RSSArchive for February, 2010

Challenges to Democracy in the Arab and Muslim World

Alon Ben-Meir

President Bush’s notions that democratizing Iraq will have a ripple effect on the rest ofthe Arab world, bringing prosperity and peace to the region, and that democracy is the panaceafor Islamic terrorism are unsubstantiated as well as grossly misleading. Even a cursory review of the Arab political landscape indicates that the rise of democracy will not automatically translateinto the establishment of enduring liberal democracies or undermine terrorism in the region. Thesame conclusion may be generally made for the Muslim political landscape. In fact, given theopportunity to compete freely and fairly in elections, Islamic extremist organizations will mostlikely emerge triumphant. In the recent elections in Lebanon and Egypt, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood respectively, won substantial gains, and in Palestine Hamas won thenational Parliamentary elections handedly. That they did so is both a vivid example of the today’spolitical realities and an indicator of future trends. And if current sentiments in the Arab statesoffer a guide, any government formed by elected Islamist political parties will be more antagonistic to the West than the authoritarian regimes still in power. A més, there are noindications that democracy is a prerequisite to defeating terrorism or any empirical data tosupport the claim of linkage between existing authoritarian regimes and terrorism.

Egyptian Parliamentary Elections: Between Democratisation and Autocracy

Hala G. Thabet

The dissolution of the 1987 i 1990 parliaments, following two Supreme Courtrulings that the 1984 i 1987 general elections were unconstitutional, and the transfer of the power to supervise elections from the police to the judiciarysignalled an impending political opening, leaving the impression that there waspolitical will to renew the rules governing elections and make them more transparent and equitable. The paper uses the 2000 elections to the People’s Assemblyto assess the democratisation process in Egypt. It examines the extent ofinclusion of all social forces and political parties, and of changes in popular participation. It argues that the 2000 elections bore the marks of electoral anomaliesand manipulations which were characteristic of previous elections. Not withstand in gits flaws the 2000 elections marked a significant step in Egypt’s transition to liberal democracy.

The W&M Progressive

Julian Carr
fidel Richael
Ethan Forrest

Accepting the Responsibility of Electoral Choice

The development of democratic institutions comes with negative externalities. As a political progressive, I believe that the big picture – establishing a solid democratic foundation – outweighs the possible emergence of political parties that may advocate religious or gender intolerance. I am a firm believer in the workings of the democratic process. While I have been studying in Egypt for the semester, I am reminded that despite the imperfections of the United States democratic system, it is still many times better than living under any authoritarian regime that outlaws political parties and posts military police at a variety of locations in an effort to exert control and maintain power.

In Egypt, the electoral process is not democratic. The National Political Party – the party of President Mubarak – exerts tremendous influence in the country. Its main opposition is the Muslim Brotherhood, which was created in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna. The Muslim Brotherhood is based on very strict interpretations of the Koran and the idea that secular governments are a direct violation of the teaching of the Koran. The party has a very violent past; it has been directly responsible for several assassination attempts and the assassination of the Egyptian leader Anwar-as-Sadat in 1981.

The Muslim Brotherhood is an illegal political party. Because the political party is religious, it is not allowed to participate in the public sphere under Egyptian law. Despite this technicality, the party has members in the Egyptian Parliament. malgrat això, the parliamentarians cannot officially declare their affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood but instead identify as Independents. Though the party remains illegal, it remains the most powerful opposition to the ruling National Democratic Party.

Egypt’s Local Elections Farce Causes and Consequences

Mohammed Herzallah

Amr Hamzawy

Egypt’s local elections of April 8, 2008 were a confirmation of a backwardslide in Egyptian politics. They were plagued by social unrest and politicaldiscord. In the weeks prior to the elections, labor protests escalated,precipitating a harsh crackdown that resulted in at least two fatalities and many injuries.The country’s largest opposition force, the Muslim Brotherhood, decided at the last minute to boycott the elections. Voter turn out did not exceed 5 percent and the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP),facing virtually no competition, landed a sweeping victory—winning roughly95 percent of the seats at stake.These developments bring to light a broader deterioration in Egyptian politics.Three elements of this process stand out and deserve careful attention:

First, the burgeoning social crisis caused by out of control inflation, acrippled welfare system, and persistent unemployment;

• Second, a return to the old authoritarian practices of the rulingestablishment; i

• Third, worrying signs that call into question the very existence of aviable opposition capable of advancing reform through the political process.

