LONDON: In all but one of 14 countries surveyed in a special Arab News-YouGov poll on where Arabs stand on the Ukraine conflict, a majority of respondents who expressed a view believe the blame for the war lies not with Russia but with NATO.
The only exception to this is in Syria, where blame is apportioned equally.
These findings highlight the gulf in perceptions of the conflict between the Arab world and Europe. A similar poll conducted by YouGov in Europe during April found that “an overwhelming majority of the citizens of EU countries attribute responsibility for the situation in Ukraine to Russia.”
This feeling was strongest in Finland and Sweden, where both countries are fearful of Russian expansion over their borders and are now anxiously contemplating joining NATO.
There, and in the UK, Poland and the Netherlands, more than 70 percent of people laid the blame firmly at the door of the Kremlin.
Among countries in the GCC, Levant and North Africa, although NATO is perceived more often as the party responsible for the conflict, the apportioning of blame is more balanced. People in the Gulf states, for example, blame NATO (23 percent) only marginally more than they do Russia (19 percent).
The perception in the Arab world that NATO is to blame for the conflict echoes the official line from the Kremlin, and Eto Buziashvili, research associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, believes it can be attributed to a large extent to Russia’s digital campaign of disinformation.
“There is constant disinformation messaging coming out of official Kremlin sources on a range of social networks,” she said. “They have been blocked on platforms including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, but they have also been actively using Telegram.”
“I observed that a few weeks ago they started to invest in video content, featuring the war in Ukraine, and have launched channels on Telegram that are running in more than 17 languages, including Persian and Arabic.
“This is part of the broader picture of Russian disinformation efforts around the war. Blaming NATO was the first narrative that came out of the Kremlin, which says it was NATO that was standing behind Ukraine that provoked the conflict.”
Tobias Borck, research fellow for Middle East security studies at London-based defense and security think-tank the Royal United Services Institute, says the finding also reflects a regional ambivalence toward NATO as a tool of the West.
“What has been experienced in the Middle East is that NATO — and by NATO, most people mean the US and the West — does what it wants. In this case, people see that Russia is doing what it wants, and think, well, what’s the big difference?
“The West has behaved in this way for years. It has gone and occupied Iraq, for example, and now Russia is doing a similar thing in Ukraine. OK, it’s not great that Russia is doing this, but what’s the big difference, basically?
“So if the Russians are saying well, it’s because NATO keeps expanding, then that’s a narrative that resonates and mixes with anti-Western and anti-imperial sentiment in the region.”
Across MENA, 13 percent of respondents to the YouGov survey say that US President Joe Biden is responsible for the war — possibly reflecting the inevitable conflation of NATO with the US, and the widespread negative view in the region of American military adventures across the Middle East.
Overall, however, 42 percent of respondents aren’t sure who to blame.
In the view of the 7,835 people canvassed across the Middle East and North Africa, there is widespread agreement that Ukraine itself cannot be blamed for the conflict. No more than 8 percent of respondents in any country, and only 5 percent across the GCC states as a whole, felt Ukraine could be held responsible.
Spiritual leader of outlawed Muslim Brotherhood spent decades propagating an ideology that fueled violence across the Middle East
He justified suicide bombings, repeatedly spoke out against Jews as a community, and issued fatwas that demean women
Updated 28 September 2022
JEDDAH: Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood who died on Monday at the age of 96, has left behind a poisonous legacy of hatred and Islamic supremacy.
Al-Qaradawi was formally the chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, a position he held for 14 years from its establishment in 2004.
More importantly, he was one of the fountainheads of the Muslim Brotherhood, a religious-political organization that has been sanctioned and proscribed by Gulf states and many Western countries.
Founded in 1928, the Brotherhood established itself in the mid-20th century as the main opposition movement in Egypt, as well as in other countries in the region. Cairo blacklisted the movement as a terrorist organization in 2013.
A BBC News website report of 2004, quoting an Arabic-language website, said Al-Qaradawi was born in a small village in the Nile Delta in 1926 and studied Islamic theology at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, from where he graduated in 1953.
Between 1949 and 1961, he was imprisoned several times in Egypt over his links to the Muslim Brotherhood and accusations that he ordered the assassination of political figures.
The Brotherhood’s followers were seen across the Islamic world as fanning religious hatred and promoting a cult of violence in order to achieve political power.
AL-QARADAWI’S CONTENTIOUS FATWAS
2003-2005: Issued several fatwas calling for a jihad against Israel and Jews, in which he deemed all adult Jews living in Palestine as “occupants” and combatants,” making them legitimate targets of war.
2004: Justified an uprising against the American presence in Iraq and permitted the killing of those who fight.
