An interesting op-ed in Asharq Alawsat from former Editor-in-Chief Tariq Alhomayed. In it, he complains about how media (and others) use names to identify both individuals and groups. It’s a problem of long standing, not just in today’s contexts. Do you use the name the subject uses for self-identification or do you use something else, perhaps assigned for political or other reasons? Who gets to do the naming? And what of the consequences of name that carry emotional or political baggage?

He doesn’t really offer any good solutions, but identifying the fact that names are not just some neutral tag is useful. It might help journalists (and others) to think about names, but it doesn’t offer any useful argument or conclusions on how to deal with the conundrum.

Opinion: Abu Who?
Tariq Alhomayed

One can only be shocked and surprised by the way the Arab media has been reporting on terrorism and terrorists. Most recently we had the story of the Australian teenager Jake Bilardi, aged 18, who is believed to have carried out a suicide bombing in Iraq’s central city of Ramadi on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

What is shocking to me is that the majority of Arab media used this teen’s chosen kunya (an Arabic teknonymic naming convention) of Abu Abdullah Al-Australi (meaning “Father of Abdullah the Australian” in Arabic) in their reports, rather than describing him as what he actually was, namely “the terrorist Jake Bilardi.” Here we must ask ourselves: Is it so important for the media to respect the protocols and naming conventions of terrorists and terrorist groups? Must we ensure that the chosen name of a terrorist is used and repeated again and again until it becomes infamous?

Should we allow terrorists and terrorist groups to promote themselves in our media in this manner? Doesn’t the media have a duty to take a position on this issue? The media, by its very nature, is biased to one degree or another—regardless of claims to neutrality. So a killer must be described as a killer; a criminal as a criminal; and the same applies to a terrorist, even a teenage one.

Today, for example, we find some media outlets describing ISIS as the “Islamic State” or the “Islamic State group.” While other news outlets describe them in the same manner, but make sure to add the term “militant” or “radical” to the mix. But, by adding this description—or shall we say classification—do these latter media outlets inadvertently stumble into the realm of propaganda?

What about the media outlets or governments that insist on using the Arabic acronym of the group and call them “Daesh”? Is this better or worse, particularly when we know that ISIS itself does not approve of this name?


March:18:2015 - 08:32 | Comments Off | Permalink

Fathers are expected to watch over their sons, a Saudi court ruled in sentencing a man to three years in jail for not reporting that his son had gone off to join a militant group that later attacked a government border installation, Arab News reports.

3-year jail term for not reporting missing son
JEDDAH: MD AL-SULAMI

A specialized criminal court has sentenced a Saudi man to three years and SR3,000 fine for not informing security authorities about his son’s whereabouts who later joined a militant group that opened fire against border guards in Wadeea, killing a two police officers.

The man had earlier given a written undertaking to authorities that he would take care of his son and prevent him from joining militants.

Police recovered prohibited material from the son’s computer. He was also accused of possessing unlicensed weapons.

The public prosecutor claimed that the militant joined the attack on border guards as a result of his father’s negligence in taking care of his son. The man was also accused of possessing a Belgian gun and Kalashnikov machine gun, 227 pieces of live ammunition.

The court issued its preliminary verdict to imprison the man for three years from the date of his detention, six months of which for committing cybercrime. The man’s son attacked the border guards in Sharourah, Najran, on Nov. 5, 2012.


March:02:2015 - 06:51 | Comments Off | Permalink

According to an article in Arab News, King Salman is continuing the efforts of the late King Abdullah to encourage religious moderation and toleration. Speaking at an event sponsored by the Muslim World League, he decried those who “abuse Islam” and drive people from it.

King calls on Muslims to shun intolerance, extremism

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has called on Muslims to shun intolerance and extremism, work to unify their ranks and seek international cooperation.

King Salman made these comments during a reception at his palace in Riyadh for the scholars and experts who participated in the international counter-terrorism conference organized by the Muslim World League (MWL) in Makkah earlier this week.