Egypt in Prophecy

brad MacDonald

The Muslim Brotherhood, though officially banned, is now Egypt’s largest and most influential opposition party. This signals a stunning shift within one of America’s few remaining Middle Eastern allies.December 2005 was a water shedmonth in the history of Egyptian politics. Thanks to elections thatwere closer to being democratic than any in Egypt’s history, the Islamic party of the Muslim Brotherhood (mb)won 88 parliamentary seats (the organization is officially out lawed, but it ran its candidates as independents)—a more than six-fold increase over its previous representation.Considering that Egypt’s parliament is comprised of 454seats, the mb’s capture of 88 seats—fewer than a quarter of the total—may not seem like much to write home about.Despite the gains,the Islamic partywill remain out numbered by the majority rule of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak’sN a t i o n a lDemocratic Party.Some argue that as long as Mubarak controls parliament—as he hasfor the past 24years—the mb can never play a more significant role in Egyptian politics.But politics can be messy business—especially in the Middle East.Death, incitement, revolution—all can turn a governmenT on its head in a matter of days. The rise of an openly Islamist party in Egypt is no small matter. The political success Of this long-established Islamic group represents a major step toward a fundamental shift in Egyptian politics, made possible by an electorate with a growing affinity for Islamic leadership and law, and mounting disdain for the Mubarak government.Political Shift Banned from government in 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood is an organization of staunch Islamic conservatives with a strong desire to install Islamic law as the foundation of Egyptian government.In the run up to the elections,the Brotherhood’s ominously vague campaign motto was “Islam is the solution.”Thu s , the Brotherhood ’s rising popularity unmistakably signalsthe growingdesire of many foran Islamic governmentin Egypt—which makes itssuccess nothingshort of profound.“Considering thatthe mb won almosthalf of the seatsit is contesting,despite reportedly wide spread

Egipte: 2005 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections

jeremy M. Agut

In recent years, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his ruling NationalDemocratic Party (NDP) have faced growing criticism, both domestically andinternationally, regarding limited progress on political liberalization. One frequently citedobstacle of reform had been the indirect presidential election process, in which acandidate was nominated and confirmed by the NDP-controlled People’s Assembly(lower house of parliament) and then approved in a nationwide “yes or no” referendum,which was thought to be manipulated by authorities. With the past four referendumswithout a competitor routinely resulting in Mubarak receiving anywhere from 93% to98% “yes” votes, the process was widely viewed at home and abroad as illegitimate andwas perceived as an anachronism in the eyes of younger Egyptians. The recent publicity surrounding elections in Iraq, Líban, Saudi Arabia, and the West Bank & Gaza Striponly heightened this perception, as Egypt, the largest Arab country, appeared out of stepwith the trend in the Arab world. A més, Egypt’s ruling elite has been graduallyundergoing a generational shift, in which a new faction of young, media-savvy, andWestern-educated leaders within the NDP (led by the President’s son, Gamal Mubarak)has attempted to reinvigorate political culture in order to modernize the NDP’s imagewithout having to relinquish the party’s grip on power.

Civil society and Democratization in the Arab World

Saad Eddin Ibrahim
Even if Islam is the Answer, Arab Muslims are the Problem

In May 2008, the Arab nation experienced a number of fires, or rather, armed conflictsin

Líban, Iraq, Palestina, Iemen, and Somalia. In these conflicts,

the warring parties used Islam as the instrument for mobilization

and amassing support. Collectively, Muslims are

waging war against Muslims.

After some Muslims raised the slogan of “Islam is the solution,

it

became apparent “their Islam is the problem.” No sooner have some of them acquired weapons,

than they raised it against the state and its ruling regime regardless of

whether that regime was ruling in the name of Islam or not.

We have

seen this in recent years between the followers of Osama bin Laden

and the Al-Qaeda organization on the one hand, and the authorities in

the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on the other. We have also seen an

explosive example of this phenomenon in Morocco, whose king rules in the name of Islam and

whose title is the ‘Prince of the Faithful.Thus each Muslim faction kills other Muslims in the

name of Islam.
A quick glance at the contents of the media confirms how the

term Islam and its associated symbols have become mere tools in the hands of these Muslims.