2010: Contended that suicide bombers do not really commit suicide, but die as an accidental consequence of carrying out their operations, which counts as a glorious sacrifice in holy war and qualifies them for martyrdom.
2013: Advocated the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak’s government in Egypt during the Arab Spring.
2015: Called anyone who went against the legitimate leader of the land “khawarij” (enemies of Islam) after Mohammed Morsi took office in Egypt.
In a 2019 tweet, Al-Qaradawi claimed he was not a preacher of hate and that he had spent the past 25 years promoting moderate thought.
“I stood against extremism and extremists for approximately a quarter of a century. I saw its threat to deen and dunya (religion and the temporal world), on the individual and society, and I have reinforced my pen, tongue and thought (to support) the call for moderation and reject exaggeration and negligence, either in the field of fiqh and fatwa (Islamic jurisprudence and legal pronouncement in Islam) or in the field of tableegh and da’wah (guidance and preaching),” he tweeted at the time.
However, his track record revealed exactly the opposite. He justified suicide bombings, especially in Palestine, repeatedly spoke out against Jews as a community, and issued fatwas (religious edicts) that demean women.
In a fatwa on his website, he stated that martyrdom is a higher form of jihad. And in a notorious 2004 interview on the BBC’s Newsnight program, he praised suicide bombings in Israeli-occupied Palestine as martyrdom in the name of God.
“I supported martyrdom operations, and I am not the only one,” he said.
He also encouraged Muslims who were unable to fight to financially support mujahideen (those engaged in jihad) everywhere in foreign lands. This could hardly be described as a stand against terrorism
In 2008, he was refused a visa by the UK Home Office to visit the country to receive medical treatment. David Cameron, the former Conservative Party leader, described Al-Qaradawi as “dangerous and divisive” in his appeal to the government to reject the visa application.
The Home Office said: “The UK will not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify any acts of terrorist violence or express views that could foster inter-community violence.”
At the time, Al-Qaradawi was already banned from entering the US. In 2012 he was barred from entering France.
Al-Qaradawi became a familiar name in Arabic-speaking Muslim communities with his weekly appearance on the religious phone-in program Al-Shariah wa Al-Haya (Islamic Law and Life), that was broadcast to millions worldwide.
Al-Qaradawi issued fatwas authorizing attacks on all Jews. On Al Jazeera Arabic in January 2009, he said: “Oh God, take Your enemies, the enemies of Islam … Oh God, take the treacherous Jewish aggressors … Oh God, count their numbers, slay them one by one and spare none.”
He held a similar disdain and deep-seated hatred of Europeans. That Al-Qaradawi was an Islamic supremacist with a total disregard for European civilization and culture could be gauged from one of his lectures on Qatar TV in 2007.
“I think that Islam will conquer Europe without resorting to the sword or fighting. Europe is miserable with materialism, with the philosophy of promiscuity and with the immoral considerations that rule the world — considerations of self-interest and self-indulgence,” he said.
“It’s high time (Europe) woke up and found a way out from this, and it won’t find a lifesaver or a lifeboat other than Islam.”
On his show in 2013, Al-Qaradawi blasted Muslim countries as weak, and called on citizens to overthrow their governments and launch a war against all who oppose the Brotherhood, describing them as “khawarij” (enemies of Islam).
Many intellectuals and commentators in the Arab world viewed his lectures as dangerous regurgitation of Islamist dogma out of touch with the modern world.
When an uprising began in Egypt against the rule of long-time President Hosni Mubarak, Al-Qaradawi supported the protesters in his TV broadcasts and issued an edict forbidding security personnel from opening fire on them.
Name: Yusuf Al-Qaradawi
Nationality: Egyptian-born Qatari citizen
Occupation: Spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood; head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research; co-founder of IslamOnline.net
Legal status: Banned from Egypt since 1997; sentenced to death in absentia in 2015; on the terror list of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain
Media: Hosted his own show on Al Jazeera Arabic, “Ash-Shariah wal-Hayat” (“Shariah and Life”); appearances on Al-Hayat TV, BBC Arabic, Palestinian Authority TV, Al-Faraeen TV, Al-Hiwar TV; more than 4 million Twitter and Facebook followers combined
Upon his return to Egypt in 2011, he began to lead Friday prayers for hundreds of thousands of people in Tahrir Square a week after Mubarak’s resignation.
“Don’t let anyone steal this revolution from you — those hypocrites who will put on a new face that suits them,” he told the crowd.
However, Al-Qaradawi was forced again into exile in 2013 when the military overthrew Mubarak’s successor Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood loyalist, following mass protests against his policies.
Al-Qaradawi condemned what he described as a “coup” and appealed to all groups in Egypt to restore Morsi to what he called his “legitimate post.”
Al-Qaradawi was sentenced to death in absentia by an Egyptian court in 2015 alongside other Brotherhood leaders.
Iran security forces clash with protesters over Amini’s death
Twitter videos show protesters chanting ‘Death to the dictator,’ a reference to Khamenei
Updated 27 September 2022
DUBAI: Iranian riot police and security forces clashed with demonstrators in dozens of cities on Tuesday, state media and social media said, amid continuing protests against the death of young Iranian woman Mahsa Amini in police custody.
Amini, 22, from the Iranian Kurdish city of Saqez, was arrested this month in Tehran for “unsuitable attire” by the morality police who enforce the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.
Her death has sparked the first big show of opposition on Iran’s streets since authorities crushed protests against a rise in gasoline prices in 2019.
Despite a growing death toll and a fierce crackdown by authorities, videos posted on Twitter showed demonstrators calling for the fall of the clerical establishment while clashing with security forces in Tehran, Tabriz, Karaj, Qom, Yazd and many other Iranian cities.
State television said police clashed with what it called “rioters” in some cities and fired tear gas to disperse them.
Videos posted on social media from inside Iran showed protesters chanting, “Woman, Life, Liberty,” while women waved and burnt their veils.
Videos on Twitter showed protesters chanting “Death to the dictator,” a reference to Iran’s top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In the Kurdish cities of Sanandaj and Sardasht, riot police fired at protesters, videos on Twitter showed.
“I will kill those who killed my sister,” chants of protesters could be heard in one of the videos from Tehran, while activist Twitter account 1500tasvir said: “The streets have become battlefields.”
To make it difficult for protesters to post videos on social media, authorities have restricted internet access in several provinces, according to internet blockage observatory NetBlocks on Twitter and sources in Iran.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Iran’s clerical rulers to “fully respect the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association.”
In a statement, Ravina Shamdasani said that reports indicated “hundreds have also been arrested, including human rights defenders, lawyers, civil society activists and at least 18 journalists.”
“Thousands have joined anti-government demonstrations throughout the country over the past 11 days. Security forces have responded at times with live ammunition,” the statement said.
Officials said 41 people, including members of the police and a pro-government militia, had died during the protests. But Iranian human rights groups have reported a higher toll.
The Iranian human rights group Hengaw said “18 were killed, 898 people were injured and over 1,000 Kurdish protesters have been arrested in the last ten days,” estimating the figures to be higher.
“Between Monday and Friday, more than 70 women have been arrested in Iran’s Kurdistan ... at least four of them are under age 18,” Hengaw said on Tuesday.
Iran’s judiciary has set up special courts to try “rioters,” according to state media.
Social media posts, along with some activists, have called for a nationwide strike. Several university teachers, celebrities and prominent soccer players have supported the protests against Amini’s death, according to statements published by them on social media.
Students in several universities have refused to participate in classes, staging protests against the widespread arrest of students and forceful encounters with security forces in universities.
Amini’s death has drawn widespread international condemnation while Iran has blamed “thugs” linked to “foreign enemies” for stirring up unrest. Tehran has accused the United States and some European countries of using the unrest to try to destabilize the Islamic Republic.
Jewish settlers storm Al-Aqsa compound for second day
A Palestinian security official told Arab News that Israeli police had deployed in large numbers throughout East Jerusalem and imposed restrictions on worshippers as part of a well-rehearsed tactic to prevent protests
Updated 27 September 2022
RAMALLAH: Hundreds of settlers protected by Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem for a second day as tensions soared during the Jewish new year.
Dozens of Palestinian men and women remained inside Al-Aqsa to defend it as police prevented others under 40 from entering, deployed officers on horseback and used drones to monitor the grounds.
Despite the restrictions, dozens of Muslims were able to perform pre-dawn prayers shortly before the settlers moved in.
At least two Palestinians inside the compound were arrested for using religious chants to disrupt the settlers as they performed new year rituals in the compound’s courtyards.
A Palestinian security official told Arab News that Israeli police had deployed in large numbers throughout East Jerusalem and imposed restrictions on worshippers as part of a well-rehearsed tactic to prevent protests.
“The number of Israeli police escorting the intrusive settlers is equal to the number of settlers, and this reflects the extent of the precautions to secure the incursions,” he said, adding that Palestinians “reject the desecration of Al-Aqsa by settlers.”
The huge police operation was also geared towards dissuading Palestinian from allowing their children to go to Al-Aqsa, he added, but warned that the situation could boil over if anyone was assaulted or killed by the police.
