Cleric forbids Iraqis to take US citizenship

"I'm not sure if a fatwa attributed to Sheikh Youssef al Qaradawi was correct or not, but we have become used to politicised religious fatwas anyway as part of political jurisprudence shrouded in religion," opined Abdul Rahman al Rashed, the general manager of Al Arabiya news channel and a regular columnist at the pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat.

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"I'm not sure if a fatwa attributed to Sheikh Youssef al Qaradawi was correct or not, but we have become used to politicised religious fatwas anyway as part of political jurisprudence shrouded in religion," opined Abdul Rahman al Rashed, the general manager of Al Arabiya news channel and a regular columnist at the pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat. It was reported on Sunday that Sheikh al Qaradawi, who is considered to be one of the more moderate Sunni clerics, had issued a fatwa banning Iraqis from obtaining US nationality on the grounds that America is a colonising state.

"This fatwa is more of a political absurdity than a religious directive," al Rashed wrote. An Egyptian national, Sheikh al Qaradawi holds Qatari citizenship, which he sought in protest against the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Still, he did not relinquish his Qatari citizenship after a bureau representing Israel landed in Doha. The Iraqis have not been coerced into immigrating to the US in droves, which might make Sheikh al Qaradawi resort to the "fatwa weapon" and save the day. They are rather made to wait in long queues before US and European embassies to no avail.

"Iran's new proposal to the major powers was like a multi-layered talisman," commented Saad Mehio in the Emirati daily Al Khaleej. The five-page document started out with an historical analysis forecasting the end of the era of dominant empires and concluding with an appeal for a new world order. What was supposed to be a bundle of specific Iranian propositions in response to the West's offer of "privileges" to encourage Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions turned out to be a rant about everything but nuclear matters.

The proposal sounded like Iran is setting as a precondition for entering negotiations the resolution of all major international issues, whether in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa, Latin America or eastern Asia. "Does this sound like a premise for serious talks? Well, European diplomats do not think it does. They said the Iranian document failed to comply with any of the international demands meant to facilitate negotiations."

But the US response was more cautious. Washington thinks it is better to leave the diplomatic option standing. This new cool approach means one of two things: either the Americans are cunningly trying to implicate the Europeans more in Iran's nuclear issue, or secret US-Iran talks are already underway, making Tehran's formal proposal inconsequential anyway.

Out of the estimated 320 million people living in the Arab world, 70 million are illiterate, but this is not even the most shocking part, wrote Khaled al Hroub, a Palestinian researcher, in the opinion section of the Abu Dhabi-based daily Al Ittihad. This "scary figure" sounds more threatening when added to the fact that all those illiterate people are above the age of 15. So, about 40 per cent of Arab adults, as per Unesco's reports, are unable to read or write. Even worse perhaps, an estimated six million children at the eligible schooling age are not taking any classes.

"These are, without a doubt, some 'leading' figures in degradation. They actually qualify us for competition with the most underdeveloped nations in the world." In this era of high technology, mass communication and an overabundance of knowledge, Arab kids cannot afford to miss out on education, which is obviously one of their most basic human rights. After many decades of independence from their respective colonisers, what can the Arab states say they have achieved if they failed in enforcing such a critical policy as mandatory elementary schooling? Forty per cent of adult illiterates can hardly be expected to trigger any form of renaissance.

"Does the anomalous situation that Lebanon has been stuck in for many years now confirm such statements as 'Lebanon is a geographical error', that it is ungovernable and incapable of managing its own affairs?" wrote Emile Khoury, a columnist at the Lebanese daily Annahar.

A seasoned Lebanese minister, whose name the writer has withheld, has recently said that the democratic practice and observance of the constitution in Lebanon have faced serious setbacks as a weakened nationalistic sentiment has given way to a stronger sense of sectarian belonging. Now, it is definitely up to the Lebanese people to choose whether to go back to the stability of the democratic regime whereby the majority rules and the minority takes the opposition ranks, or opt for the "consensual" - which is just a nice word for "sectarian" - system of government, which is a drastically unstable paradigm that needs foreign interference, overt or hidden, to maintain internal balance and pre-empt an ever-looming civil war.

"Nobody heeds the saying by the late leader Hamid Franjieh who famously summed up the concept of national unity during the parliament session of August 29, 1957: 'Evil becomes good when the Lebanese people agree on it, and good becomes evil when they don't.'" * Digest compiled by Achraf A ElBahi aelbahi@thenational.ae