Prominent examples of these Islam-exploiting factions are:
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and Jamiat al-Islamiyya, in Egypt

Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement, in Palestine Hezbollah, Fatah al-Islam,

and Jamiat al-Islammiyya, in Lebanon The Houthi Zayadi rebels and the Islamic Reform Grouping

(Islah), inYemen The Islamic courts, in Somalia The Islamic Front ,

COMPARING THREE MUSLIM BROTHERHOODS: SYRIA, JORDAN, EGYPT

Barry Rubin

The banner of the Islamist revolution in the Middle East today has largely passed to groups sponsored by or derived from the Muslim Brotherhood. This article develops an introductory examination of three key Muslim Brotherhood groups and compares their politics, interrelations, and methods. Each, of course, is adapted to the conditions of a particular country.The banner of the Islamist revolution in the Middle East today has largely passed to groups sponsored by or derived from the Muslim Brotherhood. This article develops an introductory examination of three key Muslim Brotherhood groups and compares their politics, interrelations, and methods. Each, of course, is adapted to the conditions of a particular country.First, it is important to understand the Brotherhood’s policy toward and relations with both jihadist groups (al-Qa'ida, the Zarqawi network, and others such as Hizb al-Tahrir and Hamas) and theorists (such as Abu Mus’ab al-Suri and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi).The Brotherhoods do not have ongoing relationships with Hizb al-Tahrir—which is regarded by them as a small, cultish group of no importance. Other than in Jordan, they have had little contact with it at all.Regarding al-Qa’ida—both its theorists and its terrorist infrastructure—the Brotherhoods approve generally of its militancy, attacks on America, and ideology (or respect its ideologues), but view it as a rival.

The Politics and the Promise of Civilizational Dialogues

M. A. Muqtedar Khan

In response to Harvard Professor SamuelHuntington’s now infamous argument predicting afuture full of clashes between civilizations, the world’sliberals responded with a call for a civilizational dialogue.After 9/11, this call for a dialogue betweenIslam and the West has become even more urgent.The philosophical assumptions behind these dialoguesare not too difficult to discern. Islam and themodern West share a common Abrahamic traditionand their foundational sources; Islamic law and philosophyand Western enlightenment philosophy havecommon roots—Hellenistic reason and Biblical revelation.The two civilizations have a common past anda common future, particularly in the light of strongeconomic relations between the West and the Muslimworld and the growing presence of Islam in nearlyevery Western society.Because the future of the two civilizations is inseparable,any clash will be devastating to both, regardlessof the asymmetry of power. A clash between Islamand the modern West would be like a collisionbetween the present and the future for both. Islam isintegral to the future of the West and Islamic civilization’sreticence toward modernity is untenable.Eventually, the Muslim world will have to modernize,democratize, and recognize that its future, too, isinterdependent. Neither the West nor the Muslimworld can imagine a mutually exclusive future.

The Future of the Muslim Brotherhood

Amr Al-Chobaki


The Muslim Brotherhood managed to maintain its organizational existence since its establishment in 1928, by the late Hasan Al-Banna. Throughout eight decades, it has managed to exist as a religious movement as well as a political and social organization. This, on one hand, helped it to be sufficiently strong to be distinguished from other political powers, but also made it weak and feeble in some other ways.

The Muslim Brotherhood as a movement is similar to other Egyptian political movements, as it was established at the time of the royal regime and a semi-liberal era. It clashed with the government during the time of President `Abd Al-Nasser, adapted to the regime of President Sadat, and tended to fluctuate in its relationship with President Mubarak, malgrat això, the relationship was based on partial elimination, just like the state during the age of President `Abd Al-Nasser. Moreover, it has been outlawed for most of its history; des 1954 until the present time (i.e. more than half a century).

The Muslim Brotherhood has continued to be both a witness and a party in the political and cultural dispute in Egypt and the Arab countries, throughout different historical periods; Egypt in the time of the royal regime and in the time of the republic with its three stages. This dispute was about issues of identity and cultural belonging, the relationship between the religion – on one handand politics, the East and the West on the other hand, as well as the coming and the inherited. The Muslim Brotherhood had a flexible political and intellectual reference that gave it a comprehensive conception of Islam.

