Stories about Saudi Arabia

Why framing Shia genocide as a sectarian conflict only trivialises the problem

One of the most important factors which determine the way an issue is understood, debated and addressed is the way it is framed in the media. Framing becomes extremely important as it affects the discourse, narrative, and ultimately the kind of solutions which are brought to the table. Knowing its importance, supporters and opponents of a contentious issue often try to frame it to their advantage. For example, in the US, the debate around abortion is often framed as pro-life by Conservatives. This is a very powerful and effective construct as it creates the impression that those who choose abortion are anti-life and hence ...

Read Full Post

Donald Trump will be giving a lecture on Islam to Muslims in Riyadh – let that sink in

Blowing trumpets, doves flying overhead and the awaiting red carpet. To many, this scenery invokes fairy tales of kings visiting their prefectures on gilded carriages with soldiers in tow. The princes and princesses line up to greet their guest along with the nobility, hoping a beautiful guest from within the entourage would catch their eye and sparks would fly. Not much was expected to change from this picture apart from the medieval setting when Donald Trump landed in Saudi Arabia on Saturday. This is Trump’s first visit to a foreign country and surprisingly, he chose Saudi Arabia as his destination. Surprising is too mute a word to capture the reality ...

Read Full Post

For the US, friends and enemies aren’t important, only interests are

Growing up, we form friendships, alliances and enmities in playgrounds and classrooms. There are clear rules that govern our interactions and attitudes towards those we call friends and those we regard as enemies or our friends’ enemies. It’s mostly cut and dry and there’s very little room for ambiguity. As we grow up, we begin to see shades of grey and the thick dividing lines that existed in our minds begin to blur. However, somewhere that conditioned perception of a clear demarcation between good versus bad and friend versus enemy persists in our psyche. International relations are complex. There are layers and subtexts that ...

Read Full Post

Is Pakistan willing to jeopardise its relations with Iran for Saudi Arabia?

It was shocking to hear Defence Minister Khwaja Asif proudly confirm that the government has agreed to the Saudi request and will allow former army chief General (retd) Raheel Sharif to command the Saudi-led military alliance of 34 Muslim nations to fight terrorism. However, observers are concerned that the coalition could be used for future conflicts against Iran and its ally Yemen.  The National Assembly had earlier agreed that it would not be in the country’s interest to take sides in the present war between Saudi Arabia and Yemen (Iran’s ally), and had decided that Pakistan would stay neutral in the ...

Read Full Post

The world must not allow the situation in Yemen to fester anymore

The Middle East has had a tumultuous history and the region’s politics have been anything but composed and calm. There are many fault lines that run through the geographic, social and ethnic divisions, and as a result, conflict and turmoil have never been too far from taking centre stage. The latest conflict to erupt in these volatile climes has been the civil war in Yemen which has been raging for the last two years. Yemen is one of the poorest and most backward countries in the Arabian Peninsula, yet it is also very strategically located. This makes it a fertile ground for various interests to ...

Read Full Post

Dear Saudi, their only crime was being born transgender, and that’s not a crime at all

Amna, a 35-year-old from the Mingora part of Swat and 26-year-old Meeno from Peshawar were killed in Saudi Arabia this week in police custody. The death of any prisoner at the hands of law enforcement is already disturbing as it is, but these two were allegedly tortured to death. Alongside 33 others, they were arrested, placed inside sacks, and beaten, and beaten, and then beaten some more until the two succumbed to their injuries. Imagine being helpless, alone, inside a dark claustrophobic sack, and struck on the body and head with canes and kicks until dying painfully. There is very ...

Read Full Post

Is Islam the most feminist religion?

I’ve been reading about Australian youth activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied (we appeared on an Australian show once together) and her words to Jacqui Lambie on an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) television show that Islam is (to her) the most feminist religion. Yassmin got pilloried in the Australian press for this statement. With the state of affairs for women in many Muslim countries today, it’s easy to see how it might not sit well with a cynical and non-Muslim-friendly audience. It would have gone down great with an audience full of Muslims, but we should probably unpack the statement a little bit to come somewhere between the optimism of Yassmin’s assertion and the rest of ...

Read Full Post

Are the voices of the world enough to end the absurdity behind the #MuslimBan?

The media went on overdrive when Donald Trump, immediately after inauguration, followed through on his promise for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims”. The New York Times reported:  “The president’s order… suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.” When The Express Tribune asked if I wanted to write a blog on the Muslim ban, I started taking notes, and by the time I finished a draft, ...

Read Full Post

Lessons from Islamic history: The Mutazila and Ibn Hanbal

By the time the ninth century began, the Abbasid Caliphate had completed its construction of the new capital Baghdad. Within a few decades, the city became a major centre for science, art, and agriculture. The works of Plato and Aristotle were translated into Arabic and local philosophers built on Greek thought to become the foremost exponents of discipline in the world. Within the hospitals that served both the rich and poor were separate wards for the mentally ill that utilised talk therapy, music, and art as treatment modalities. Within the clergy, a movement known as the Mutazila (literally translated as “withdrawers”) ...

Read Full Post

Donald Trump’s Eisenhower moment on Islamism

As President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet takes shape, critics charge that his administration would be the most anti-Muslim and anti-Iranian. Meanwhile, in Europe, Islamist terrorism continues to escalate: the assassination of Russia’s ambassador by a Turkish man who pledged allegiance to jihad in Arabic during the killing in Ankara, Turkey; a deadly attack at a Berlin Christmas market and the shootings targeting a Muslim prayer centre in Zurich. This is Islamism at work — the indiscriminate targeting of civilians to paralyse secular liberal democracies. As an observant Muslim woman who repudiates Islamism, I believe the Trump administration, rather than being anti-Muslim, ...

Read Full Post