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An Muslim scholar
NEWS ROUNDUP 14 Nov 2017

Has The Independent become a part of Saudi Arabia's soft power strategy?

Cinzia Sciuto recommended by Cinzia Sciuto MicroMega, Italy

gender, media

On October 15, the Independent published an article by Qasim Rashid, entitled "How the teachings of Islam could help us prevent future sexual abuse scandals", in which the author comments on the Weinstein case.

Rashid, who is a lawyer and the spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the US, argues that the Quran "establishes men and women as equal beings" and "forbids men from forcing a woman to act against her will, thereby ensuring that women maintain autonomy and self-determination". The author seems to overlook the discrimination that many women experience under sharia law. Instead, he claims that the teachings of Muhammad would be a bulwark against the culture of rape.

In the past few weeks, we have discussed many concepts on how to prevent harassment, but this one is brand new. To be frank, solving the problem of abuse by appealing to the Quran, which -- like the Bible -- is an openly misogynist text, seems surreal. Certainly, it is understandable that believers of any faith would try to reinterpret their sacred texts, so that they seem to respect human rights. But when a newspaper with a long liberal tradition, like the Independent, supports such a claim, it raises eyebrows.

For some time now, human rights’ activists, such as Maryam Namazie and Mina Ahdi, have warned against a certain Islamist strategy in Europe. Appealing to a misunderstood "respect" for cultures other than the Western one, radicals pretend to "normalize" a series of sharia precepts.

The article published in the Independent fits into this tendency, although it is hard to judge how intentionally. Among other things, it states that "while the Quran obliges women to dress modestly as part of a covenant with God, Islam does not deplore women who choose to dress otherwise". This is a subtle way to normalize the idea that women should be modest.

Shortly before the publication of this article, a substantial portion of the newspaper was purchased by Sultan Muhammad Abuljadayel. According to Lucia Annunziata, the editor in chief of the Huffington Post Italia, there is a clear link between the two.

She believes that Rashid's article is an example of “the soft power strategy that Saudi Arabia exercises both in the West and in its internal politics." This strategy encompasses the acquisitions of companies and newspapers in the West, while simultaneously spreading propaganda about Islam.

The article has caused a great stir and indignation among the readers. Without a doubt, it is a wake up call. We must make a great effort not to misunderstand multiculturalism. Women’s rights should not be sacrificed in the name of any culture, tradition or religion.

Italy Smoke signals

Facts :

  • On October 15, the Independent published an article by Qasim Rashid, titled "How the teachings of Islam could help us prevent future sexual abuse scandals".
  • Lucia Annunziata, the editor in chief of Huffington Post Italia, sees a link between the two and speaks of a "soft power strategy that Saudi Arabia exercises both in the West and in its internal politics.”
  • A substantial portion of the Independent has recently been purchased by a Saudi Arabian magnate, Sultan Muhammad Abuljadayel.
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