Israeli police had not sought coordination with the Palestinian security services, the official added.
Meanwhile, top Israeli police officer Maj. Gen. Yacov Shabtai toured the mosque, accompanied by several officers.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said turning the area around Al-Aqsa into a virtual military barracks and imposing restrictions on Muslim worshippers was “like reoccupying the holy city of Jerusalem and its old city by force.”
It warned of the consequences of the “gradual Judaization” of the mosque and its courtyards, saying such moves were a “blatant attack” on the beliefs of millions of Muslims and the “legal and legitimate right” of the Islamic Awqaf Department “to supervise the movement of worshippers.”
Meanwhile, Palestinians reacted with anger to President Mahmoud Abbas’s greetings to Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on the Jewish new year.
Gantz asked Abbas during a call to ensure that the Palestinian security services made every effort to prevent an escalation in the West Bank during the new year holidays.
In reply, a Fatah member in Ramallah told Arab News: “Abbas didn’t surrender Jerusalem during his call with Gantz. It was a courtesy call, nothing more than that.”
Jordanian appeal court upholds convictions of 5 jailed, fined over Salt Hospital deaths
10 COVID-19 patients died at hospital in 2021 after facility ran out of oxygen
Amman Appeal Court confirms acquittal of 8 other suspects
Updated 27 September 2022
AMMAN: A Jordanian court on Tuesday rejected the appeals of five people convicted over a hospital oxygen outage that resulted in the deaths of 10 COVID-19 patients.
Amman Appeal Court upheld the three-year prison terms handed down to the five by a separate court last year, the Jordan News Agency (Petra) reported.
However, it upheld the acquittal of eight other suspects in connection with the incident at the Al-Hussein New Salt Hospital on March 13, 2021. Ten patients died after the facility ran out of oxygen, sparking public outrage leading to the resignation of Jordan’s health minister.
Petra said a panel of judges at the Amman Magistrates Court found four previous directors and an oxygen technician in the hospital accountable for causing the deaths.
Last year, the primary court convicted the former director of the hospital, his assistant for services, the head of the medical gases group, the director of medical devices, and an ex-oxygen technician, with causing the deaths and sentenced each of them to three years in jail with individual fines of 3,575 Jordanian dinars ($5,265).
Records said the court heard the testimonies of 87 witnesses.
At the time, hundreds of angry people gathered outside the hospital holding nightly protests that prompted the intervention of security forces. The victims’ relatives said the hospital had been suffering from a severe shortage of oxygen and medical staff.
Iran protest deaths higher than state media figures: Amnesty
‘The Iranian authorities have a pattern of distorting the truth to cover up their human rights violations,’ researcher tells Independent
More than 1,200 protesters have been arrested since Mahsa Amini’s death, with the nationwide demonstrations being Iran’s largest in almost three years
Updated 27 September 2022
LONDON: Protester death figures in Iran are being distorted by the country’s regime to cover up the use of excessive force by security services, The Independent has reported.
The country has faced almost two weeks of protests nationwide — with Kurdish regions in the west witnessing the most violent clashes — in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
Amnesty International researcher Mansoureh Mills told The Independent that the real figure of protesters who have been killed is higher than numbers reported by state TV, “given the horrific level of violence being perpetrated by the security forces.”
Mills added: “The Iranian authorities have a pattern of distorting the truth to cover up their human rights violations. Following the November 2019 protests, during which security forces killed hundreds of men, women and children, the authorities consistently denied any responsibility.
“They continued to cover up the real death toll of people killed during the November 2019 protests, and publicly praised security and intelligence forces for their role in the crackdown.”
Rothna Begum, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch’s women’s rights division, told The Independent: “The true numbers of people killed are likely to be higher than what state media are reporting but even official numbers are far too high for deaths during what are largely peaceful protests.
“The authorities must refrain from excessive use of force and investigate all deaths that have taken place during the protests.”
Mills said: “We have also received reports of women’s rights defenders being arrested while protesting for women’s rights over the past week. This is something that we are investigating.”
The Iranian regime resorts to “arbitrarily arresting journalists, political activists and human rights defenders to silence any form of public dissent or reporting and criticism of the human rights violations they are committing,” Mills added.
The regime must “urgently repeal laws and regulations that impose compulsory veiling on women and girls, perpetuate violence against them and strip them of their right to dignity and bodily autonomy.
“The policing of women’s bodies and lives in Iran is not restricted to their clothing choices. However, it is the most visible and one of the most egregious forms of the wider oppression of women and it stokes violence against them on a daily basis.”
More than 1,200 protesters have been arrested since Amini’s death, with the nationwide demonstrations being Iran’s largest in almost three years.