Voices from the Arab press: Fools are destroying our world

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

 IN STOCKHOLM, Ahmad Alloush speaks to journalists on July 15 after being granted permission by Swedish police to burn a Torah and a Bible outside the Israeli embassy, in retaliation for a previous Quran burning there. Ahmad chose to instead denounce those who would burn sacred texts. (photo credit: Magnus Lejhall/Tt News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)
IN STOCKHOLM, Ahmad Alloush speaks to journalists on July 15 after being granted permission by Swedish police to burn a Torah and a Bible outside the Israeli embassy, in retaliation for a previous Quran burning there. Ahmad chose to instead denounce those who would burn sacred texts.
(photo credit: Magnus Lejhall/Tt News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)

Fools are destroying our world

Al-Ahram, Egypt, July 13

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A Swedish man of Iraqi descent has sparked great tension between Islamic countries and Sweden after he burned the holy Koran in front of worshipers at a Swedish mosque without any provocation or explanation, beyond a seemingly deep-seated hatred. His act serves to erase the fact that the Koran is held as a closely sacred text for Muslims worldwide. 

Another French blunder has sparked a tide of protests that has swept through many French cities, leading to tragic fatalities, injuries, and the destruction of public and private property. The source of this discontent was the unjustified killing of an Algerian youth who had committed the minor violation of driving without a valid license. 

Foolish politicians from the West are recklessly pushing the world toward the brink of a third nuclear world war, one which has nothing to do with the best interests of their people. The heedless pursuit of a military victory against Russia is an unrealistic goal, one that borders on the impossible. 

In Israel, harsh measures are being used against the Palestinians by a few extremist members of the current government, who are unfamiliar with the art of politics other than through the means of killing, abusing, and violating the rights of others. 

The danger of the situation lies in the fact that a select few cannot be entrusted with dictating the futures of millions of people. Consequently, the world must reevaluate many concepts commonly employed in present times, including freedom of expression, accountability, peaceful cohabitation, tolerance, protections for minorities, and the rule of law. 

 A KUWAITI derrick pumps in an oil field near the Saudi Arabian border (Illustrative).  (credit: JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES)
A KUWAITI derrick pumps in an oil field near the Saudi Arabian border (Illustrative). (credit: JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES)

Freedom of expression cannot be used to harm others, nor to deny the right to diversity and peaceful coexistence. The rights of minority groups must not be subjugated to the rights of the majority; the spirit of the law should be to act in the public’s best interests, no matter if the law is broken. 

It is unacceptable to kill an unarmed teenager simply because they do not have a license, or to slander millions of worshipers in the name of freedom of speech. – Sameh Abdallah

Islam is a victim of Islamophobia

Makkah, Saudi Arabia, July 12

The phenomenon of Islamophobia relies upon two contributing factors: The first is the unacceptable behavior of certain individuals or groups who perform actions supposedly in the name of Islam, that are in fact far removed from its teachings and values. Such egregious acts give rise to a series of offensive actions wrongfully attributed to Islam. 

The second reason this toxic trend persists is the activities of anti-Islamic parties that deliberately stoke sensitive issues, disrespect the religious beliefs of Muslims, and provoke them, resulting in some Muslims feeling threatened and others being fearful. 

Both Islamophobia and extremism are threats to Islam and Muslims. Unfortunately, it is Muslims who bear the consequences of biased ideological beliefs meant to distort their image and suppress their presence in the societies they inhabit, as citizens integral to their homelands. 

Every time something related to Muslims or Islam occurs in the West, even if a Muslim is the victim, the initial fingers of blame level toward Muslims and a pattern starts. Racism against Muslims tends to burst out on various social media platforms. 

The term “Islamophobia” first arose in 1997, yet negative perceptions of Muslims have existed for centuries. In 2004, Kofi Annan, the then-United Nations secretary-general, highlighted the need to address the growing animosity toward Islam in the West, which often views the religion in a narrow, negative light and associates it with extremism, violence, and terrorism. This has only served to fuel animosity toward Muslims, giving rise to feelings of hatred and prejudice. 

Unfortunately, Islamophobia persists in our society to this very day. Those who strive to maintain it, or exploit it for political or personal gain, stand to be burned by the fire they have started. It is only through small, gradual steps that we can start to eradicate the phenomenon of Islamophobia. 

This starts with a discourse of tolerance and openness to Muslims, considering them equal members of society, and engaging in dialogue to help foster justice and equality for all citizens, regardless of their faith or beliefs. Awareness of this problem is essential to recognize transgressions and hold extremists accountable. 

The media must particularly be committed to the cause of spreading tolerance and coexistence and refuse to provide a platform to elements promoting sabotage, violence, and destruction.  – Mohamad Ali El Husseini 

The Durra gas field and security of Kuwait

Al Qabas, Kuwait, July 12

The Durra gas field, located between Kuwait and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is one of the 30 largest natural gas fields on the planet. Reports of gas reserves in the joint field vary, but reliable estimates point to roughly 15 trillion cubic feet of gas. Thanks to this natural resource, Kuwait can meet most of its domestic gas needs. 

