Sheikh's TV fatwa is a symptom of the cancer of extremism



Sheikh Saleh al Lihedan is no ordinary man. He is a renowned religious scholar and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Council in Saudi Arabia. When he speaks, thousands listen. His pronouncements on religious and social issues are embraced as absolute truth by people who believe in his judgment and follow his fatwas. That is why the Sheikh's recently publicised condemnation of the owners of television stations that broadcast "immoral" programmes is so alarming. The Sheikh said it was permissible to kill owners of television networks that air "corrupting" programmes. Those people are violating God's teachings, the Sheikh reasoned. By subjecting audiences to obscenity, seduction and even humour, the network owners are spoiling the belief system of the faithful. If they do not stop, says the most senior justice in Saudi Arabia, it is religiously sanctioned to kill them.

The lightness with which the Sheikh views human life is shocking. But equally disturbing is that a man who does not blink at issuing what could amount to death sentences against a large number of people remains in a position of power - and in a country whose leadership has recently launched a global effort to promote moderate and tolerant Islam. Such a worthwhile effort should also be aimed at hardliners inside the country. These people do a tremendous amount of damage to the collective culture and potentially set thousands of impressionable young people on the destructive course of extremism. The great harm that has been brought to Saudi Arabia and other Arab societies by hardliners who advocate intolerant interpretations of Islam is no secret. Managing this internal source of threat to the culture of tolerance is an essential first step towards rescuing the faith and its image and ensuring that its centrist and moderate nature prevails.

Pronouncements such as the one made by Sheikh Lihedan against the owners of TV networks could lead to the murder of innocent people. The question that cannot be avoided is this: how would the Sheikh - or judges appointed by him - rule should they have to try someone who kills one of the people condemned by Lihedan, and then pleads not guilty on the ground that he acted in implementation of the Chief Justice's fatwa?

That the Sheikh retracted his statement, first broadcast on Saudi radio four months ago and then highlighted by a satellite television station last week, does not solve the problem. The issue here is not just about this particular fatwa. It is about the still-lukewarm endeavours to root out extremism in the whole Arab world. Appeasement remains a plague from which no Arab country is entirely free. Hiding behind religion, many individuals and groups are still able to feed hatred, intolerance and extremism to thousands of disgruntled young people across the Arab and Muslim worlds. Fearing confrontation with religious figures, many governments shy away from standing up to those who consciously or unconsciously distort the faith and promote intolerance.

But the confrontation cannot be delayed any longer. In more than one Arab and Muslim country, religious fundamentalism is gaining credibility and attracting more followers. Reversing this process will require comprehensive reforms, not more crackdowns on public freedoms. The inevitable confrontation will yield the desired results only if its ammunition is reform and democratisation rather than guns and jails and restrictions.

Only by going through with wide-ranging reform will Arab governments have the public support they need to discredit extremism and deal with hardliners enjoying solid bases of support within societies. Force and oppression have failed to neutralise extremists; they certainly did not discredit hardliners who thrived on exploiting the image of being the victims of oppressive and corrupt governments. In the case of fatwas in particular, no government can stop religious figures from making pronouncements on all sorts of social and political issues. What officialdom can do, especially in Saudi Arabia, is ensure the presence of legislation that bans such individuals from using public office to make their pronouncements. More importantly, they must work to rehabilitate official fatwa councils and religious offices.

Most official Muftis in the Arab world enjoy little credibility. The public perception is that they are tools of the government who will rule in whichever direction governments point. In the absence of public fatwa councils that enjoy independence, people turn to "private" sources to address their religious questions. Quite often, these sources promote extremism. The case of Sheikh Lihedan, where it is an official figure who poses the problem, is rare in the Arab world. Usually, religious figures working with governments speak with moderation. But they face the problem of being distrusted by the public. This lack of public confidence must be the target of any genuine reform efforts that seek to have an impact in the fight against extremism. Governments will have to give up some of their control over officials' religious institutions if they want to reduce the influence of extremists groups. Certainly, in Arab countries where the state is not seen to be in full control of such institutions, "private" fatwas by extremists do not present an alarming threat.

Ultimately, it boils down to reform. This is a weapon that no Arab government has fully utilised to defeat extremism.

Ayman Safadi is a former editor of Alghad in Jordan and a commentator on Middle Eastern affairs

THE BIO: Mohammed Ashiq Ali

Proudest achievement: “I came to a new country and started this shop”

Favourite TV programme: the news

Favourite place in Dubai: Al Fahidi. “They started the metro in 2009 and I didn’t take it yet.”