King Salman also said that Saudi Arabia “is the land of Islam that implements the Shariah in all walks of life.” He said Saudi kings have been proud of having the title of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. “We ask the Almighty to guide us so that we can serve our religion of tolerance.”

He said Islam is a religion of moderation. “We have to follow what is stated in the Qur’an, the Sunnah of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and his followers. We should not alienate people. There are people who abuse Islam and drive people away from it. We beseech Allah to return them to their senses.”


February:27:2015 - 09:33 | Comments Off | Permalink

In an op-ed for Al-Arabiya TV, Hisham Melhem, the station’s Washington bureau chief, offers a critique of Pres. Obama’s penchant for vague language when it comes to dealing with terrorism committed in the name of Islam. In seeking to avoid any possible offense with his language, the President and his administration end up using wishy-washy terms devoid of any actual meaning.

Arab and Muslim societies, Melhem writes, do have a problem and it’s one that’s largely self-created. Too many leaders have used religion as a tool of manipulation. Too many have created shadows on the wall to demonize the West. Too many have allowed absurd “religious” inspirations to deflect attention from very real problems created by those leaders.

Failing to acknowledge what the problem is — and it’s not a “lack of jobs,” contrary to what a State Dept. spokeswoman claimed from her pulpit — cannot lead to a solution to the problem. The main burden is on Arab and Muslim society and those who govern them. Pretending it is not will not and cannot lead to a solution.

Violent extremism vs Islamist extremism
Hisham Melhem

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”
Ludwig Wittgenstein

President Obama is a wordsmith. His relatively short political life has been chiseled and shaped by the possibilities and the limits of his language. He bursts on the national stage when he delivered a memorable keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. In fact, he defined his campaigns and his presidency by few pivotal speeches that tried to explain his vision of America, domestic decisions, and how he sees the world. Obama the wordsmith struggled with his language the way Obama the president struggled with his decisions. And just as his leadership style and some of his decisions were characterized by tentativeness, excessive caution and deliberation, his language can also oscillate between that which is inspirational and that which is deliberately ambiguous, deceptive and downright Orwellian. His framing of the Syrian conflict and his claims that his options were the extremes of doing nothing or invade Syria are a case in point.


February:23:2015 - 06:27 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

Arab News reports on a meeting of the military chiefs of 22 countries now taking place in Riyadh. The purpose is to come up with a unified approach to dealing with ISIS. The article notes that Bahrain is now stepping in, sending aircraft to Jordan to support ongoing operations.

infographic: countries involved in anti-ISIS activities

Anti-IS coalition chalks out strategy in Riyadh
RIYADH: GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN

Military chiefs from more than 22 countries battling the Islamic State (IS) group began talks here Wednesday to assess the coalition’s current strategy and map out a plan to tackle other terrorist groups operating in the Middle East.

A formal reception was hosted for the military chiefs of the foreign countries at a local hotel on Wednesday night, a diplomatic source, who requested anonymity, said.

This led to an informal round of discussions, but the main talks are scheduled for Thursday, he said. This high-powered military meeting is significant because of the growing threat posed by IS.

The meeting also coincides with the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, which started in the US Wednesday.


February:19:2015 - 09:11 | Comments Off | Permalink

The Gulf Cooperation Council is not planning to address the change in government in Yemen with military force, Asharq Alawsat reports. Even though the Shi’ite Houthis (identified as a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia and others) has taken control of Yemen’s government, the GCC does not believe that military reaction is called for at this time.

GCC will not take military steps in Yemen: Gulf official

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has no plans to take military steps to safeguard its interests in neighboring Yemen following the Houthi takeover of power, a senior Gulf official told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The oil-rich organization strongly condemned what it described as a “blatant coup” by the Houthi rebels against the legitimate government of outgoing president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, warning that it undermined the peaceful transition of power and showed a disregard toward national stability.

