editorial — Malaysians watched as their neighborhoods were overrun by “Pak Hitam.”
Many Malaysians argue that the sheer number of offenses committed by Nigerians and other Africans justifies their jaundiced blanket view — though actual figures are hard to come by. According to a Nigeria-based nonprofit organization, the Legal Defense and Assistance Project, there are 132 Nigerians serving sentences in prison in Malaysia, with several on death row — but the project was able to gather data from only two of the country’s seven maximum-security prisons.
Whether or not there is a crime wave caused by Africans, many Malaysians definitely have a perception that one is happening. And this is feeding deep-rooted prejudice. I once witnessed a local woman on a train holding her nose when sitting next to a passenger of African appearance.
With Malaysian companies like the industrial multinational Sime Darby starting to invest heavily in the growing economies of Africa, and Malaysian universities continuing their drive for fee-paying foreign students, the flow of people between Malaysia and Africa seems unlikely to abate. And neither, anytime soon, does the climate of xenophobia.
Tash Aw is the author of three novels, including, most recently, “Five Star Billionaire.”

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