Family: six sons in Dubai and a daughter in Faisalabad

 

Essentials
The flights: You can fly from the UAE to Iceland with one stop in Europe with a variety of airlines. Return flights with Emirates from Dubai to Stockholm, then Icelandair to Reykjavik, cost from Dh4,153 return. The whole trip takes 11 hours. British Airways flies from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to Reykjavik, via London, with return flights taking 12 hours and costing from Dh2,490 return, including taxes. 
The activities: A half-day Silfra snorkelling trip costs 14,990 Icelandic kronur (Dh544) with Dive.is. Inside the Volcano also takes half a day and costs 42,000 kronur (Dh1,524). The Jokulsarlon small-boat cruise lasts about an hour and costs 9,800 kronur (Dh356). Into the Glacier costs 19,500 kronur (Dh708). It lasts three to four hours.
The tours: It’s often better to book a tailor-made trip through a specialist operator. UK-based Discover the World offers seven nights, self-driving, across the island from £892 (Dh4,505) per person. This includes three nights’ accommodation at Hotel Husafell near Into the Glacier, two nights at Hotel Ranga and two nights at the Icelandair Hotel Klaustur. It includes car rental, plus an iPad with itinerary and tourist information pre-loaded onto it, while activities can be booked as optional extras. More information inspiredbyiceland.com

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Dengue fever symptoms
  • High fever
  • Intense pain behind your eyes
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle and joint pains
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen glands
  • Rash

If symptoms occur, they usually last for two-seven days

Fines for littering

In Dubai:

Dh200 for littering or spitting in the Dubai Metro

Dh500 for throwing cigarette butts or chewing gum on the floor, or littering from a vehicle. 
Dh1,000 for littering on a beach, spitting in public places, throwing a cigarette butt from a vehicle

In Sharjah and other emirates
Dh500 for littering - including cigarette butts and chewing gum - in public places and beaches in Sharjah
Dh2,000 for littering in Sharjah deserts
Dh500 for littering from a vehicle in Ras Al Khaimah
Dh1,000 for littering from a car in Abu Dhabi
Dh1,000 to Dh100,000 for dumping waste in residential or public areas in Al Ain
Dh10,000 for littering at Ajman's beaches 

Profile box

Company name: baraka
Started: July 2020
Founders: Feras Jalbout and Kunal Taneja
Based: Dubai and Bahrain
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $150,000
Current staff: 12
Stage: Pre-seed capital raising of $1 million
Investors: Class 5 Global, FJ Labs, IMO Ventures, The Community Fund, VentureSouq, Fox Ventures, Dr Abdulla Elyas (private investment)

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

The permutations for UAE going to the 2018 World Cup finals

To qualify automatically

UAE must beat Iraq.

Australia must lose in Japan and at home to Thailand, with their losing margins and the UAE's winning margin over Iraq being enough to overturn a goal difference gap of eight.

Saudi Arabia must lose to Japan, with their losing margin and the UAE's winning margin over Iraq being enough to overturn a goal difference gap of eight.

To finish third and go into a play-off with the other third-placed AFC side for a chance to reach the inter-confederation play-off match

UAE must beat Iraq.

Saudi Arabia must lose to Japan, with their losing margin and the UAE's winning margin over Iraq being enough to overturn a goal difference gap of eight.

RESULTS

 

Catchweight 63.5kg: Shakriyor Juraev (UZB) beat Bahez Khoshnaw (IRQ). Round 3 TKO (body kick)

Lightweight: Nart Abida (JOR) beat Moussa Salih (MAR). Round 1 by rear naked choke

Catchweight 79kg: Laid Zerhouni (ALG) beat Ahmed Saeb (IRQ). Round 1 TKO (punches)

Catchweight 58kg: Omar Al Hussaini (UAE) beat Mohamed Sahabdeen (SLA) Round 1 rear naked choke

Flyweight: Lina Fayyad (JOR) beat Sophia Haddouche (ALG) Round 2 TKO (ground and pound)

Catchweight 80kg: Badreddine Diani (MAR) beat Sofiane Aïssaoui (ALG) Round 2 TKO

Flyweight: Sabriye Sengul (TUR) beat Mona Ftouhi (TUN). Unanimous decision

Middleweight: Kher Khalifa Eshoushan (LIB) beat Essa Basem (JOR). Round 1 rear naked choke

Heavyweight: Mohamed Jumaa (SUD) beat Hassen Rahat (MAR). Round 1 TKO (ground and pound)

Lightweight: Abdullah Mohammad Ali Musalim (UAE beat Omar Emad (EGY). Round 1 triangle choke

Catchweight 62kg: Ali Taleb (IRQ) beat Mohamed El Mesbahi (MAR). Round 2 KO

Catchweight 88kg: Mohamad Osseili (LEB) beat Samir Zaidi (COM). Unanimous decision

Aston martin DBX specs

Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8

Transmission: nine-speed automatic

Power: 542bhp

Torque: 700Nm

Top speed: 291kph

Price: Dh848,000

On sale: Q2, 2020
 

Easter Sunday

Director: Jay Chandrasekhar
Stars: Jo Koy, Tia Carrere, Brandon Wardell, Lydia Gaston
Rating: 3.5/5

The specs: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Price, base: Dh198,300
Engine: 2.0L in-line four-cylinder
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Power: 280hp @ 5,250rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 2,250rpm
Fuel economy, combined: 7L / 100km

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

match info

Southampton 2 (Ings 32' & pen 89') Tottenham Hotspur 5 (Son 45', 47', 64', & 73', Kane 82')

Man of the match Son Heung-min (Tottenham)

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian

Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming

Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics

Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

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