‘It is also true that it is unjust to judge Islam by the standards of a very few extremists.’

WOMEN WALK past election posters of presidential candidates in Tunis this week. (photo credit: ZOUBEIR SOUISSI / REUTERS)
WOMEN WALK past election posters of presidential candidates in Tunis this week.
Al-Arab, London, August 28
Ennahdha, the Muslim party of Tunisia, does not have a national vision. As a religious group, it does not recognize the Tunisian state, homeland or society. Therefore, its coming to power means the destruction of the state, the nation, and society. It is no longer convincing for Ennahdha to choose between the prime ministership and the presidency as a position of power.
The movement wants both. Without control over the entire country, it will not be able to fulfill its ultimate vision. If the movement suffers from splits within and does not have the popularity to qualify itself as an alternative political force for all Tunisian parties, it will cease to exist. Therefore, the upcoming elections are of utmost importance. If these elections conclude that the movement cannot win a leadership position and a large share of seats in parliament, it would threaten to explode from within. This is because the Ennahdhists cannot stay united behind their leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, unless his promises to attain power are met.
The Tunisian political forces that stand against the oppressive Ennahdha project must understand this. It is true that Ennahdha activists have not yet rebelled publicly, but this doesn’t mean their leadership is robust. The situation is more fragile than we think. Ennahdha leaders may search for other political options that are more useful to them and turn to violence if all else fails. The movement has done this in the past. It has also looted the Tunisian treasury by compensating its former members by passing laws that recognize these terrorists as political prisoners.
The Tunisian people have been defrauded under the banner of truth and justice. Today, Tunisia stands at a crossroads in the course of its faltering revolution. Either it conquers Ennahdha, which is more dangerous to the people’s freedom, wealth and prosperity than the former Ben Ali regime, or it can bury itself by submitting to Ennahdha and recognizing it as an inevitable part of the Tunisian political system. In my view, eight years after the Jasmine Revolution, Tunisians are aware of the Ennahdha risk. This is because Ennahdha’s revolution was far from ideological; it was political. Not to mention that Ennahdha revealed its true face by ruling Tunisia for three years.
Regardless of their slogans, the Ennahdhists are harming Tunisian society with a desire for revenge. Ennahdha is preparing to settle its scores with the Tunisian people, especially women and minorities. We must fight the movement back.
Frouq Youssef
Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, August 26
Last week, in one of the Eastern provinces of our country, a young mentally disabled man entered a local barbershop, where he was met with slurs, insults and physical violence. The patrons and the shop owner took turns beating and slapping the man, not because they had any reason to, but because they wanted to increase their delight by abusing a helpless man. Unfortunately, such events are not new. What is new, however, is that the local community rose up against what happened, and the security services and legal authorities took swift action against the attackers.
The culprits tried to evade responsibility by claiming that they were simply joking and accused the young man of stealing things from the shop. Thankfully, the public prosecutor emphasized that the authorities will not tolerate behavior that undermines human dignity. It’s time that we, as a society, admit that the mentally disabled – and those with special needs, more broadly – have been collectively humiliated by us and treated as people who, at best, deserve our charity.
Many of these people have been exploited opportunistically and inhumanely. Others have been treated as if they are animals, living in households that do not want them to be seen in public. The founder and editor-in-chief of the Al-Moayyed newspaper, Ali Youssef, the most famous Egyptian and Arab journalist at the beginning of the twentieth century, had a sole son, Ali, who was mentally handicapped, so he hated him and moved away from him and his mother.
A few years ago, a couple tried to get rid of their child, who was born mentally disabled, by leaving him next to a garbage bin near Nasr City. The child was discovered and returned to them, but the young couple seemed confused, anxious and worried about the fate and life of their baby and the expensive treatments he will need. This pushed them to take such a desperate step. Until recently, public schools refused to admit mentally disabled children. Just a handful of private schools accepted them, but only after the horrific financial extortion of their parents. This defective cultural heritage must be changed, and it must be completely abolished.
