Rashmee Roshan Lall is a regular columnist for The Arab Weekly. She blogs at www.rashmee.com and is on Twitter @rashmeerl

  • Trump lit slow-burning cultural fuse setting the tone for Jerusalem speech, On: Sun, 10 Dec 2017

  • Sufism’s tragedy is how imperfectly it is understood today, On: Sun, 03 Dec 2017

  • Good actions can be bad politics as Germany shows, On: Sun, 26 Nov 2017

  • The fight over America’s forever wars, On: Sun, 19 Nov 2017

  • The risks of Saudi war on too many fronts , On: Sun, 12 Nov 2017

  • The ugly twinning of terrorist threat and Trump’s response, On: Sun, 05 Nov 2017

  • It’s not enough to wish ISIS fighters dead, On: Sun, 29 Oct 2017

  • Arabs were in Europe a thousand years ago, On: Sun, 22 Oct 2017

  • What the Nobel Prize for economics might tell us about peace in the Middle East, On: Sun, 15 Oct 2017

  • Las Vegas shooting was terrifying but not terrorism, On: Sun, 08 Oct 2017

  • Is Trump’s travel ban 3.0 not about Muslims anymore?, On: Sun, 01 Oct 2017

  • Nation as a fortress: We will all be North Korea by another name, On: Sun, 24 Sep 2017

  • Are the Rohingyas the new Palestinians? , On: Sun, 17 Sep 2017

  • Condoleezza Rice has news about democracy in the MENA region , On: Sun, 10 Sep 2017

  • Should Kosminsky’s TV drama on ISIS have been made now?, On: Sun, 27 Aug 2017

  • President Donald Trump’s abdication of moral leadership, On: Sun, 20 Aug 2017

  • Trump or not, Americans would nuke an Iranian city, On: Sun, 13 Aug 2017

  • Search for justice in Iraq may not be totally futile, On: Sun, 06 Aug 2017

  • Why the Dome of the Rock belongs to us all , On: Sun, 30 Jul 2017

  • The aspirational significance of baby names in restless times , On: Sun, 23 Jul 2017

  • No, Mr Trump, Western civilisation isn’t threatened by terrorism, On: Sun, 09 Jul 2017

  • US-Russia political passion play gets more deadly, On: Sun, 02 Jul 2017

  • Muslims must weld themselves to wider communities in the face of Islamophobia, On: Sun, 25 Jun 2017

  • MENA’s poor showing on Global Peace Index is hardly surprising , On: Sun, 18 Jun 2017

  • What is it about Muslims in the West that Trump finds so discomfiting?, On: Sun, 11 Jun 2017

  • Terror blowback from Middle East wars continues, On: Sun, 04 Jun 2017

  • Manchester bombing and radicalisation of 1.5 generation , On: Sun, 28 May 2017

  • Trump’s value-free foreign policy, On: Sun, 21 May 2017

  • Trump’s shiny new monotheistic narrative, On: Sun, 14 May 2017

  • An online Interpol to crack down on social media criminality?, On: Sun, 07 May 2017

  • Faked terrorist attacks are a dangerous development, On: Sun, 30 Apr 2017

  • Recep the Resolute, Turkey’s new sultan , On: Sun, 23 Apr 2017

  • Europe\'s extremism problem is essentially homegrown, On: Sun, 16 Apr 2017

  • Trump’s initial reaction to Syria’s suffering says a lot , On: Sun, 09 Apr 2017

  • In Europe, extremism is essentially a homegrown problem , On: Sun, 02 Apr 2017

  • Banning electronic devices: Security or economic protectionism?, On: Sun, 26 Mar 2017

  • Saudi King Salman, the Magnificent , On: Sun, 19 Mar 2017

  • Vogue Arabia adds perspective on women’s veil, On: Sun, 12 Mar 2017

  • Donald Trump’s America wants to make war on peace , On: Sun, 05 Mar 2017

  • Trump lit slow-burning cultural fuse setting the tone for Jerusalem speech

    The more dangerous message sought to be conveyed by the video and its wide dissemination by Trump is the implacable hostility between Islam and Christianity.

    2017/12/10 Issue: 135 Page: 7

    Some political events are volcanic; others are like a slow-burning fuse.