The Houthi movement has emerged as the de facto ruler of Yemen, forcing Hadi to resign and announcing a controversial “constitutional declaration” last week that dissolved parliament and tightened the Houthis’ grip on power.

The GCC has called on the UN Security Council to act swiftly to put an end to the coup before Yemen descends into further chaos.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, a senior GCC official said that coordination among the six member states was underway to formulate a firm stance towards the situation in Yemen.

In an op-ed, Tariq Alhomayed calls for Arab troops to directly address the problem of ISIS. In the face of US reluctance to get involved on the ground, it’s up to Arabs to take the initiative.

We need Arab boots on the ground to defeat ISIS
Tariq Alhomayed

After the burning alive of Jordanian fighter pilot Moaz Al-Kasasbeh by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a strong response—international in nature, but Arab at its core—is needed, not as retaliation for this abominable crime, but to finally defeat ISIS and rein in the other evil forces wreaking havoc in Syria and Iraq, namely Bashar Al-Assad and Iran.

Months ago I wrote in this paper that the fight against ISIS was at heart a Sunni one, and I believe recent events now prove this to be true. There are a number of reasons as to why I conceive this as a Sunni battle. One is that the lack of a prominent Sunni presence fighting ISIS will leave the door open for Iran and sect-based militias to fill the vacuum in Syria and Iraq. This will seriously threaten the unity of these countries, helping Assad to turn Syria into a country of militias, or bringing about more Nuri Al-Maliki-style sectarian politics in Iraq—or a scenario in either country along the lines of the Houthi takeover of Yemen.

The international anti-ISIS coalition now needs to shift gear and put Arab boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq, bolstering these forces with aerial bombardment. This is the only way to contain and eventually destroy ISIS. Today we have before us a US president who has adopted a policy of “strategic patience” in dealing with a phenomenon like ISIS, a policy he plans to practice until the end of his term in 2016. I’m not bringing this up just to lambast Obama; the man has had more than his fair share of criticism recently. The point of mentioning all this is that our region simply does not have the luxury of Obama’s indolence. For this reason, a full-scale but balanced Arab military mobilization is needed right now.


February:12:2015 - 10:17 | Comments Off | Permalink

A Saudi cleric has been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by a special criminal court (that is, the anti-terrorism court) for issuing fatwas calling for Saudis to travel to Syria to take part in extremist group activities.

Saudi jailed, fined for issuing fatwas
JEDDAH: MD AL-SULAMI

A special criminal court in Riyadh on Thursday sentenced a Saudi to a two-year jail term with a travel ban for another two years for issuing fatwas (religious edicts) against the ruler of the country, and traveling to Syria to join an extremist group and fight there violating the government’s ruling. He was also fined SR3,000.

The court also found that the defendant underwent training in weapons. His detention during the trial would be deducted from the total jail time.


February:06:2015 - 08:32 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports that King Salman has condemned ISIS murder of a Jordanian pilot and two Japanese citizens as against the principles of Islam. The article notes the similar condemnation on the part of all GCC governments as well as Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the Islamic world’s oldest center of Islamic jurisprudence.

Brutal IS killing against Islamic principles: King
Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Muqrin Bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier, condemned the gruesome killing of a Jordanian pilot by militants linked to the self-proclaimed Islamic State group.

In a cable of condolences to Jordan’s King Abdullah, King Salman on Wednesday called the burning alive of Maaz Al-Kassasbeh “inhuman and contrary to Islam.”

King Salman condemned the “odious crime” which he said was against all values of humanity.


February:05:2015 - 07:31 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette runs a release from the Saudi Press Agency reporting that two Americans traveling by car in Al-Ahsa were fired upon. At least one was wounded and brought to a nearby hospital. The identities of the Americans, nor their jobs or reason for being in the area are reported. Nor are any motives being suggested.

