Voices from the Arab Press: The Pope’s Visit To The Land Of Peace

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

POPE FRANCIS talks with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan during a farewell ceremony before leaving Abu Dhabi earlier this week (photo credit: REUTERS)
POPE FRANCIS talks with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan during a farewell ceremony before leaving Abu Dhabi earlier this week
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Etihad, UAE, February 3
There is no better country in the Arab world to host a papal visit than the United Arab Emirates. The arrival of Pope Francis to Abu Dhabi last week marked the first visit of a pontiff to a Gulf state – and it came at a good time. During his tenure as archbishop, Pope Francis has proven in his statements, messages and speeches that he is a man of peace, dialogue, interfaith, and friendship to Muslims around the world.
Similarly, the UAE, led by Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan al-Nahyan, declared 2019 as the year of tolerance, and invested great efforts to empowering minority religions throughout the country. Dozens of communities across all religions have been supported by the state institutions and invited to participate in governing bodies such as the Council of Elders and the Forum for the Promotion of Peace. The UAE has also led the way in combating poverty, disease, and environmental corruption, while spreading the message of moderate and enlightened Islam.
The pope is slated to meet with religious leaders in the UAE and the Muslim world, including representatives from Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan and key religious leaders who are Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu. All of them have one message: peace, dialogue, coexistence and global citizenship. The message of tolerance that the UAE has been promoting for years is finally becoming a global message. In the last two decades, Muslims and Islam have faced many challenges.
The most extreme was the epidemic of fundamentalism and terrorism, which caused major imbalances within societies and nations, spreading terror throughout the world and generating a negative image of Islam. Our nations responded to this with great force and effectiveness. Scholars and intellectuals have gone out to combat the distortion of religious concepts and rebuilt themselves to counter this wave. The UAE was at the forefront of these efforts, succeeding not only in combating, but also in preventing, these kinds of ideas. The generous policies of welfare, youth care, civic engagement, and education have all led to positive changes on the ground.
Pope Francis comes to the UAE as a friend and ally who is familiar with the state’s policies of tolerance and coexistence. This is why we said that the UAE is the worthiest of hosting the pope. It stands out thanks to its message of peace and dialogue and call to overcome the obstacles of the present while working for a better future. The pope is welcomed in peace to the land of peace.
– Radwan al-Sayed
Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, February 2
Modernization and development can never truly be achieved without fighting the two most burning problems in our society today: extremism and corruption. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia faced a long war on extremism, spending immense efforts on preventing radicalism in Saudi society and establishing the necessary mechanisms to fight it when it emerges.
Ironically, the kingdom has been subjected to criticism from both extreme ends of the political spectrum. Fundamentalists accused it of cracking down on religious institutions and foundations, while liberals accused it of cooperating with radical elements in society. Consequently, there were challenges along the way, as the government attempted to balance the allegations of both sides.
Unfortunately, this led to the emergence of hostile environments in some ministries – especially those dealing with controversial issues such as the ministries of Education, Justice, Labor, and of Islamic Affairs – where brave ministers had to face personal accusations against their religion and values simply because they carried out their job.
Whenever they dare speak up against radicalization, ministers and government officials are renounced by extremist groups for acting “against” Islam. Fearing for their lives or for those of their loved ones, many policy-makers chose to turn a blind eye to what was happening in their regions. This brings me to the second challenge we must overcome: corruption. Corruption has led to a considerable decline in the vitality of the Saudi business community. For decades, we have not witnessed the birth of a single business that was based on creativity or innovation. This is because businesses had been promoted on the basis of nepotism and ties to public officials.
Therefore, we can never face corruption without redefining the concept of immunity and establishing new measures of accountability in government. Both of these initiatives – confronting extremism and corruption – have been promoted by the crown prince, who launched on a large campaign to protect Saudi society from extremism and corruption. Saudi Arabia is now entering a new era in which there is respect for order, law, and justice for all. This will rid us from phenomena that hindered our ability to move forward as a country.
– Yehya al-Amir
Al-Arab, London, February 2
India celebrated its national holiday this week, marking the 70th anniversary of the adoption of its constitution and the declaration of the South Asian country as a republic. Every year, this anniversary is celebrated as an occasion to highlight India’s military power and cultural diversity. It is also a suitable occasion to showcase India’s defense readiness amid the country’s strained relations with its neighbors Pakistan and China.
For five years, India has been modernizing its armed forces by strengthening its naval capabilities to better monitor its maritime and Indian Ocean borders, especially following China’s naval buildup. This military modernization also includes strengthening the capabilities of its ground forces and air power, not only to improve its surveillance of its territory and airspace, but also to be prepared for any potential emergency in Southeast Asia. As part of its efforts to modernize its armed forces, India is also trying to diversify its arms supplies to countries other than Russia, and buy them from the United States and Israel.
Indeed, India has become one of the largest importers of defense equipment in the world, and is still seeking to increase domestic production of weapons and equipment. Since coming to power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been talking about transforming India, now the world’s largest arms buyer, into a defense equipment manufacturer through joint production of military equipment and increased technology transfer from other countries to India. India has also made giant leaps in space technology. Its space program was outdated and dysfunctional. But now it is being revamped for military purposes.
For India, Beijing’s activities in recent years, driven by competition with the United States, have been a cause for concern. Following recent missile tests conducted by China, the scientific and technical bodies in India, as well as the country’s political leadership, leaders began to discuss whether India should develop matching capabilities.
To this end, the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization is developing missile defense systems independently, while increasingly seeking partnerships with the United States and other countries. This will likely lead to an arms race that will continue to unfold in upcoming years, bring the US-China dispute ever closer to the Middle East.
– Zikru al-Rahman
Al-Anba, Kuwait, February 1
Has Iran entered a deadly cycle of both internal and external chaos, which may result in the demise of mullah state? Observers of Iranian politics will all agree that the Iranian leadership is in deep state of turmoil that requires it to balance the demands of a disgruntled public at home with those of the international community abroad.
Consider, for example, the recent speech delivered by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani who spke recently about the economic difficulties that Iran has faced for the last four decades, ever since the 1979 revolution. Rouhani claimed that the main driver behind this problem is the United States, not the Iranian government, and that the Americans have lost their political and legal war against Iran, so they resorted to economic war. Rouhani simply ignores reality and creates imaginary narratives about the dire state of his country’s economy. Iran, for all its wealth of natural resources, which could have fueled its economy, is home to one of the world’s most impoverished populations.
Instead of spending money on education and welfare, the Iranian government is funding militias and terrorists. This is why the Iranian public has long realized that it is a victim of the ayatollahs. The demonstrations we’ve witnessed in the streets of Tehran are targeting a regime that humiliates its own people. It is beyond clear to the Iranian public that the so-called causes created by the mullahs, such as the liberation of Palestine, are no more than shallow attempts to deflect attention away from the regime.
In late December, speaking to France’s Le Pen magazine, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif denied Iran’s existential threats to Israel. It is perfectly clear to all of us that Zarif’s statements contradict the truth. The Iranian regime is committed to wiping Israel off the map, and it has gone to lengths to do so. Sadly, the mullahs continue to insist on exporting their radical ideological revolutionary model not only to their neighbors in the Gulf, or the Middle East, but also to the rest of the world.
Have you heard the statement of Hassan Abbasi, one of the most prominent theoreticians of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, about his country’s plans to turn the White House, Versailles Palace and Buckingham Palace into Shi’ite forts? The regime in Tehran is disillusioned and we can only hope that it is entering its last downward spiral before its ultimate crash.
– Amil Amin
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