New leaders and bare breasts
Arabic media review

New leaders and bare breasts

The Arab summit acknowledges Syria's opposition leadership; Tunisia debates the notion of 'sexual Jihad'

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

The Arab League summit’s acknowledgment of Syria’s opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people leads the news in Arab media Wednesday.

“The Arab summit embraces the Syrian revolution and its flag,” reads the headline of the London-based daily Al-Hayat, calling the move “a historic and unprecedented event in the history of Arab summits.” The summit’s final resolution was to allow any state to arm the Syrian opposition.

The Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat leads with a quote from King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, stating that the Syrian regime insists on thwarting every initiative aimed at solving the crisis. The king also dedicated a significant portion of his speech to the Arab-Israeli conflict, calling on Palestinians to unite so as to achieve statehood.

The paper reports that a new embassy representing the Syrian opposition coalition was inaugurated in Qatar, which hosted the summit, as it was coming to a close.

“The Arab summits are the best stage for gauging the changing political winds of the region’s countries. In them, endless conflicts rage, draining the energies of these states… and giving the Arab citizen nothing but more conflicts,” reads an op-ed by A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Abdul Rahman Rashed.

Based on statements by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, warning against foreign intervention in domestic Egyptian affairs, Rashed predicts a new crisis in Egypt. He also criticizes the “hasty” formation of a transitional Syrian government headed by “a man no one has heard of before.”

“It is not surprising that these summits mirror problems, since they reflect the wretched Arab regimes. Those who listened closely to yesterday’s speeches in Doha could see where the wind was blowing.”

Not all Arab leaders were pleased with the recognition of Syria’s opposition coalition, headed by former mosque preacher Moaz al-Khatib, reports Bassam Badarin, writing for the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

“Signs of dissatisfaction appeared on the faces of some Arab leaders, not only by the appearance of Khatib as a new player in the summit’s institution, but also by his rhetorical style. He warned them to fear God in their treatment of their peoples and free all detainees,” writes Badarin.

Al-Quds Al-Arabi’s editorial on Wednesday highlights the peculiarity of this year’s Arab summit.

“Handing over Syria’s seat to the opposition coalition… is the most striking accomplishment reached in this summit from the point of view of its leader, and the states supporting the decision to withdraw Arab legitimacy from the Syrian regime.

“The summit was held in Doha at this particular timing in order to intensify the political and diplomatic pressure on the Syrian regime and give Sheikh Moaz Khatib an important diplomatic and media podium from which to appeal to Arab public opinion and not the Arab leaders assembled in it. This goal was realized.”

Meanwhile, Al-Hayat columnist Abdullah Iskandar focuses on the two Arab states that opposed the Syrian recognition, namely Algeria and particularly Iraq.

“[Foreign] Minister Hoshyar Zebari justified Iraq’s reservation about the suspension of Syria from the Arab League… by saying that the political opposition cannot be given official representation, or else the Arab League will enter a labyrinth with no way out. From now on [he argued], every Arab opposition will go and demand the seat of its country. Zebari referred in this regard to the Egyptian opposition Salvation Front, wondering about the position of the Arab League if the Front demanded Egypt’s seat.”

“Finally, the ‘Coalition’ occupied the seat of the Republic of Syria at the Arab League, a move that could not have occurred as we saw it if the conference were not held in Doha with the intervention of the Qatari Emir. But that is another matter.”

‘Sexual Jihad’ stirs controversy in Tunisia   

A number of fatwas (religious opinion) encouraging Tunisian women to leave for Syria and provide sexual favors to opposition fighters is stirring debate in Tunisia, reports Al-Hayat.

According to the daily, the country’s minister of religious affairs Nur A-Din Khadimi renounced the opinions, saying they did not represent the state and were religiously wrong, following reports that many Tunisian teenagers were heading to Syria on a mission of “sexual Jihad.”

Whether or not the fatwas are authentic, at least 13 young women have heeded the call and traveled to Syria for that purpose, Al-Hayat reports.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-owned news site Elaph reports that a new Tunisian trend of women displaying their naked bodies online to protest the status of women in their country is enraging segments of Tunisia’s traditional society.

“Tunisia’s Muslim society rejects this type of protest, which is degrading to women,” reads the article.  

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