From Iran to Valentine's Day this is what Arab Media voices are saying

Arab Media Voices from the Arab Press discuss different issues from across the globe.

IRANIAN PARLIAMENT speaker Ali Larijani attends a news conference at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut’s southern suburbs, as a picture of late Iranian Quds Force top commander Qasem Soleimani is seen in the background, on February 17.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
IRANIAN PARLIAMENT speaker Ali Larijani attends a news conference at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut’s southern suburbs, as a picture of late Iranian Quds Force top commander Qasem Soleimani is seen in the background, on February 17.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Nida Al-Watan, Lebanon, February 19
To the Iranian Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Ali Larijani:
Thank you for your decision to visit Lebanon, but I wish you would have relieved us of your stay, which brings nothing but headache and agony to our people. The Lebanese government is at the height of its struggle with the Trump administration, and the complexities of the region pose great danger to the future of the Lebanese state.
Our standards of living are steadily declining, our relations with the world – and with our Arab brethren in particular – have become strained, and our financial crisis continues to unfold. All of this has happened since you and the government you represent began attaching us to your “axis.” The truth is that we are ashamed of your government, which, under the banner of resistance, kills thousands of innocent civilians. Mr. Larijani, the very political structure that your country represents is the one the Lebanese people have been revolting against in the past few months.
You proudly claim that Beirut is one of four Arab capitals aligned with Tehran, but the truth is that Beirut – just like Damascus, Baghdad and Sanaa – is simply held hostage by your regime. Just take a look at the wars, financial upheavals, health crises and food shortages that plague the countries your country has associated itself with. Do you realize how expensive the price you have us pay has become?
Mr. Larijani, let me remind you of what the Lebanese want from you: They want to ensure stable and peaceful relations with your country. They want regional peace. But they certainly don’t want to be your proxy. Lebanon is a sovereign state, and your country’s relations with it must be respectful of this fact. We understand the complexities of these bilateral relations and do not seek to simplify the situation.
But the truth of the matter is that your reckless policies have contributed to our national catastrophe and prevented us from establishing a normal state with one army, one foreign policy and one judicial system under which all citizens are equal. Do you want to help us? Be our guest. But the greatest help you can offer us is to fight your country’s battles away from our borders, without dragging us into wars that we have neither an interest nor a desire to fight.
–Bechara Charbel
Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, February 19
Each year, we hear the same words repeated over and over, warning people not to imitate the Western tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day because it commemorates the Christian Saint Valentine. And each year, people ignore these warnings and celebrate the holiday anyway.
To all of those who preach against the so-called imitation of Western traditions, I have one question: Do you not realize that almost all of our traditions originate in the West? When you, as journalists, write against the Valentine’s Day traditions, do you not realize that the entire tradition of press and free speech is a Western tradition? When you use Twitter to spread your messages of hate, do you not recognize that Twitter is a Western-made technology platform? And when you get on your planes and travel the world, do you fail to see that passports, ID cards and even the notion of the Westphalian state are all Western-made inventions?
Indeed, the very force driving modern civilization is the idea that an invention can be made by one nation yet become the property of all peoples. Not every celebration is religious. Similarly, not every adoption of a Western custom is contradictory to Islam. Many people in the Muslim world choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day not as a religious holiday, but as a cultural event. They focus on what is beautiful on this day – things like celebrating loved ones and appreciating those around us. Ninety percent of youth in the West do not know that Valentine’s Day had religious origins. No one there celebrates the holiday in the religious sense.
This is also true of the Muslim world. The Egyptians celebrate Sham Ennessim, a national holiday marking the beginning of spring. The festival was a pharaonic ritual that was linked to Christianity, much like Easter, yet this doesn’t mean that the Egyptian people, some of whom are devout Muslims, turn to paganism. Therefore, these calls to boycott Valentine’s Day must end. The people of Saudi Arabia are, above all, human beings: They share the same humanity with the rest of the world, including opportunities to celebrate joyous traditions without being challenged about their commitment to Islam.
–Abdullah Bin Bakhit
Asharq Al-Awsat, London, February 22
Whenever dealing with dangerous groups of individuals, the ultimate goal is always to successfully distinguish between the sheep and the wolves. This is what French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to do in regard to his country’s Muslim population. France’s Muslim citizens are surely not the problem – but the extremists among them are. The same logic applies to all French citizens, including non-Muslim groups: The loud minority always overshadows the silent majority.
Last week, Macron visited one of France’s mosques, addressed the local Muslim community and said – much to the dismay of some – that he will not allow separatist movements to exist in France. The president denounced those who refuse to shake hands with women and those who refrain from modern medicine or study in government schools. The truth is that some practices are a matter of personal choice: The state cannot compel any man to shake hands with women. However, it does have the right to prosecute families who forbid their children from going to school for the sake of pious Muslim education at home.
This kind of cultural segregation is certainly punishable and enforceable by law. Macron, like many of his European counterparts, is very respectful of freedom of worship and religion, which is enshrined in the French Constitution. However, he is wary that some Muslim groups are trying to hijack the Muslim community for the sake of promoting their own political agenda. Macron warned Turkey against funding Muslim organizations abroad, accusing it of being the source of support for separatist groups in France. Indeed, Istanbul today is the capital of extremism in the world and has become the official headquarters of Islamic groups fleeing Egypt, the Gulf, Sudan and Syria.
However, the problem is not Turkey, but Europe: The latter has allowed these groups to exist within its territory and maintain legal, economic and political entities even when it is clear that they are linked to dangerous groups in the Middle East. These groups take advantage of civil liberties in countries such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands to promote an illiberal agenda. European authorities, consequently, are facing a new struggle: They need to reconcile limits on free expression and association with their ultimate commitment to democracy and freedom.
After a long period of apathy, it seems as if European leaders are finally beginning to act on this matter – either due to electoral pressures or as a result of shocking information that has been recently released, shedding light on the financial backing available to these radical groups in Europe. Truth be told, banning these groups is in the best interest of everyone, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. –Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed
Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.