Hot off the Arab press 463862

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

Fighters of Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government fire a rocket at Islamic State fighters in Sirte, Libya, on August 4 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Fighters of Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government fire a rocket at Islamic State fighters in Sirte, Libya, on August 4
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Washington in Libya
Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, August 4
Last week, American forces launched several air strikes on Islamic State strongholds in the Libyan city of Sirte; the first time the US targeted the terrorist group outside Syria or Iraq. Shortly thereafter, Italy – the NATO ally geographically closest to Libyan shores – publicly agreed to have American warplanes use its bases in the South of the country to conduct sorties in Libya. Within less than a week, Islamic fighters in the country suffered a heavy hit to their infrastructure and forces, and withdrew to remote areas away from the major cities.
This is an extremely important achievement for the US, especially in a country like Libya, which is rife with tribal frictions and conflicts and provides fertile grounds for religious extremism. However, the United States’s involvement has not gone by unchallenged. A barrage of criticism, from various players in the Libyan political system, has already been heard in Tripoli in recent days. Some accused Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of ordering the strikes in order to strengthen his political position and weaken the opposition. Others protested the foreign intervention and its lack of public legitimacy in Libya.
What exacerbated this anger was the French government’s announcement that several of its soldiers were killed in Libya, during action against Islamic militants.
The confirmation of the presence of French troops in Libya has angered the Libyan public, pushing hundreds to the streets in demonstrations against foreign intervention in their country. The Grand Mufti of Libya, Sadeq al-Gheriani, added fuel to the fire by ruling that any foreign intervention in the country is an “invasion” into Libya, against which all Libyans must stand up. These developments will surely complicate the United States’ future involvement in the country.
While Obama’s administration is certainly not interested in putting boots on the ground – guaranteeing that all military activity will be limited to aerial bombardment – security officials in Washington understand very well the grave risks posed by the potential spread of the Islamic State into Libya. A country already on the verge of security breakdown, Libya presents worrying prospects of becoming the next Syria or Iraq. The problem here is that with no territorial buffers other than the Mediterranean Sea, it is only several dozen miles away from European shores. – Idris al-Kanburi
The adventures of Miss Faiza
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, August 5
Last week several newspapers reported that Faiza Shaheen, a British National Health Service employee, was stopped and questioned at Doncaster Airport in the UK, after being spotted reading a book in Arabic on her flight. Upon her arrival to the country, Miss Faiza was escorted off the plane and interrogated for “suspicious behavior” reported to the authorities by her fellow passengers. Later, it turned out that her book was – shockingly enough – an award-winning novel by a Syrian author, and that Faiza was simply making her way back home from a vacation in Turkey.
To many, this story might seem insignificant – just another false alarm in a long series of similar events.
To others, however, this is a daily reality. Indeed, since the September 11 attacks, levels of suspicion against Muslim citizens reached unprecedented high levels.
Things began to somewhat improve in recent years, but again took a downturn as soon as terrorist attacks began sweeping Europe in recent months. Once again, just like in 2001, Muslims are placed on a pedestal and portrayed as extremists who collectively condone terrorism and violence. Muslim citizens increasingly find themselves barred from entering certain countries.
They face unnecessarily long security screenings. They are prevented from registering in certain schools or living in certain neighborhoods. As Miss Faiza’s experience shows, they must think twice about their simplest actions – even reading a book.
Unfortunately, changing this bias is difficult, since it all comes down to ignorance: the fact that Westerners fail to realize that Muslims are not one single monolithic entity, lacking differences or diversity among them. Sadly, few in the world understand the rich diversity that exists within the Muslim and the Arab world, and how far removed radical Islam is from almost all Muslims. This is a battle that will only be won through education and cultural awareness; not through security screenings and airport lines. – Mashari al-Zaidi
Inefficiencies raise the price of goods and services
Al-Shorouk, Egypt, August 7
Egyptian Finance Minister Amr al-Garhy announced last week that Egypt would seek a $21 billion loan from the IMF to fill its budget-financing gap. This might seem like a blessing at first, but there are more details to this deal than what first meets the eye.
Each time the Egyptian government is facing an economic crisis and a growing budget deficit, we are immediately told that prices of public goods and services must be raised “to meet global levels.” Economists from the International Monetary Fund explain to us, working class Egyptians, that what we pay for electricity, transportation, and communication is simply too low in comparison to the rest of the world. What these economists ignore, however, is the fact that meeting global standards ought to apply not only on price levels, but also on quality.
If governmental services are prices like other countries in the world, their quality and efficiency must be at least as good as in other countries in the world.
Sadly, this is not the case in Egypt. What we see in the case of Egypt are exploitative prices for inefficient services that would embarrass any nation. Consequently, Egyptian citizens are being held hostage by the IMF – forced to pay high prices of developed countries, while receiving services worse than those offered in the developing world. Do not get me wrong. I would be the first to claim that, collectively, we Egyptians can tighten our belts and incur higher costs for government services. This is our duty to our country. But at the same time, it takes two to tango. The distribution of this burden must be fair, and the services for which we pay must be honorable and efficient. This is not currently the case in Egypt. – Imad al-Din Hussein
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