Current Trends in the Ideology of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

dr. Israel Elad Altman

The American-led Middle East reform and democratization campaign of the last twoyears has helped shape a new political reality in Egypt. Opportunities have opened up fordissent. With U.S. and European support, local opposition groups have been able to takeinitiative, advance their causes and extract concessions from the state. The EgyptianMuslim Brotherhood movement (MB), which has been officially outlawed as a politicalorganization, is now among the groups facing both new opportunities and new risks.Western governments, including the government of the United States, are consideringthe MB and other “moderate Islamist” groups as potential partners in helping to advancedemocracy in their countries, and perhaps also in eradicating Islamist terrorism. Couldthe Egyptian MB fill that role? Could it follow the track of the Turkish Justice andDevelopment Party (AKP) and the Indonesian Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), twoIslamist parties that, according to some analysts, are successfully adapting to the rules ofliberal democracy and leading their countries toward greater integration with,respectively, Europe and a “pagan” Asia?This article examines how the MB has responded to the new reality, how it has handledthe ideological and practical challenges and dilemmas that have arisen during the pasttwo years. To what extent has the movement accommodated its outlook to newcircumstances? What are its objectives and its vision of the political order? How has itreacted to U.S. overtures and to the reform and democratization campaign? How has itnavigated its relations with the Egyptian regime on one hand, and other opposition forceson the other, as the country headed toward two dramatic elections in autumn 2005? Towhat extent can the MB be considered a force that might lead Egypt toward liberaldemocracy?

Muslim Americans Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream

Pew Research Center

Muslims constitute a growing and increasingly important segment of American society.Yet there is surprisingly little quantitative research about the attitudes and opinions of thissegment of the public for two reasons. First, the U.S. Census is forbidden by law from askingquestions about religious belief and affiliation, i, as a result, we know very little about thebasic demographic characteristics of Muslim Americans. Second, Muslim Americans comprisesuch a small percentage of the U.S. population that general population surveys do not interview asufficient number of them to allow for meaningful analysis.This Pew Research Center study is therefore the first ever nationwide survey to attempt tomeasure rigorously the demographics, attitudes and experiences of Muslim Americans. It buildson surveys conducted in 2006 by the Pew Global Attitudes Project of Muslim minority publics inGreat Britain, França, Germany and Spain. The Muslim American survey also follows on Pew’sglobal surveys conducted over the past five years with more than 30,000 Muslims in 22 nationsaround the world since 2002.The methodological approach employed was the most comprehensive ever used to studyMuslim Americans. Nearly 60,000 respondents were interviewed to find a representative sampleof Muslims. Interviews were conducted in Arabic, Urdu and Farsi, as well as English. Subsamplesof the national poll were large enough to explore how various subgroups of thepopulationincluding recent immigrants, native-born converts, and selected ethnic groupsincluding those of Arab, Pakistani, and African American heritagediffer in their attitudesThe survey also contrasts the views of the Muslim population as a whole with those ofthe U.S. general population, and with the attitudes of Muslims all around the world, includingWestern Europe. Finally, findings from the survey make important contributions to the debateover the total size of the Muslim American population.The survey is a collaborative effort of a number of Pew Research Center projects,including the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, the Pew Forum on Religion &Public Life and the Pew Hispanic Center. The project was overseen by Pew Research CenterPresident Andrew Kohut and Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Director Luis Lugo. ThePew Research Center’s Director of Survey Research, Scott Keeter, served as project director forthe study, with the close assistance of Gregory Smith, Research Fellow at the Pew Forum. Manyother Pew researchers participated in the design, execution and analysis of the survey.

El Ikhwan a Amèrica del Nord: Una breu història

Douglas Farah

Ron Sandee


The current federal court case against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) in Dallas, Texas,1 offers an unprecedented inside look into the history of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States, as well as its goals and structure. The documents discuss recruitment, organization, ideology and the development of the organization in different phases in the United States. The prosecution in the case has presented many internal Muslim Brotherhood documents from the 1980’s and early 1990’s that give a first-ever, public view of the history and ideology behind the operations of the Muslim Brothers (known as the Ikhwan or The Group) in the U.S. over the past four decades. For researchers, the documents have the added weight of being written by the Ikhwan leaders themselves, rather than interpretations of secondary sources.

Will Politics Tame Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood?

NEIL Macfarquhar


CAIRO, desembre. 7 – When stumping through the port city of Alexandria, whose crumbling mansions and rickety tram lines evoke long-faded glory, Sobhe Saleh of the Muslim Brotherhood vowed he had a different vision for Egypt’s future.

If Islam were applied, no one would be hungry,” he roared recently to a crowd of fully veiled women ululating with joy. “Islam is a religion of construction. Islam is a religion of investment. Islam is a religion of development.

Religion, in fact, should profoundly alter both Egypt’s domestic and foreign policy, said Mr. Saleh, a 52-year-old lawyer with a clipped helmet of steel-gray hair.

If Islam were applied, the television would not show us prostitution and people lacking all decency!” he declared. “If Islam were applied, Iraq could not have been invaded, Israel could not occupy Jerusalem, and aggression could not have been used to humiliate Muslims everywhere!”

