Muslim scholars call for end to ‘evil’ Afghan fighting

Experts say there is a strong desire to bring an end to the conflict and violence in Afghanistan. AFP
Updated 11 July 2018

Muslim scholars call for end to ‘evil’ Afghan fighting

  • The entire Muslim community is looking forward to you correcting the misguided and distorted interpretations of the Islamic teachings
  • About 40,000 people have died in the Afghanistan conflict since 2001

JEDDAH: The International Ulema Conference on Peace and Security in Afghanistan has called for an end to the violence in the country, saying fighting between Muslims was strictly prohibited in Islam.
Under the patronage of Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, senior ulema, or Islamic scholars, from Saudi Arabia and the Muslim world said it was important the crisis in the country has “a supporting religious reference.”
Also present at the conference, which began on Tuesday, were the Saudi minister of Islamic affairs, Sheikh Abdullatif bin Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh; Imam of the Grand Mosque, Sheikh Saleh bin Humaid; and senior ulema member and member of the Ifta permanent committee and adviser at the Saudi royal court, Abdullah Al-Mutlaq.
Speaking to Arab News, the special envoy to the Afghani president, Mohammed Akram Khpalwak, said: “The gathering of these Muslim scholars is of great importance to us as they agreed that fighting is among Muslims is strictly prohibited in Islam.”
Thanking King Salman and the crown prince, Khpalwak said that such meetings could offer a way out of the Afghani predicament, “the thing that all Afghani people are looking for.”
A spokesman for the Afghan Ulema Council, Mohammad Qasim Halimi, said the conference was backed by prominent Islamic scholars from different parts of the Muslim world.
“Islamic scholars have a word to say and all Muslims will consider and obey them — and I hope their call will find acceptance from the Taliban, especially after both parties of the Afghani conflict listened to the Friday sermons delivered by the imams of the two holy mosques a few weeks ago,” Halimi told Arab News.
He said that that about 40,000 people have died in the Afghanistan conflict since 2001.
“The reason behind such atrocities is the ideology of terrorists who accept nothing but their views and opinions. They are, in fact, using religion to reach their political or economic goals. Otherwise, they are just infiltrators for external hands,” he said.
Executive adviser to the Afghani president Painda Mohammad Hikmat said: “We expect that the Muslims scholars will come up with a fatwa that forbids the war in Afghanistan.
“They are many plots against Afghanistan for political, economic and even ideological interests,” he said.
The deputy education minister and member of the executive board of the Ulema Council, Shafiq Samim, said the war had forced more than 1,000 schools out of the 18,000 countrywide to close.
“These schools are in the areas where Taliban and Daesh militias are found,” he told Arab News.
“We hope the declaration of this conference will help convince the Taliban to share a dialogue table with the government,” Samim said.
In his opening speech, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen called on the Afghan government and “all components of Afghan society” to respond to work toward peace in the country.
“Our conference today is a reflection of the gravity of the strife and division in Afghanistan that have denied Afghan people the grace of security and stability, hindered development, frustrated society and killed hope,” he said. “Worse still, killing the innocent in the name of Islam has aggravated the situation.” He said that this conference comes at a critical time in Afghanistan’s history. “Great store is set by this event to meet the aspirations and hopes of the people who have been torn apart by the fighting and want to see their country return to security, stability and prosperity,” he said.
“Afghanistan has long been on our agenda at the OIC. The organization has always come out in full support of this country, engaging in countless initiatives and actions, both regional and international.
“It is a matter of huge responsibility for you to live up to what the people of Afghanistan expect. We are confident this conference will be of great benefit not only to Afghanistan but also to the broader Muslim world. The entire Muslim community is looking forward to you correcting the misguided and distorted interpretations of the Islamic teachings, and stand in the way of evildoers mortgaging Islam, stirring up destruction and acting wrongly in the name of Islam,” he said.
On Monday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the brief truce had raised the prospects for peace in Afghanistan.

How Saudis are adapting to fast-changing life in the Kingdom

Women and children attend Saudi Arabia’s first-ever jazz festival in Riyadh on Feb. 23. (Reuters)
Updated 16 July 2018

How Saudis are adapting to fast-changing life in the Kingdom

  • A retired psychologist Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sobihi, 53, explains why the recent big changes in the Saudi Arabia have been accepted so easily.
  • Umm Al-Qura instructor Abdulrahman Al-Haidari says what's even more amazing most of the Saudis who have taken up education abroad are returning to help in the Kingdom's modernization program.

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is undergoing major changes to meet the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 objectives. These significant changes have had an impact on locals socially and psychologically. 

A retired psychologist Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sobihi, 53, explains how humans adapt to change.

“Humans find it difficult to accept change. It is a human trait, humans face fear and anxiety when it comes to change, they want things to stay the way they are because they fear the changes may bring disadvantages and negative outcomes. For this reason, governments face many difficulties when implementing new programs and activities,” Al-Sobihi told Arab News.

To understand why the big changes in the Kingdom have been accepted so easily, Al-Sobihi said, one has to look at the social and psychological pressures before they occurred.

“What is beautiful and sad about this is that our society accepted this change so quickly. Why? because it went through a period called Al-Sahwa (awakening) and this period pressured society. Everything was forbidden, shameful and wrong, this long period pressured society psychologically and socially.

“So when the major changes happened, society found an outlet. Therefore, they accepted these changes so quickly. Not because our society adapts to change quickly, but because of the period spent in the “awakening” period. It delayed so many natural changes that happen in any other society. What happened to our society was that some things were permanent for so long — when the chance came to receive all these changes, most were very welcoming to these changes.”

Umm Al-Qura instructor Abdulrahman Al-Haidari said the Kingdom has changed amazingly in the last few years.

“The country keeps going from one amazing phase of development after another. Who would imagine that 70 years ago, this land had displayed the poorest statistics in terms of economy, population, life expectations, education, and individual rights. It’s amazing how one generation ago we went from teaching in ill-equipped huts, to reach some of the most advanced educational projects where our students get to send Saudi satellites to outer space.”

Al-Haidari explained that the country had welcomed women into their new empowered roles within a short period of time.

“Today, we are going even further and faster with neck-breaking speed. Saudi’s ability of modernizing, and yet keeping true to its own culture and origins makes this country the center of attention: In one day, Majlis Al-Shoura had third of its positions filled with Saudi women. Suddenly we had Saudi women as vice ministers, engineers, PhDs, doctors and nurses and in all other sorts of fields. 

“It’s amazing (when you consider) that my own generation was raised to not even allow a Saudi women to voice her thoughts in public, to let them share the wheel, steering the country’s march toward modernization.”

Saudis have embraced change, Al-Haidari added. “We can see how people are accepting change in the manner they approach the new festivals, we see musical events being sold out, (as well as) wrestling, cooking, even military and weapon production. However, I believe the most undeniable indicator for the Saudis’ welcoming attitude toward change is clearly displayed with the return of almost all overseas scholarship students.

“Just like myself, hundreds of thousands were sent overseas to learn, and almost none of them had any contract to be forced to come back to Saudi: But yet, they did, and still do. What could be more clearer than having the most elite and educated population of Saudi (if not even the world) wanting to come back home to advance both their careers and their country’s (future)?”

The majority of the nation adapted to the new social dynamics such as women working in the same fields and ranks as men, and the number of Saudi women in media, Al-Haidari added.

“Doubters were shown how much the community is longing to advance the role of the Saudi women. It would be so hard to even try to doubt that: Starting with Majles Al-Shoura having a third of its seats filled by Saudi women, having the issue of Saudi women’s right to drive as the first topic addressed, and now reaching the point where they will finally get some of their rights fulfilled finally. 

“You can also see the Saudi population welcoming this change: You can see that with the families that attended recent soccer matches in stadiums, families on YouTube supporting their wives, sisters, and mothers to drive, and not to forget: Thousands of Saudi girls going overseas to obtain their higher education. These are just a fraction of the current manifestations displayed by the Saudi community to show its welcome to Saudi women to take their rightful place, and to help the community grow with the help of all its members.”

Commenting about the General Entertainment Authority that changed much of the societal landscape, Al-Haidari said: “I find it to be amazing. Who would have thought a year ago that World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) would come and have an event here? Who would have thought that we would get (Algerian musician) Cheb Khaled or (US hip-hop artist) Nelly to come and perform in Saudi? Who would have thought that it would have been this easy and quick to establish cinemas, female gyms, even a whole opera theater a year ago? Of course, we still want more, and much more. But the trend is going so quick and so fast showing that we are to expect great events and functions to come in the near future.”

YouTuber Rahaf Jambi, 27, described how the country’s economy has diversified. “We just don’t count on oil now, the economy is growing better. It’s true that we are at war with Yemen, but this didn’t stop the Kingdom from growing and there are a lot of improvements, there are a lot of human rights fulfilled. Women driving, this is one of the main important things that happened and it will be good for the Kingdom because it will improve the market.

“Women will not have to rely on drivers. It’s a better opportunity for Saudis to work in transportation companies such as Uber and Careem, even the girls can work in this field, and girls can become police officers,” Jambi told Arab News. 

“Having cinema in the Kingdom is a good thing — we will have more Saudi movies and movies that will be produced in Saudi Arabia. It’s going to be a good environment for Saudi talent.”

With women working in the same fields as men and reaching high ranks, and the many women emerging in the media, Jambi added: “I see a bright future for women.”

Jambi said he hoped big name world brands such as Apple would come to the Kingdom. “We need the Apple store in the Kingdom, we need a lot of brands to open in the Kingdom.”