Editorial: Arab summit — Right response to terror

A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on July 26, 2016, shows Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj (L), Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki (top), Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail (C-L), Lebanese Prime Minister Tamam Salam (C-R), and Bahraini Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed bin Mubarak al-Khalifa, posing for a picture during the Arab League summit in Mauritania's capital Nouakchott. (AFP PHOTO /handout by Dalati and Nohra)
Updated 29 July 2016

Editorial: Arab summit — Right response to terror

Daesh is proving to be a Hydra-headed monster.
As the snake heads of the terrorists are being cut off in Iraq and Syria, their siblings are striking in Europe. The attacks in Germany and France are gross. They were suppose to be. They were designed to inflame public opinion against the hundreds of thousands of migrants, who have sought refuge in Europe. But Europeans need to hold on to some perspective. The death toll in Daesh attacks in their towns and cities are horrific. But they are nothing compared to the horrors inflicted by Daesh in territories they control. Even the Nice and Bataclan massacres are dwarfed by the standard terrorist violence in the Arab world.
It is precisely because of this living hell that Syrians have fled in droves. They have been savagely repressed by their own government. They have been brutalized by the terrorists. Is it any wonder that men head off with their families in a desperate search for safety?
At the Arab summit in Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott this week, there was a complete agreement that the Arab world should continue to play a leading role in the international war on terror.
The Kingdom has long experience in confronting and defeating the terrorist menace. Its analyses were listened to carefully in Nouakchott. There was one point at the summit, which was very well made. A just settlement for the Palestinians should not be forgotten in the horrified reaction to Daesh’s European crimes. In fact, Daesh leaders care no more about Palestinians than they do for the communities they have overrun. Their cry that Israel should accept a sovereign Palestinian state is completely false. But it has been an important recruiting drum.
The war on terror is a war for truth. It is a war for justice. In Europe’s furious reaction to Daesh attacks, the Palestinians must not be forgotten again. The horror of 9/11 launched the Bush war on terror. But Washington chose not to understand how very much the illegal Israeli occupation and repression in Palestine matters in the Arab world. That failure further enfranchised Benjamin Netanyahu’s Zionist settlement policy. And it also gave Daesh a cause for which it could pretend to be fighting. Therefore the new drive by France and Egypt to revive the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks is important. Israel will of course continue to frustrate any hint of progress. But that is not the point. The world needs to be reminded of the terrible injustices in Palestine. A genuine effort to broker a just settlement will undermine the Daesh message of hate. Ultimately, it will make Europe safer.
Daesh did not create European Islamophobia. Racists have long picked on Muslims, as well as blacks and Jews. But Daesh crimes in Nice, Munich, Paris, Madrid and London are designed to exploit the existing racist poison. They want to create fear and suspicion. They seek to promote the noxious idea that every Muslim is a terrorist. They want white Europeans to start discriminating against their domestic Muslim communities. They want racist attacks on European Muslims. They want hate-filled graffiti sprayed on mosque walls. They want these holy buildings attacked. They want Muslims to be in fear of their lives. Then they want to pretend that they, Daesh can defend European Muslims and help them fight back against their racist persecutors.
Muslim community leaders throughout the continent condemn Daesh and its evil distortion of Islam. They explain that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. European politicians parrot their words. But do they really believe them? Or are they too falling victim to the paranoia Daesh is trying to kindle?
A firmer stand needs to be taken. And far stronger efforts are required to help restore stability in the Arab world. The Kingdom at the head of the Gulf States’ coalition has shouldered the burden of ending chaos in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is part of the US-led task force whose warplanes are destroying Daesh from the air in Iraq and Syria. Saudi experts continue to brief and assist fellow counter-intelligence operatives in Europe and North America. The fight against terror, here in the Kingdom and around the world has to be relentless.
It also has to be proactive. The terrorists have to be struck before they can strike. European politicians share the popular shock at Daesh crimes. But their thinking looks reactive. Of course their security forces have a counter-terrorism strategy. But more is needed. The response to Daesh has to be multi-pronged. It must protect European Muslims from racist backlash. It must honor the place of Islam in world civilization.

EDITORIAL: Jeddah floods a reminder of why we need the anti-corruption drive

Saudi drivers take a flooded street in Jeddah on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2017

EDITORIAL: Jeddah floods a reminder of why we need the anti-corruption drive

It has happened again. The roads, streets and many underpasses in Jeddah were flooded with rainwater on Tuesday. Many areas were turned into lakes because of the heavy, though forecast, downpour. In some areas, water was knee-deep while in others it was chest-deep. People were stuck in their vehicles and many were seen pushing their vehicles to the side of the roads with great difficulty. In low-lying areas, citizens struggled to remove their belongings from flooded houses.

For the residents of Jeddah, rain has, more often than not, brought trouble and devastation. Whenever the skies open up, thoughts go back to that “Black Wednesday” of November 25, 2009, when more than 100 people lost their lives and property worth billions of riyals was destroyed. An investigation was opened into the disaster and some of the guilty were taken to court and tried; some of the small fry were even jailed. As has been the case in the past, the mighty arm of the law could barely touch those at the top who enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

And so it was business as usual until the rain began to wreak havoc again, reminding us that the laws of nature take their course and that hiding your head in the sand does not chase the clouds away.

Having said that, it must be admitted that, yes, lessons were learned. A disaster management team was set up. The weather forecast department became active in issuing alerts. In fact, Tuesday could have been far worse had it not been for the timely alert from the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) and a prompt decision by the Ministry of Education to suspend classes, schools and universities in and around Jeddah. That helped in keeping people and vehicles off the streets. At noon on Tuesday, it looked as if the city were under some kind of curfew.

The questions that are on everyone's minds right now are: Why is it that rain renders the city helpless and immobile at this time every year? Why have efforts to create effective rainwater drainage systems not borne fruit despite pumping billions of riyals into new projects such as dams and canals? Why is it that the authorities are found wanting whenever heavy rain occurs? More importantly, what is the solution?

Here is the answer. These floods are a stark reminder of why the current drive against corruption is so essential. It is required in order to instill the fear of law into high-ranking officials and heads of construction companies and civic bodies who have failed in their responsibilities. Those who have cut corners and have pocketed public money, those who have not delivered on the projects and who have provided substandard services must pay for their sins of omission.

This is exactly what is happening. No one is above the law. The guilty, whoever they are, however high up they are, will have to pay — and they are. In this new era of transparency and accountability — initiated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — word has gone down from top to bottom that no one is immune. If you are guilty you will be punished. Those responsible for the havoc of the floods on Tuesday will have no rest either.