A long-expected day of reckoning is at hand in Egyptian politics now that the Brotherhood, an illegal organization with a violent past, is entering the corridors of power for the first time in significant numbers.

The outcome of the freest election in more than 50 years could determine whether political Islam will turn Egypt into a repressive, anti-American theocracy or if Islamic parties across the Arab world will themselves be transformed by participating in mainstream politics.

No sudden earthquake is expected. But initial results from the final round of voting on Wednesday showed that the Brotherhood had gained at least 12 more seats to bring its total to 88, with seven races from all three rounds still unsettled, according to a spokesman. That is five times the 17 seats the group won in 2000.

GOVERNANCE PROFILE OF EGYPT

Monique Nardi Roquette

Mamadi Kourouma

Major political developments since 1990Egypt is constitutionally a democratic republic based on a multiparty system. Th e 1971 Constitutionprovides for the separation of powers between the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. Noconstitutional changes have taken place in Egypt since 1980. In the 1980 referendum, the currentpresident, Hosni Mubarak, assumed offi ce with a two-thirds majority vote of the People’s Assembly(PA). (Th e president is currently in his fourth presidential term.) He holds wide-ranging authoritiesand is the supreme commander of the armed forces, chair of the higher council for policeagencies, and the higher council for judicial entities. Th e president nominates ministers, appoints10 of the 454 members of the PA and 88 of the 264 members of the Shura Council, appoints anddismisses governors, university chairs, and other high ranking offi cials (to be further discussed insection on “Institutional Eff ectiveness”).Th e president is also the chair of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which has been inpower since it was established by former President Anwar Sadat in 1978 and eff ectively controlslocal government, the media, and the public sector.Egypt’s 16 legally registered opposition parties’ ability to compete has been frustrated by theNDP’s dominance in the PA with a large majority of almost 90% (Figure 1). malgrat això, NDP hasexperienced a disappointing result in the parliamentary elections of 2000, which has prompted thesubstantial changes introduced to reform the party led by the President’s son Gamal Mubarak.

Engaging Islamists and Promoting Democracy

Mona Yacobián

Deeming democratic change to be a long-term antidote to Islamist extremism, the Bush administration coupled its military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq with intensified efforts to promote democracy in the Arab world, underscoring the need for free and fair elections. To date, parliamentary elections of varying openness have taken place across the region, from Morocco to Kuwait. The elections ushered in a wave of Islamist victories, dubbed by many as an “Islamist tsunami.” 1The Islamists’ successes stem from their effectiveness as vehicles for popular opposition. While liberal, secular opposition parties remain largely detached from much of the population, Islamists have developed vast and easily mobilized grassroots networks through charitable organizations and mosques. The leadership is often younger and more dynamic, with strong ties to the community, and the party organizations brim with energy and ideas, attracting those who are seeking change.The U.S. government has quietly engaged a number of moderate and legal Islamist parties across the region for several years, sometimes through normal diplomatic activity, sometimes through government-funded grants to U.S. organizations. This Special Report examines U.S.-funded engagement with legal, nonviolent Islamist parties through the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), which have the most extensive experience engaging with Islamists in the region, and focuses on Morocco, Jordània, and Yemen, because of their relative political openness and the strength and vibrancy of their Islamist political opposition.Successful Strategy. A successful Islamist engagement strategy both empowers individuals and strengthens institutions to yield greater transparency, more accountability, and shifts toward moderation. Training and empowering individuals cultivates moderates within the parties and enhances their political sophistication and influence. Meanwhile, as regimes in the Arab world resist or manipulate political reforms, strengthening democracy’s infrastructure is as important as supporting individuals. Independent electoral procedures and monitoring help to establish free and fair elections. Institution building ensures appropriate checks on executive power and a strong rule of law. Strengthening parliaments is especially crucial, as Islamists participate primarily in legislatures.In assessing whether Islamist parties have moderated in response to U.S. engagement, it is difficult if not impossible to quantify or measure shifts that may themselves be relative and subjective. Directly linking greater moderation to specific U.S. engagement activities is also highly problematic. At best, this engagement should be considered a contributing factor. Nevertheless, the tentative results in Morocco, Jordània, and Yemen are promising enough that continued engagement with moderate Islamists should be encouraged, albeit with greater emphasis on institution building and an eye on the broader context of the ideological battle in the Muslim world between extremism and moderation.