Two Americans come under gunfire

HASA — Two US citizens came under gunfire Friday in the Eastern Province and one of them was wounded, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The wounded American was rushed to hospital and “is in stable condition,” police said. It was not immediately known who shot at them.

The two were traveling in a car on Salah Al-Deen Al-Ayoubi Road in Al-Ahsa governorate at the time of the attack, said a police spokesman.

The attack took place around 2 p.m. and an investigation is underway, he said.

In its report, Arab News hints that the attack may have been ISIS-related:

American man wounded in Al-Ahsa shooting


January:31:2015 - 11:15 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) has a lengthy piece in which he talks about Saudi succession and the issues facing the new king. Not surprisingly, those issues are the same as faced the former king.

Cordesman gently slaps those who were expecting some sort of crisis in succession. The Saudis have been doing this for some time now; they know how to do it.

He points out numerous areas of reform where progress must continue if the Kingdom is to meet its challenges. He sees no reason why it cannot do so. He sees no major shifts in foreign policy, alliances, or cooperation with other nations, particularly when it comes to fighting terrorism.

Saudi Arabia’s Smooth Succession: The King is Dead, Long Live the King
Anthony Cordesman

Once again, Saudi Arabia has managed its succession without problems, delay, or any signs of serious divisions within the royal family. One of its most competent and impressive kings has died, but the Crown Prince – Prince Salman – officially became king virtually at the time King Abdullah’s death was announced. Moreover, Prince Muqrin immediately became the full Crown Prince, ensuring that one of the youngest sons of Ibn Saud would become king or de facto ruler if Prince Salman became incapacitated or died.

Within less than 24 hours, the new King also announced a whole list of new appointments that gave the next generation of princes more power and helped prepare for the succession after Prince Muqrin:


January:27:2015 - 08:30 | Comments Off | Permalink

Following the deaths of several Saudi border guards, including a general officer, Saudi Arabi has decided to play hardball. New orders have gone out to the Border Guards directing them that they are not to engage in negotiations, but to shoot intruders. Saudi Gazette reports:

Border Guard given orders to shoot intruders
Mishal Al-Otaibi | Saudi Gazette

RIYADH — Border Guard officers have been ordered to shoot intruders without engaging in any negotiations, said spokesman Maj. Gen. Muhammad Al-Ghamdi.

Iraqi Border officials have been informed of these instructions, which are considered a legitimate right of the Kingdom.

Al-Ghamdi said border officers will implement the instruction to protect Saudi territory and people.

“The instructions were made as a result of regional situation and the latest attacks on Arar borders,” Al-Ghamdi said. The officers are ready for any emergency and will not hesitate to implement the orders given to them.

Earlier this month, militants killed two Saudi Border Guards and their commanding officer in an attack near the city of Arar.


January:19:2015 - 11:08 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

The British newspaper The Telegraph runs an article — complete with infographic — on the 600-mile-long fence Saudi Arabia is constructing along its border with Iraq. The article notes that the fence will serve to keep ISIS militants out of the Kingdom. It will also make it more difficult for adventurous young Saudis to go north for purposes of jihad.

Revealed: Saudi Arabia’s ‘Great Wall’ to keep out Isil
Richard Spencer

When a raiding party from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant attacked a Saudi border post last week, it was no mere hit on a desert outpost.

The jihadists were launching an assault on the new, highest profile effort by Saudi Arabia to insulate itself from the chaos engulfing its neighbours.

The Saudis are building a 600-mile-long “Great Wall” – a combined fence and ditch – to separates the country from Iraq to the north.

Much of the area on the Iraqi side is now controlled by Isil, which regards the ultimate capture of Saudi Arabia, home to the “Two Holy Mosques” of Mecca and Medina, as a key goal.

The proposal had been discussed since 2006, at the height of the Iraqi civil war, but work began in September last year after Isil’s charge through much of the west and north of the country gave it a substantial land border with the Kingdom to the south.


January:16:2015 - 08:39 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink
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