Muslim lawyers’ group wants debate on ‘Allah’ appeal withdrawal
The Malaysian Muslim Lawyers’ Association (PPMM) has called for a debate on the government’s decision to withdraw its appeal on a legal case involving the use of the word “Allah” in non-Islamic religious education materials.

The resolution was unanimously agreed upon during PPMM’s 36th annual general meeting yesterday, said Muhamad Hisham Marzuki, who was elected as its new president during the same meeting.

“The meeting has, among other things, unanimously approved a motion to challenge parties involved in supporting and opposing the withdrawal of the Jill Ireland (case) to a debate on a neutral ground regarding the impact of the withdrawing the appeal.

“This includes government leaders who gave various unreasonable excuses on the impact of the withdrawal,” he said in a statement last night.

The government had initially appealed against the decision but later withdrew the appeal. The notice for terminating the appeal was filed on April 18.

According to Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, the decision to withdraw the appeal was made after discovering a contradiction between a 1986 cabinet decision and an administrative order issued by the Home Ministry the same year.

The 1986 Home Ministry directive issued under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 bans the use of “Allah”, “Kaabah”, “Baitullah”, and “Solat” by non-Muslims.

In her 2021 judgment, Court of Appeal judge Nor Bee Ariffin who was sitting as a High Court judge at the time ruled that the directive has no statutory backing and is, therefore, illegal and irrational.

She said it has gone above and beyond what was aimed for by the cabinet then.

Saifuddin said his ministry is reviewing the matter to draft a more comprehensive directive.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said the government would table enforcement proposals regarding the word “Allah” to the Conference of Rulers while also strengthening unity, peace, and harmony between races and religions in the country.  mkini

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy seeks Arab League support on Saudi visit

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls on the Arab League to help protect ‘our people’ and the Ukrainian Muslim community amid Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has attended an Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia to seek support for his country in the face of Russia’s invasion, as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed his readiness to mediate in the war between Moscow and Kyiv.

Speaking at the event on Friday, Zelenskyy, in his trademark green military-inspired outfit, told the audience that he hoped “most of us are here for the sake of peace and justice”.

“We do not have missiles as our enemy has. We have less air power; we do not possess numerous killer drones that Iran supplies to Russia. We do not have that much artillery, but we do stay strong because we do have truth on our side,” he said.

Zelenskyy then added that he wanted to leave “a noble call to all of you to help protect our people, including [the] Ukrainian Muslim community”.

Mustafa Dzhemilev, the leader of the Crimean Tatar community, a Turkic group of Sunni Muslims indigenous to the Crimean Peninsula, was also in attendance.

Zelenskyy also highlighted the importance of Ukraine’s economic and educational ties with the Arab world.

The Ukrainian president has visited a number of countries since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country on February 204, 2022.

However, his visits have been largely confined to staunch allies, including several European Union states, the United Kingdom and the United States. He will also travel to Japan over the weekend to attend the G7 meeting.

His visit to Saudi Arabia marks a clear deviation from this strategy as Ukraine looks to drum up support among countries that have resisted public condemnation of Russia’s actions.

Arab states have remained largely neutral over Russia’s war on Ukraine, with many maintaining close ties to Moscow.

It was something that Zelenskyy appeared to briefly address when he said there were some among the audience who chose to “turn a blind eye” to Russia’s actions. He added that he was in Jeddah “so that everyone can take an honest look no matter how hard the Russians tried to influence”.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and Saudi Prince Badr Bin Sultan
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, is greeted by Prince Badr bin Sultan, deputy governor of Mecca, upon his arrival at Jeddah airport, Saudi Arabia [Saudi Press Agency/AP]

Saudi Arabia has maintained good relations with Russia, and the two countries have co-operated on oil production cuts through OPEC+, the Saudi-led oil producers’ alliance.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman renewed an offer to mediate between Ukraine and Russia, following a prisoner exchange deal brokered by Riyadh last year.

“We reaffirm the kingdom’s readiness to continue mediating efforts between Russia and Ukraine, and to support all international efforts aimed at resolving the crisis politically in a way that contributes to achieving security,” the crown prince said in his opening speech.

Zelenskyy said that “we already have a positive experience with Saudi Arabia regarding the release of our people captured by Russia.”

Saudi Arabia also pledged $400m in aid to Ukraine earlier this year and has voted in favour of United Nations resolutions calling on Russia to end its invasion and refrain from annexing Ukrainian territory.

The Ukrainian president also mentioned the decision in 2021 to allow visa-free travel for nationals of several Arab nations as well as the thousands of Arab students enrolled in Ukrainian universities as examples of the close ties Ukraine has with the Arab world.

As the speech reached its end, Zelenskyy highlighted several of Russia’s actions, including the occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant “to blackmail the world” as he encouraged the leaders to consider Ukraine’s 10-point peace plan.

In his concluding remarks, he asked the Arab League to “listen to the Crimean Tatar people, listen to the Muslims of Ukraine. May the almighty protect our soldiers”.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, heavily backed by Russia, and recently allowed to rejoin the Arab League, is also attending the summit.

Al-Assad had been shunned from the group since 2011 after a brutal crackdown on opposition protesters and the subsequent devastating war in Syria.  -SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Xi sends congratulatory letter to Arab League summit, happy for regional countries to take path of unity and self-developmentDeputy Emir of Mecca Prince Badr bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz (2nd from right) receives Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (center) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on May 18, 2023, ahead of the Arab League Summit. The bloc welcomed the return of Syria after 12 years amid a reconciliation wave. Photo: VCG

Deputy Emir of Mecca Prince Badr bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz (2nd from right) receives Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (center) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on May 18, 2023, ahead of the Arab League Summit. The bloc welcomed the return of Syria after 12 years amid a reconciliation wave. Photo: VCG

China is happy to witness Arab countries taking new steps on the path of unity and self-development with new achievements being made, Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a congratulatory letter sent to the Arab League Summit, which kicked off on Friday in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

Xi said the Arab League has long been committed to strengthening the Arab world through unity and promoting peace, stability and development in the Middle East, and he is glad to see that Arab countries have taken new steps and made new achievements on the path of unity and self-improvement.

Xi also expressed his appreciation to Saudi Arabia, saying that as an important force in a multi-polar world, it has made positive contributions to strengthening solidarity and coordination among Arab countries and maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East.

The summit on Friday saw the presence of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attending for the first time in 12 years. It marks the official return of Syria into the 22-nation bloc amid a reconciliation wave, with the help of China’s mediation.

Syria’s return shows the Arab world will bottom out from division and create a new path for it to pursue independent diplomacy through peaceful approaches, Chinese observers said. The policy of the US only seeks to maintain its hegemonic status and harms peace, development rights and interests of countries in the Middle East, and will not be sustainable amid the new heights of solidarity and self-development among Arab countries, they noted.

Topics related to Syria expected to be discussed at the summit are the return of Syrian refugees to their country and the rebuilding of Syria, and official normalization of diplomatic relations with Syria, media reports said. During the summit, Assad is also expected to hold bilateral meetings with several heads of state, according to Syrian media Al-Watan.

The presence of the Syrian president at the Arab League Summit for the first time in over a dozen years reflects the return of Syria to the Arab world after more than a decade of isolation in the region, said Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University.

The Arab League suspended the membership of Syria, one of its founding members, after the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011. On May 7, the Arab League held a meeting and announced the agreement to return Syria to the bloc.

Liu told the Global Times on Friday that this is the latest progress after the emergence of a reconciliation wave including the resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The two countries’ reconciliation, driven by China’s mediation, not only helps to promote the easing of tensions in the Middle East, but also to change the regional political layout and strategic culture characterized by confrontation.

The idea and practice of peaceful development, coordinated talks, tolerance and learning from each other that China has been dedicated to promoting is becoming a common option for countries in the region and hopefully will help to promote a trend of easing tensions and development in the region, Liu noted.

In the congratulatory letter, Xi said China and Arab countries have enjoyed a strong traditional friendship over the millennia. In recent years, the strategic partnership between the two sides has been growing and achieving fruitful results, setting a good example for South-South cooperation and mutual benefit.

China is ready to work with Arab states to carry forward the spirit of China-Arab friendship, implement the outcomes of the first China-Arab summit held in December last year, build a higher-level strategic partnership and write a new chapter in China-Arab friendship, Xi noted in his letter.

The return of Syria to the Arab League also shows the Arab world will bottom out from division, internal conflict and strife, though challenges still remain, Liu noted, adding that regional Arab countries are bound to participate in Syria’s reconstruction and economic development following its return to the Arab League.

The Arab world is heading toward a new era in which member states uphold unity and their willingness to stand on their own feet and solve regional problems through peaceful approaches is stronger than ever, said Zhu Weilie, director of the Middle East Studies Institute at the Shanghai International Studies University.

The Arab League’s move to reinstate Damascus led to objections from the US and other Western countries. “We have been consulting with our partners about their plans, and making clear that we will not normalize relations with the Assad regime, and that our sanctions remain in full effect,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said previously.

Zhu told the Global Times that the US’ illegal military presence in Syria and its sanctions policy against the country are incompatible with the trend of regional relations, as the regional demand for US security guarantees has declined sharply.

If the US persists in imposing sanctions on relevant countries, it will only widen the rift in its relations with regional countries, Zhu said.

China urged the US to put aside its geopolitical obsession and immediately lift unilateral sanctions on Syria, since Washington’s long-term involvement in the Syrian crisis through military intervention and economic sanctions has resulted in large numbers of civilian casualties and created difficulties in the country’s economic development and reconstruction process.

The Arab League summit will also see the attendance of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He arrived in Jeddah on Friday and wrote in a tweet: “beginning my first-ever visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to enhance bilateral relations and Ukraine’s ties with the Arab world.”

Zelenskyy’s presence at the summit is more likely aimed at seeking humanitarian aid and financial support from the Arab region, as well as to boost Ukraine’s food exports there, analysts said. They added that the Ukrainian president could also be interested in seeking suggestions for a peaceful solution to the crisis from Saudi Arabia, as there has been a successful example of reconciliation between Riyadh and Teheran with the assistance of China.

Therefore, experts said that a pragmatic solution for de-escalating the conflict in Ukraine is more necessary than weapons or military aid from the West, and if Kiev understands this, that would be really helpful for the peace process of the Ukraine crisis.

On the Ukraine crisis, China always stands on the side of peace, and its core stance is to facilitate talks for peace. China has been playing a key role in facilitating talks for peace and made efforts for an early ceasefire and restoration of peace, Xi stressed in April during a phone conversation with Zelenskyy. Xi said that dialogue and negotiations are the only viable way out of the Ukraine crisis.  GT