Hot off the Arab press 383021

What citizens of other countries are reading about the Middle East.

Lebanese MP Sethrida Geagea is seen on April 23 in the parliament building in Beirut. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Lebanese MP Sethrida Geagea is seen on April 23 in the parliament building in Beirut.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Falling numbers of female politicians in Lebanon
Al-Hayat, London, November 20
There are many stereotypes about Arab women, but perhaps the biggest one of all is their ability to compete with, and triumph over, men in anything they do. This might be the case in the fields of business and private enterprise, but from the political point of view, Arab women are doing very badly.
In the last decade, the role of Arab women in politics and decision-making processes has dramatically decreased. Each new election raises questions about why it is that women refrain from politics. A new study conducted by the Organization to Promote Women in Politics and Trade Unions found that in Lebanon, only one party includes women in its constituent assembly (where they comprise roughly 25 percent of total members), while the other parties admit to endorsing women only as wives and girlfriends. Examining the different party platforms, the study found that only one party included clauses regarding women’s rights.
In trade unions, which are responsible of safeguarding the rights of workers of both sexes, the reality is somewhat better, with women representing 40% to 75% of all members. “These results,” the study claims, “are quite disappointing. The role of women in public affairs cannot be undermined, and we must continue our journey to empower women and contribute to a democratic change that is much needed.”
– Veronique Abu Ghazaleh
Islamic State is luring Washington to act
Al-Safir, Lebanon, November 17
The game between Islamic State on one hand, and the US coalition on the other, continues. While Washington is operating at a slow pace and assessing its future policy in the region, Islamic State is trying to provoke America and the West to act. The question is no longer whether Islamic State is looking for a confrontation, but rather why is it calling for one now.
The latest execution video of American relief worker Peter Kassig, broadcast this week by Islamic State, sends a clear message to President Barack Obama. Islamic State wants to provoke the president into putting boots on the ground and deploying American soldiers to the region.
The reason is twofold. First, many Islamic State fighters consider the US a “far enemy,” an Islamic term referring to those who should be fought last; their biggest concern is eliminating heretic Muslim regimes first. An immediate presence of Western forces in Iraq and Syria will turn the US into a “close enemy,” and unite Islamic State against it. Secondly, Islamic State fears an American- backed militia of Sunni fighters that would challenge Islamic State. Such armed militias would fight a proxy war on behalf of the US, and undermine Islamic State’s monopoly as the “defender of Shi’ites.”
Therefore, Islamic State’s best chance to weaken the US is, surprisingly, to force its ground intervention – and this is why such videos and provocations are released.
– Abdallah Sliman Alli
'Fayza Abul-Naga – The right choice for Egypt
Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, November 13
I first met Fayza Abul-Naga several years ago, when she served as international development minister under Hosni Mubarak. A quiet, smiley and confident woman, she carried great responsibilities on her seemingly small shoulders. When I visited and interviewed foreign leaders in Africa and the Middle East, they all remembered her very fondly. Many recalled her unique combination of personal strength and decisiveness, and her ability to facilitate difficult discussions.
More recently, she was very vocal about the US’s support for various NGOs in Egypt, which she claimed undermined the democratic process in the country.
The decision of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to appoint Abul-Naga as his national security adviser sparked a heated debate; an American source told me the US would accept any Egyptian government as long as Abul-Naga is not a member of it. Some argued Sisi deliberately took a stand against America. But if this is the case, then why can’t the Egyptians demand the resignation of US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who takes a hardline approach to Egypt? I think this appointment is one of the best decisions made by the president so far, and I can only hope this new team will give Egypt’s citizens faith in a better tomorrow.
– Abd al-Latif al-Manawi
‘Who discovered America’
Asharq Al-Awsat, London, November 19
I read the harsh criticism leveled by some Arab writers against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s remarks regarding the Muslim discovery of America.
During his speech to Muslim leaders from South America, Erdogan claimed the Muslims – and not Christopher Columbus – discovered the continent.
While I take anything Erdogan says as a comedy show, some people did get upset.
But let us ask the real question: Will “rediscovering” America today change history? Certainly, it will not change the present.
Today, there are pioneering nations living side by side with faltering ones, just like ours. The irony is that Erdogan delivered his speech on the same day a European space shuttle successfully landed on a comet, following 10 years of traveling. What did the Arab nations do during those 10 years? All we have witnessed is assassinations of prime ministers, the looting of cities, the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, and the replacement of old dictators with new ones.
Today, the relationship Muslims hold with America can be best summarized in their lines, waiting at the consulate to apply for an American visa, and escape their countries and governments for a safe haven. That is the modern reality – and something Erdogan should not be proud about.
– Abdul Rahman al-Rashed