The first step in the right direction has luckily been taken by President [Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi, who has shown personal interest in this cause and called to end the alienation of these individuals. We must embrace the mentally challenged back into mainstream Egyptian society. They are part of us. –Helmi al-Namnam
Al Jazeera, Qatar, August 29
Marxism, one of the strongest doctrines of the European Left, revolved around a deep enmity and hatred of religion as an obstacle to human emancipation. European and non-European leftists often evoked Marx’s famous paraphrased statement, “Religion is the opium of the people.” But more recently, things have almost become the extreme opposite. Leftists have grown to become the biggest supporters of fundamentalist Islamic movements, accusing opponents of hatred of religion, or more specifically, of Islamophobia.
The alliance between the Islamists and leftists is not limited to Europe, but shared by leftists all around the world. They insist that the spread of terrorism is the result of savage capitalism, which led to the disintegration of the great leftist camp (the Soviet Union). What is the secret of this alliance, and what are the motives for this phenomenon?
In the beginning, it should be noted that there are two phenomena sweeping the West in the last decade: the phenomenon of Islamophobia and the phenomenon of right-wing extremism. These phenomena feed each other. Like the leftists, political Islamists were bitter about their ideological defeat and the failure of their political experiments. They sought to compensate for their ideological loss through non-democratic means. We must remember that this utilitarian alliance is a temporary one, which will soon come to an end.
It is also true that it is unjust to judge Islam by the standards of a very few extremists. But we must admit that this phenomenon cannot be ignored, especially given the events of September 11 and the spread in global terrorism. The violent events that swept most of the world, carried out by Muslim fundamentalists, shook the minds of people and caused a deep fear of Islam.
I am a frequent advocate of religious tolerance and respectful discourse. But I fear that the term “Islamophobia” will be used as an excuse to silence us and prevent us from reforming our religious discourse in a way that makes it more peaceful and welcoming of all peoples. This is what the revolutionary Islamic movements refuse to do, because a non-violent Islam inherently means the elimination of all movements of political Islam. Reforming religious discourse means stripping them of their most important weapons, through which they seek to fulfill the ambitions of their leaders and masters.
Muhammad al-Sheikh
Al-Arab, London, August 30
The glamorous photos coming out of Biarritz, in France, where the G7 nations convened last week, should not deflect our attention from the most interesting thing happening behind the scenes: the language used by the international community in response to the Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. US Vice President Mike Pence reached out to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, expressing his country’s full support for Israel’s right to security.
This was also done by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who conveyed a warning message to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri against any Lebanese response to the Israeli action. While the American stance represents an antiquated classical behavior in support of Israel, the silence of the major nations, especially those whose leaders met in France, about the Israeli strikes that spanned from Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea, demonstrates the complete complicity of the international community in Israel’s actions.
Under the auspices of the international community, Israel is shaking the strategic corridor that Iran has sought to build in recent years from Tehran to Beirut. The impetus of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to maximize the French efforts led by President Emmanuel Macron to launch a diplomatic back channel during the G7 meeting is the Israeli message, which was heard loud and clear in Tehran. Any military response against Israel would bring broader and fiercer fire, with the backing of every nation in the world.
In the last few days, Tehran seems to have realized that the key to the survival of its regime is tied to Washington’s position alone, and that the stance of European leaders on the nuclear deal, as well as those of Beijing and Moscow, are nothing but irrelevant promises that hide complete alignment with the US position against Iran. It is clear that Iran is groaning under painful and devastating economic sanctions that it is trying to hide. It also seems to be losing the battle of the Strait of Hormuz.
It is clear that the reluctance to resolve the Washington crisis with Tehran allows Israel to buy time and expand its military operations aimed at destroying what Iran has been building for decades. Meanwhile, Trump does not seem to be in a rush. To agree to attend a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, or to postpone it until “the right conditions” are ripe, is a luxury Tehran does not have. Israel’s military campaign may be driven by Israeli national interests, but it also seems to be serving the interests of other international players. –Muhammad Qawas
Media Line