UAE’s first astronaut urges climate protection on Earth

UAE astronaut Hazzaa al-Mansoori reacts shortly after the landing of the Russian Soyuz MS-12 space capsule about 150 km south-east of the Kazakh town of Dzhezkazgan on October 3, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 12 November 2019

UAE’s first astronaut urges climate protection on Earth

  • Mansoori became the first Arab astronaut to visit the ISS and returned home to a hero’s welcome after an eight-day mission
  • “It is really difficult to live in space, we have to provide a lot of oxygen, air and food... and we have all of this here for free,” he said

DUBAI: Wearing a blue space suit with a UAE flag on one sleeve and a spaceship on the other, the first Emirati astronaut said Tuesday his mission highlighted a crucial issue — climate change.
Witnessing Earth and its beauty from space made him realize the importance of preserving it, said Hazzaa Al-Mansoori, a 35-year-old former military pilot who reached the International Space Station in September.
“We have to appreciate the planet and make sure that we save it for the next generations,” said the father-of-four, urging efforts to address “the reasons behind climate change.”
Mansoori became the first Arab astronaut to visit the ISS and returned home to a hero’s welcome after an eight-day mission, during which he participated in scientific experiments including a time-perception study.
His space trip has become a source of great pride in the UAE, a newcomer with ambitions to send an unmanned probe to orbit Mars by 2021.
In a Dubai hall swarming with journalists, Mansoori recounted the magic of his trip.
“When you see our planet from space... it’s really something amazing and a spectacular view,” he said. “I spent a lot of time looking out that window, I didn’t even want to sleep.”
Mansoori said living in space showed him that life on Earth was “a blessing.”
“It is really difficult to live in space, we have to provide a lot of oxygen, air and food... and we have all of this here for free,” he said.
The five-year period ending 2019 is set to be the hottest ever, said a UN report published in September, scientists’ latest grim reminder that climate change is already a reality.
Last month was the hottest October ever recorded worldwide, according to data released by the European Union’s satellite monitoring service.
“We are lucky to live here — let us protect the Earth and its atmosphere,” said Mansoori.
On board the ISS, Mansoori, who was selected from more than 4,000 UAE candidates, donned Emirati dress and treated crew members to his country’s snacks.
He flew to the station after the UAE signed a contract with Russian space agency Roscosmos to make him a “spaceflight participant,” a term used for people from outside the main space agencies who take short trips to the ISS.
As part of its space plans, the UAE has announced its aim to become the first Arab country to send an unmanned probe to orbit Mars by 2021, naming it “Hope.”
“It’s the golden age for space exploration in the UAE,” said Salem Al-Marri, of the UAE’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center.

Arabs reject use of religion to gain power, poll suggests

Updated 55 min 47 sec ago

Arabs reject use of religion to gain power, poll suggests

  • Use of religion for political gain is rejected by 58 percent of respondents in a YouGov poll
  • Experts believe there is now more awareness of the tactics of religion-based political parties

DUBAI: Across the Arab world, an increasing number of citizens disagree with the “use of religion for political gain,” according to a recent YouGov survey.

As part of its partnership with the Arab Strategy Forum, Arab News commissioned a survey of the views and concerns of Arabs today and their projections for the future of the region.

A total of 3,079 Arabic speakers were surveyed, aged 18 and above and living across 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Results revealed that 43 percent strongly disagree with the “use of religion for political gain,” while 15 percent “somewhat disagree.” By contrast, 7 percent strongly agree and 8 percent “somewhat agree.”

Another 14 percent “neither agree nor disagree” with the “use of religion for political gain.”

The combined average, however, unambiguously opposes the idea — at 58 percent. “The cases of Lebanon and Iraq shows a streak of anti-sectarianism rather than that of anti-religion per se,” said Dr. Albadr Al-Shateri, politics professor at the National Defense College in Abu Dhabi.

“Religious beliefs are deep-seated in these societies, so the advent of Western-style secularism in the region is doubtful. Even the most secular country in the Middle East, Turkey, turned out to have religious inclinations when it voted in an Islamist party” more than a decade ago. 

As long as people have little trust in political institutions, they will revert to their primary social institutions, notably religion, family and tribe, Al-Shateri told Arab News.

Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a former chairman of the Arab Council for Social Sciences, said that the YouGov findings suggest that the days of using religion for political gain are over.

“We are seeing more and more awareness that religion-based political parties are not so genuine in their religious preaching,” he told Arab News.

“People are becoming aware that those who preach freedom, equality, democracy and women’s empowerment using religious discourse are no longer believable.”

Significant numbers disagreed with the statement in Iraq and Kuwait (74 percent), as well as in Lebanon (73 percent), Libya (75 percent), Sudan (79 percent), and Syria and Yemen (71 percent). 

“Ultimately, it’s a question of credibility of politicians,” said Nadim Shehadi, an associate fellow at Chatham House, adding that “the credibility of political establishments is on the decrease globally because they are failing to deliver.”

He said that there is a general sense globally that political establishments are corrupt and not credible, which he partly pins on shifts in generational issues.

“Your grandparents’ concerns were probably more nationalistic,” he told Arab News.

“The generation of your parents were more about religion and, frankly, the new generation is more concerned about gender issues than anything else.

“Nationalism is totally irrelevant to them and religion far less.”

According to Shehadi, exploitation of religion no longer stirs up the young generation as they have different concerns. “They are on a different planet from politicians,” he said.

“Politicians are addressing issues that are very different from what the new generation is concerned with.”

With unrest continuing in several Arab countries, including Iraq and Lebanon, Abdulla sees it as a second round of the so-called Arab Spring, this time gripping Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon and Iraq.

“What is clear is that this second round is much more peaceful, focused and has already delivered a great deal,” he said.

“In Sudan, we have seen a very peaceful transition that was done to the satisfaction of the Sudanese people, and transition to democracy is going smoothly.

“In Algeria, it’s settling down and an election is coming up with some opposing it. But none of these two cases have witnessed the violence that engulfed Libya and Syria.”

That said, the future will depend on how governments and societies respond to the demands of the youth, according to Al-Shateri.

“The region faces many problems. However, the underlying cause is the lack of good governance. The concept of good governance has its provenance in Arab and Islamic traditions; it is not the equivalent of Westminster-style government necessarily.

“It is based on accountability, justice, equality, rule of law, ombudsmanship and the right to petition the government.”

Al-Shateri said Lebanon, Algeria, Iran and Iraq are examples of countries that have failed to provide these conditions, adding that the same was the case in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Syria when the Arab Spring uprisings began in 2011.

If regional countries achieve good governance, Al-Shateri expects many improvements in society, the economy and governance. “Short of that, the region will languish in backwardness, underdevelopment and conflict,” he said.