Furthermore, the joint field also contains oil. Last year, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia agreed to begin preparing for the extraction and production of gas; however, Iran recently petitioned for a share of the field’s reserves. Both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia believe the field to be exclusively theirs, finding no legal backing for Iran’s claim. 

The demarcation of the maritime borders with Iran puts an end to the dispute regarding the Durra field and precludes any potential future conflict between the countries. Iran has an agreement to demarcate its maritime borders with Qatar, so why does it not include Kuwait in such an agreement? 

Kuwait has historically been eager to maintain good relations with Iran and is determined to keep the Durra field from disrupting this peaceful relationship. We can only hope that all parties involved in this affair will take a proactive approach to resolve the issue, either through direct negotiations or through international arbitration. 

The Kuwaiti government and its people’s stance is to adhere to the rule of law and international agreements, and refuse to establish facts on the ground. The issue of the Durra field exemplifies the need for bolstering external strategic security arrangements through collective defense alliances for the purpose of preserving Kuwait’s independence, prosperity, and border integrity – especially given the turbulent climate in the region.

The security of a nation is of utmost priority, for without it, economic and political progress is futile. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that citizens and inhabitants of their country feel safe and secure. As an adage states, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” meaning that people should learn from, and thereby avoid, the dangers and mistakes of the past. With divine will, safety and security will be granted to Kuwait. – Khaled Muhammad Boody 

Intelligence cooperation between America and China

Asharq Al-Awsat, London, July 13

On July 1, CIA director William Burns addressed the esteemed Ditchley Foundation in England during its 59th annual lecture. Burns, an illustrious diplomat, served as the US ambassador to Jordan and later to Russia, as well as deputy secretary of state. He emphasized that “we are, as President Joe Biden states, at a crossroads.” 

In his remarks, Burns detailed that our purpose is to craft what comes next in global politics and bequeath to the following generations a more liberated, impartial, secure, and affluent world. He noted that this is “a long-term pursuit” that will take time. 

Burns recounted his experience with Muammar Gaddafi in 2004 when he was assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs. Alongside British diplomats and intelligence officers, Burns worked to encourage Gaddafi to reject terror tactics and relinquish his rudimentary nuclear program. Even today, Burns refers to the Libyan leader as “the strangest” leader he ever met. 

In 2008, as US ambassador to Russia during President George W. Bush’s administration, ambassador Burns wrote to then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, noting that Ukrainian entry into NATO was seen as a “red line” by Russian elites, and as “a direct challenge to Russian interests.”

In 2013, during the Obama administration, ambassador Burns initiated secret talks with Iran in Oman that ultimately helped lead to the 2015 US-Iran Nuclear Deal. In August 2021, he held a clandestine meeting in Kabul with members of the Taliban leadership, the new de facto rulers of Afghanistan. 

A close ally of Burns remembers an interview that took place with him in March 2019, when he was the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. During the interview, he displayed his realistic outlook on global politics when he said: “It is highly unlikely that Kim Jong Un, president of North Korea, will fully denuclearize in the foreseeable future. He believes nuclear weapons and missiles are necessary for his security and maintaining his regime. So the question for us is: how can we reduce the risks even if we keep complete denuclearization off the table?” 

In November 2021, three months prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Biden sent Burns to Moscow to meet with Putin’s national security adviser, Nikolai Patrushev. During the meeting, Burns revealed that US intelligence was aware of Russia’s impending invasion plans and made it known that the West would respond with brute force were Russia to proceed with its plan. 

During the Ditchley lecture, Burns articulated his understanding of Putin and Ukraine, stating: “It is a mistake to underestimate Putin’s focus on controlling Ukraine, without which, he believes, it is impossible for Russia to be a great power, or for him to be a great Russian leader.” Burns has exposed Russian oligarchs’ callousness and the Kremlin’s misguided decision to invade Ukraine. 

Regarding China, Burns noted they are the only nation with the ambition to reshape the international system, in addition to holding economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do so. However, special attention is paid to the actions of Chinese President Xi Jinping, such as his partnership with Putin, as well as threats to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. 

After wary consideration of the potential threat posed by Beijing, Burns acknowledged the “intense economic interdependence and trade relations” that have served the US, China, and the world well. However, this has also created “strategic dependencies, critical vulnerabilities, and grave risks to our security and prosperity,” according to Burns. 

He further cautioned that “we don’t have an option to focus on a single geopolitical risk,” due to China’s increasing investment in emerging technologies. To effectively address the challenge of China, Burns announced the establishment of the CIA’s first single-country mission center to specialize in China-related activities. Through this move, the CIA has doubled the budget dedicated to its China-related endeavors over the last two years, as well as massively increased the recruitment and training of personnel with expertise in Mandarin. 

CIA officers around the world have reported a notable increase in their competitive efforts against China, with Burns also mentioning the use of discrete back-channel talks with the Chinese government. These secret pathways allow for the prevention of unwarranted confusion and miscalculations, ultimately supporting and elevating the decision-making abilities of the intelligence service. With Burns’ exemplary experience and insight, the future of the CIA looks promising. – Huda al-Husseini

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.