8th Annual Gulf Research Meeting organized by @Gulf_Research with 250 researchers and specialists
Dr. Hichem Karoui, a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization(CCG), has participated in the 3-day annual Gulf Research Meeting at the University of Cambridge (U.K.), starting from August 1st, 2017. The meeting was opened by Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, Chairman of the Gulf Research Center with welcoming remarks, while Amb. Stuart Laing, Master of Corpus Christi College delivered a message on behalf of the University of Cambridge. A Chinese delegation of researchers, representing different academic institutions, took part in the event.
Nine parallel running workshops explored in-depth, during three days, such issues as Smart Cities in the Gulf, Migration Policy, GCC-Indian Ocean Relations, Business Education in the Gulf, Gender Issues, Electoral Frameworks and Gulf Politics, the role of Public Private Partnerships in economic diversification efforts, the GCC and its relations with Europe in the context of Brexit, and Perceptions of the GCC in the West. In these workshops, close to 130 papers have been presented and discussed. The workshops concluded on Friday, August 4th.
Dr. Hichem Karoui, from CCG, presented to the Workshop (The Arab Gulf in the West: Perceptions and Realities; Opportunities and Perils) a paper titled: “Bashing Qatar and Saudi Arabia: Western narrative and perception of Islamism issues.”
The paper deals with the policy assessments made in the USA, France, and the UK, concerning Qatar and the Saudi Kingdom, and the possible divergences and convergences between them. It addresses questions such as: the negative Western assessments of Saudi and Qatari policies, fact-findings based or politically driven? Courting Saudi Arabia and Qatar and rejecting them. Limits of partnership: law and ethics, or unlimited business? Corrupt elites: the price of silence. Government secrecy and transparent society. The value of critical mind in the West versus the limits of intellectual debate in the Arab-Islamic world…Etc.
The important issues here concern security, terrorism, counter-terrorism, interpretation of religious texts, politics and religion, Etc. Most of those negative assessments concern mainly supporting and funding terrorist and extremist groups throughout the world, and particularly in Africa and the Middle East.
The paper tries to draw conclusions from comparing two opposed narratives: the Western, with its insistence on the freedom of thought, universal humanistic values, and respect for the critical mind; and the Arab-Islamic (with focus on fundamentalism), with its rejection of those very values when they come to question the interpretation of the classic texts of Islam or the substance of the texts themselves.
CCG Senior Fellow argued that the focus on Saudi Arabia and Qatar in modern political literature may be explained by Western rejection of Wahhabism. However, the recent rift in the Gulf between Qatar and other four Arab countries, shows that something is missing in the Western approach to terrorism, when it is reduced simply to Wahhabism. Until recently, he noted, Saudi Wahhabism – not the Qatari- was thought to be the hardest, and subsequently closer to radical groups. But what happened since, at least, June 5, 2017,(the crisis in the Gulf) pointed to Qatar, not Saudi Arabia, as the main supporter and funder of radical groups…with the acknowledgement of the US president himself! Therefore, it would be more accurate, in his view, to link terrorism to all radical groups of Islam, starting with the Muslim Brotherhood, and not ending with Daesh.
Karoui contented that Western bashing of Qatar and Saudi Arabia may be sometimes painful to bear for its victims when it is unfair, hiding racism and Islamophobia, or a blackmailing secret agenda. “Nevertheless, never forget that if these flaws exist, they should not be the norm, but the exception. It is vain to belittle the impact of honest objective criticism, when it is based on scrupulous research and fact-findings.”
In conclusion, he stated that Salafists and Muslim Brothers, have been invading other Muslim communities all over the world, trying to convert them to their creeds! Thus, they have formed and trained legions of potential fighters, ready to answer the call for jihad, any lunatic with enough cash and weapons at his hands, would issue. This is now starting to show, and people are starting to react everywhere, not only in Europe and America, but also in the Arab world. Clerics and leaders of the so-called “Islamic Sahwa”(awakening) have a big responsibility in these developments. The Arab world has never reached such a depth in regression. Dr. Karoui ended his paper by calling for a “new Sahwa (awakening) in the Arab and Muslim world, based on Reason, not religion. Leave religion to God. Give people what they expect from a good government.”
The Gulf Research Meeting takes place annually and comes this year at a critical time with almost the entire Middle East region undergoing a series of crises and the Gulf region in particular experiencing wide-ranging transitions. The objective of the annual gathering is to enhance knowledge about the Gulf, promote scholarly and balanced research about the region, and to encourage scholarly and academic exchange among those working on or interested in the developments taking place that are defining the Gulf region and their constituent societies.
Hichem Karoui is a Senior Fellow of the Center for China and Globalization, the largest independent think tank in China, with over 100 researchers and members of staff.