    US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a political volcano but days earlier he lit an interfaith cultural fuse by retweeting three anti-Muslim videos originally posted by a fringe far-right British group.

    One of the three videos merits particular attention because it appears to assert the inherent incompatibility between Islam and Christianity.

    The second of the video series tweeted by the Britain First group’s Jayda Fransen is frozen on the image of a heavyset man holding a demurely white-gowned, blue-cloaked statue. A single sentence, presumably appended by Fransen, offers a stark indication of the content: “Muslim Destroys a Statue of the Virgin Mary!” Even those who do not click to play the video will get the gut-wrenching message.

    The New York Times, which examined the video, said it is 4 years old and the man is an extremist Syrian cleric, Abo Omar Ghabra.

    Ghabra’s actions fit a pattern set by the Taliban’s dynamiting of the monumental Buddahs of Bamiyan in 2001 and other conspicuous attempts by Muslim extremist groups to destroy representational art.

    The more dangerous message sought to be conveyed by the video and its wide dissemination by Trump is the implacable hostility between Islam and Christianity. The video is meant to intensify the struggle between the iconoclastic upstart faith founded by Prophet Mohammad in seventh-century Arabia and the older religion that shaped Western civilisation.

    How? There is a great and terrible power in seeing a bearded, appar­ently Muslim man carelessly, even triumphantly smashing an icon of the Christian faith. It is even more disturbing that he is seen destroying a symbol of female virtue, an inspirational figure for Christians across the world.

    Some might say the video and its retweeting are a slightly more spiritual version of the inflamma­tory cover featured by a mass-mar­ket, politically conservative Polish magazine in February 2016. That didn’t get as much attention or traction as this video. (Trump didn’t retweet it and he was still consid­ered a bizarre, improbable presiden­tial candidate.)

    Even so, as this columnist noted in this newspaper at the time, the wSieci magazine cover sent a dangerous and powerful message at the height of European concerns over the influx of Muslim refugee men. It bore the words “The Islamic Rape of Europe” and showed a white woman wrapped in the European Union’s blue flag, her mouth open in a Munch-like scream while three pairs of dark-skinned male hands pull at her hair, clothes, waist and arms.

    Both the magazine and the retweeted video have the same subtext: the threat of Muslim sexual dominance over the Christian West. But Trump’s second retweeted video also taps into something else. It reinforces the expectation of a decisive coming struggle between Islam and Christianity.

    Trump’s former chief strategist at the White House, Stephen Bannon, is known to think along these lines. In 2014, he delivered a Skype address to a Vatican conference hosted by conservative Catholic group the Institute for Human Dignity. He declared that the impending conflict needed all Christians to join together as a new “church militant.” That was the only way, Bannon said, to “fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting.”

    The video retweeted by Trump is supposed to illustrate that “barbar­ity.” For, to smash a statue revered by another elicits a visceral reaction.

    The retweeted video certainly does convey a dangerous threat, albeit at the level of a provincial cleric in northern Syria. The video tries to portray such behaviour as an article of the Islamic faith when it is anything but. Practices such as Ghabra’s are not condoned by stories about the Prophet’s own actions.

    When he entered the pre-Islamic pagan shrine Kaaba in Mecca, the Prophet is said to have destroyed all the images of gods but allowed a painting of the Virgin and infant Jesus to remain. There are varying accounts of how he protected that painting. Some say he covered it with his hands; others that he directed it to be left intact.

    The painting perished when a fire destroyed the building in 683, barely half a century after it was saved.

    That story offers not just a wholesome but a holistic perspec­tive of the Muslim faith’s approach to other people’s icons.

    Editors' Picks

    The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

    From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

    Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

    Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

    Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

    Senior Editor: John Hendel

    Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

    Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

    Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

    East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

    Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

    Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

    Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

    Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

    Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

    Regular Columnists

    Claude Salhani

    Yavuz Baydar


    Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

    Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

    Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

    Thomas Seibert (Washington)

    Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi


    Ibrahim Ben Bechir

    Hanen Jebali

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

    Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

    Tel 020 3667 7249

    Mohamed Al Mufti

    Marketing & Advertising Manager

    Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

    Direct: +44 20 8742 9262


    Al Arab Publishing House

    Kensington Centre

    177-179 Hammersmith Road

    London W6 8BS , UK

    Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

    Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

    Follow Us
    © The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved