RSSAll Entries in the "Hamas" Category

From Rebel Movement to Political Party

Alastair Crooke

The view held by many in the West that transformation from an armed resistance movement to political party should be linear, should be preceded by a renunciation of violence, should be facilitated by civil society and brokered by moderate politicians has little reality for the case of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). This is not to suggest that Hamas has not been subject to a political transformation: it has. But that transformation has been achieved in spite of Western efforts and not facilitated by those efforts. While remaining a resistance movement, Hamas has become the government of the Palestinian Authority and has modified its military posture. But this transformation has taken a different course from the one outlined in traditional conflict resolution models. Hamas and other Islamist groups continue to see themselves as resistance movements, but increasingly they see the prospect that their organizations may evolve into political currents that are focused on non-violent resistance.Standard conflict resolution models rely heavily on Western experience in conflict resolution and often ignore the differences of approach in the Islamic history of peace-making. Not surprisingly, the Hamas approach to political negotiation is different in style to that of the West. Also, as an Islamist movement that shares the wider optic of the impact of the West on their societies, Hamas has requirements of authenticity and legitimacy within its own constituency that bear on the importance attached to maintaining an armed capability. These factors, together with the overwhelming effect of long term conflict on a community’s psychology (an aspect that receives little attention in Western models that put preponderant weight on political analysis), suggests that the transformation process for Hamas has been very different from the transformation of arms movements in traditional analysis. In addition, the harsh landscape of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict gives the Hamas experience its special characteristics.Hamas is in the midst of an important transformation, but the political currents within Israel, and within the region, make the outcome of this transformation unpredictable. Much will depend on the course of Western policy (its “Global War on Terror”) and how that policy effects revivalist Islamist groups such as Hamas, groups that are committed to elections, reform and good-governance.

Arab Reform Bulletin

group of researchers


Egito: Regression in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Party Platform?

Amr hamzawy


The Muslim Brotherhood’s draft party platform sends mixed signals about the movement’s political views

and positions. Although it has already been widely circulated, the document does not yet have final
approval from the movement’s guidance bureau.
The platform’s detailed treatment of political, social, and economic issues marks a significant departure
from previously less developed positions, articulated inter alia in a 2004 reform initiative and the 2005
electoral platform for Brotherhood parliamentary candidates. This shift addresses one of the most
important criticisms of the Brotherhood, namely its championing of vague ideological and religious

slogans and inability to come up with specific policy prescriptions.
The document raises troubling questions, however, regarding the identity of a future Brotherhood

political party as well as the group’s position on several political and social issues. Released in the
context of an ongoing stand-off between the Egyptian regime and the Brotherhood, it reveals significant
ambiguities and perhaps regression in the movement’s thinking.
First, the drafters chose not to address the future relationship between the party and the movement. In

doing so, they have deliberately ignored important ideas recently discussed within the movement,
especially among members of the parliamentary bloc. Inspired by the experiences of Islamist parties in
Marrocos, Jordan, and Yemen, these members advocate a functional separation between a party and
the movement, with the former focused mainly on political participation and the latter on religious
activism. In addition to its superficial treatment of the nature of the party and its internal organization, the
platform includes no clear statement on opening party membership to all Egyptians regardless of their
religion, one of the requirements for establishing a political party according to the Egyptian constitution.
Second, the draft Brotherhood platform identifies implementation of sharia as one of the party’s main

goals. Although this is consistent with the group’s interpretation of Article 2 of the Egyptian Constitution
(“Islam is the religion of the state, and Islamic law is the main source of legislation”), it departs from the
pragmatic spirit of various Brotherhood statements and initiatives since 2004 in which less emphasis
was given to the sharia issue. The return to a focus on sharia in the platform has led to positions
fundamentally at odds with the civil nature of the state and full citizenship rights regardless of religious
affiliation.

Claiming the Center: Political Islam in Transition

John L. Esposito

In the 1990s political Islam, what some callIslamic fundamentalism,” remains a major presence in government and in oppositional politics from North Africa to Southeast Asia. Political Islam in power and in politics has raised many issues and questions: “Is Islam antithetical to modernization?,” “Are Islam and democracy incompatible?,” “What are the implications of an Islamic government for pluralism, minority and women’s rights,” “How representative are Islamists,” “Are there Islamic moderates?,” “Should the West fear a transnational Islamic threat or clash of civilizations?” Contemporary Islamic Revivalism The landscape of the Muslim world today reveals the emergence of new Islamic republics (Irão, Sudan, Afeganistão), the proliferation of Islamic movements that function as major political and social actors within existing systems, and the confrontational politics of radical violent extremists._ In contrast to the 1980s when political Islam was simply equated with revolutionary Iran or clandestine groups with names like Islamic jihad or the Army of God, the Muslim world in the 1990s is one in which Islamists have participated in the electoral process and are visible as prime ministers, cabinet officers, speakers of national assemblies, parliamentarians, and mayors in countries as diverse as Egypt, Sudan, Turquia, Irão, Líbano, Kuwait, Yemen, Jordan, Paquistão, Bangladesh, Malásia, Indonésia, and Israel/Palestine. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, political Islam continues to be a major force for order and disorder in global politics, one that participates in the political process but also in acts of terrorism, a challenge to the Muslim world and to the West. Understanding the nature of political Islam today, and in particular the issues and questions that have emerged from the experience of the recent past, remains critical for governments, policymakers, and students of international politics alike.

IS TAYYIP ERDOĞAN THE NEW NASSER

Hurriyet DailyNews
Mustafa Akyol

Last Thursday night, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan suddenly became the focus of all the news channels in the country. The reason was that he had stormed the diplomatic scene at a World Economic Forum panel in Davos by accusing Israeli President Shimon Peres forkilling people,” and reminding the biblical commandment, “Thou shall not kill.

This was not just breaking news to the media, but also music to the ears of millions of Turks who were deeply touched by the recent bloodshed that Israel caused in the Gaza Strip. Some of them even hit the streets in order to welcome Erdoğan, who had decided to come to Istanbul right away after the tense debate. Thousands of cars headed toward the Atatürk airport in the middle of the night in order to welcomethe conqueror of Davos.

’Turkey is proud of you’

I personally had a more mundane problem at that very moment. In order to catch my 5 a.m. flight, I had left home at a quite reasonable time, 2.30 a.m. But the traffic to the airport was completely locked because of the amazing number of cars destined toward it. So, after leaving the taxi at the start of the long river of vehicles, I had to walk on the highway for about two kilometers, my hands on my luggage and my eyes on the crowd. When Erdoğan finally stepped out of the terminal, while I just walking into it, thousands applauded him and started to chant, “Turkey is proud of you!”

Engaging Political Islam to Promote Democracy

Shadi Hamid

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans have struggled toarticulate an overarching, long-term strategy for fighting religious extremism and terror in the Middle East. Most experts on both the left and right agree that promoting democracy will help address the root causes of terrorism in theregion, though they differ on to what degree. The reasoning is simple: If Arabs and Muslims lack legitimate, peaceful outlets with which to express their grievances, they are more likely to resort to violence. In one important 2003study, Princeton University’s Alan Krueger and Czech scholar Jitka Maleckova analyzed extensive data on terrorist attacks and concluded that “the only variable that was consistently associated with the number of terrorists was the Freedom House index of political rights and civil liberties. Countries with more freedom were less likely to be the birthplace of international terrorists.

Islam and Democracy

Dalia Mogahed

Islam in politics has been asserted in many countries in the Muslim world through democratic elections. Islamist parties have gained varying degreesof political power in Turkey, Egito, Líbano, and the occupied Palestinian territories, and have widespread influence in Morocco and Jordan. Now, more than ever, Western governments, alarmed by this outcome, have raised the perennial question: Is Islam compatible with democracy?A recent in-depth Gallup survey in 10 predominantly Muslim countries,representing more than 80% of the global Muslim population, shows that whenasked what they admire most about the West, Muslims frequently mention political freedom, liberty, fair judicial systems, and freedom of speech. When asked to critique their own societies, extremism and inadequate adherence to Islamic teachings were their top grievances.However, while Muslims say they admire freedom and an open political system,Gallup surveys suggest that they do not believe they must choose between Islam and democracy, but rather, that the two can co-exist inside one functional government.

Escalation in the Middle East: a lasting damage to peace and democracy

Paulo Cotta

The rapid and dangerous escalation of war operations in the Middle East has resulted in a very significant loss of life among Lebanese, Palestinians and Israelis, and serious damage to civilian infrastructures. Major operations began with a low-level conflict around Gaza,that involved the launching of some missiles into Israel, some (more deadly) Israeli retaliation on Gaza, and the attack on an Israeli military post outside Gaza to which Israel reacted swiftly and very strongly. In the chain reaction that followed, admittedly Israel’ sintention was, and is, to inflict on the other side a far heavier punishment than that taken by Israel—which may appear as a militarily sound posture aimed at avoiding incidents andattacks, but, in fact, it is the civilian population that has been mainly affected. As a result,the suffering of the Lebanese and Palestinian civilian populations (in terms of deaths,wounded and destroyed infrastructures) has to date been largely disproportionate to that of Israel. When, in the case of Palestine, this discrimination already follows about 40 years of discrimination in the same direction, hostility and adversarial relations are bound toincrease. So while Israel’s heavy deterrence through punishment may work temporarily and occasionally in preventing or reducing attacks, the general sentiment of hostility in the region is increased, and creates in the long range a bigger obstacle to peace.

Forcing Choices

Haim Malka

Regardless of what happens in future Palestinian parliamentaryelections, Hamas has already won a historic victory. The organization, whosename is an acronym for “the Islamic Resistance Movement,” enjoyed tremendoussuccess in municipal elections, and its readiness to participate onthe national level constitutes nothing less than an earthquake in Palestinianpolitics, signaling the clear end of one-party rule. For a movement that hasmorphed from a militant organization into a political party in less than a generation,Hamas’s participation on the national level is evidence of theorganization’s adaptability and durability within Palestinian society and politics.Among the United States, Israel, and Europe, as well as Arab governments,speculation and uneasiness has surrounded Hamas’s newfound role.Skeptics argue that electoral politics do not make one democratic, and thatHamas’s electoral ambitions mask the group’s true intention of establishingan Islamic state in all of historic Palestine—a goal that includes Israel’s destruction.1 These critics believe that, once Hamas has secured its positionwithin the Palestinian Authority (PA) and institutions of the Palestine LiberationOrganization (PLO), the movement will resume its campaign of terrorand attempt to control the Palestinian national agenda by force.Despite the inherent risks, proponents of expanding Hamas’s role in Palestiniannational politics argue that political activity will ultimately moderatethe movement. These advocates point to the fact that Hamas’s leadershave long called for transparent and accountable governing institutions andhave demonstrated political pragmatism, suggesting that the group could acceptless than its absolutist demands.

It’s the Policy, Stupid

John L. Esposito

US foreign policy and political Islam today are deeply intertwined. Every US president since Jimmy Carter has had to deal with political Islam; none has been so challenged as George W. Bush. Policymakers, particularly since 9/11, have demonstrated an inability and/or unwillingness to distinguish between radical and moderate Islamists. They have largely treated political Islam as a global threat similar to the way that Communism was perceived. However, even in the case of Communism, foreign policymakers eventually moved from an ill-informed, broad-brush, and paranoid approach personified by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s to more nuanced, pragmatic, and reasonable policies that led to the establishment of relations with China in the 1970s, even as tensions remained between the United States and the Soviet Union.

As Islamist parties continue to rise in prominence across the globe, it is necessary that policymakers learn to make distinctions and adopt differentiated policy approaches. This requires a deeper understanding of what motivates and informs Islamist parties and the support they receive, including the ways in which some US policies feed the more radical and extreme Islamist movements while weakening the appeal of the moderate organizations to Muslim populations. It also requires the political will to adopt approaches of engagement and dialogue. This is especially important where the roots of political Islam go deeper than simple anti-Americanism and where political Islam is manifested in non-violent and democratic ways. The stunning electoral victories of HAMAS in Palestine and the Shi’a in Iraq, the Muslim Brotherhood’s emergence as the leading parliamentary opposition in Egypt, and Israel’s war against HAMAS and Hizbollah go to the heart of issues of democracy, terrorismo, and peace in the Middle East.

Global terrorism has also become the excuse for many Muslim autocratic rulers and Western policymakers to backslide or retreat from democratization. They warn that the promotion of a democratic process runs the risk of furthering Islamist inroads into centers of power and is counterproductive to Western interests, encouraging a more virulent anti-Westernism and increased instability. Thus, for example, despite HAMAS’ victory in free and democratic elections, the United States and Europe failed to give the party full recognition and support.

In relations between the West and the Muslim world, phrases like a clash of civilizations or a clash of cultures recur as does the charge that Islam is incompatible with democracy or that it is a particularly militant religion. But is the primary issue religion and culture or is it politics? Is the primary cause of radicalism and anti-Westernism, especially anti-Americanism, extremist theology or simply the policies of many Muslim and Western governments?


Hamas and political reform in the middle east

David Mepham

The lesson of Palestine’s election is that the international community should become more serious and sophisticated about political reform in the middle east, says David Mepham of the Institute for Public Policy Research.
Hamas’s stunning victory in the 25 January elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council raises three critical questions for international policymakers:
• why did it happen – that an organisation labelled asterroristby the Israelis, the European Union and the United States manages to win the support of a majority of Palestinian voters?
• how should the international community now respond?
• where does Hamas’s victory leave the cause of political reform and democratisation in the middle east?
The rise of Hamas
Much of the immediate international commentary on the election result has focused on the failings of Fatah during the decade in which the movement held power in the Palestinian Authority (PA) – including the rampant corruption of senior Fatah officials and the lack of meaningful democracy within the PA. There was also a sizeable positive vote for Hamas. The organisation is seen by many Palestinians as untainted by corruption, and, unlike the PA, it has a good track record of providing health, education and other services.
The other part of the explanation for the Hamas victory – less discussed in the international media – has been the failure of thepeace processand the radicalising and impoverishing effects of the Israeli occupation. Under the premiership of Ariel Sharon since 2001, Israel has all but destroyed the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority. Israel has also continued its policy of illegal settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, and it is in the process of building aseparation barrier”.
Israel is not building the barrier on its pre-1967 occupation border (which it would be allowed to do under international law). Rather it plans to build 80% of the barrier inside Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory. This involves incorporating the main Israeli settlement blocs, as well as taking over Palestinian agricultural lands and water resources. This restricts Palestinian freedom of movement, and makes it much harder for Palestinians to access their schools, health facilities and jobs.
These policies are oppressive and humiliating; they also have disastrous economic consequences. The United Nations estimates that poverty levels have more than trebled in the last five years, that 60% of Palestinians are now living in poverty, and that unemployment is around 30%. These conditions have provided very fertile soil for the radicalisation of Palestinian opinion and for the rise of Hamas.
The short-term challenge
Hamas’s electoral victory presents the international community with a real conundrum.
On the one hand, theQuartet” (the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations) is right to say that full-scale peace negotiations with Hamas will require significant movement on Hamas’s part. Hamas does not recognise the state of Israel. It also supports violence, including attacks on Israeli civilians, as part of its strategy for Palestinian national liberation. Anyone expecting an immediate and formal shift in Hamas policy on these issues is likely to be disappointed.
But intelligent international diplomacy can still make a difference. While they are reluctant to formally proclaim it, there is evidence that some senior Hamas leaders accept the reality of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. Moreover, on the question of violence Hamas has largely maintained a unilateral truce (tahdi’a) for the past year. Extending this truce, and working for a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire, should be the immediate focus of international diplomacy towards Hamas, if necessary through third-party intermediaries.
The other critical international objective should be to avoid the collapse of the Palestinian Authority. Fatah’s mismanagement and the disastrous consequences of Israeli occupation and closures have left the PA in a desperate state and entirely dependent on donor funding to stay afloat. In 2005, the EU provided £338 million, while the US contributed £225 million. Cutting that assistance overnight would plunge tens of thousands of Palestinians into acute poverty, triggering social implosion and anarchy. But donors are rightly worried about transferring resources to a government dominated by Hamas.
One possibility would be to press for a government of Palestinian technocrats, without senior Hamas figures in key ministerial positions, and to rely on Mahmoud Abbas, the directly elected Palestinian president, as the main interlocutor for the international community. Something along these lines appears to command support amongst the Quartet. If the immediate economic situation can be stabilised, then there is at least a possibility of encouraging Hamas to move in a political direction through a policy of gradual, conditional engagement. Pressure on Israel to live up to its obligations under international law, for example by ending illegal settlement activity, would also help: persuading a sceptical Palestinian public that the world does care about their plight and is committed to a two-state solution.
The regional prospect
While Hamas’s victory has focused attention on the immediate crisis in the Palestinian territories, it raises wider questions about the process of political reform and democratisation in the broader middle east, a process advocated so publicly by the Bush administration. It is ironic, to say the least, that Hamas – a group with which the United States refuses to deal – should be the beneficiary of a free and fair election encouraged by US policy. Some will draw from this the conclusion that democratic reform in the middle east is a hopelessly misguided enterprise and one that should be abandoned forthwith. Smallcconservatives, on all sides of the political spectrum, will feel vindicated in highlighting the risks of rapid political change and in pointing out the virtues of stability.
It is true that political change carries risks, including the risk that radical Islamists like Hamas will be the major beneficiaries of political liberalisation. While this is a reasonable concern, those who highlight it tend to overlook the diversity of political Islamists in the region, the special circumstances that account for the rise of Hamas, and the extent to which some Islamists have moderated their positions in recent years. Unlike Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Islamic Action Front in Jordan and the Justice & Development Party in Morocco all reject violence and have committed themselves to pluralistic politics.
Nor do the critics suggest a better alternative for addressing the phenomenon of political Islamism across the region than the attempted engagement of Islamists in the political process. Repression of Islamists and their systematic exclusion from political institutions has been a recipe for instability and extremism, not moderation.
There is obviously a strong critique to be made of the Bush administration’s attempts to promote political change in the middle east, not least the multiple failings of its policy in Iraq. More broadly, the US lacks credibility in the region as a force for democracy and human rights because of its largely uncritical support for Israel, and its military, diplomatic and often financial backing for many of the more authoritarian regimes in the region. Even when it is particularly outspoken on the need for greater democracy, for example in its recent dealings with President Mubarak of Egypt, the administration’s anti-terrorism agenda consistently trumps its political reform objectives.
But exposing the folly and ineffectiveness of US policy is one thing; ditching the commitment to political reform in the middle east is quite another. The international community needs to strengthen not weaken its commitment to accountable government and human rights in the region. In thinking about political change in the middle east – where the concept of a democratic culture is often very weak – international actors need to give as much emphasis toconstitutionalismas to elections, important though elections are. In this context, constitutionalism means a balance of powers, including checks on the executive, a fair and independent legal process, a free press and media, and the protection of the rights of minorities.
It is important too for international actors to be realistic about what can be achieved in particular countries and over particular timescales. In some cases, support for political reform might involve pushing hard now for genuinely free elections. In other cases, a higher short-term priority for political reform might be encouraging an enlarged space in which opposition groups or civil society can function, greater freedom for the press, support for educational reforms and cultural exchanges, and promoting more inclusive economic development.
It is also vital to think more imaginatively about creating incentives for political reform in the middle east. There is a particular role for the European Union here. The experience of political change in other parts of the world suggests that countries can be persuaded to undertake very significant political and economic reforms if this is part of a process that yields real benefits to the ruling elite and the wider society. The way in which the prospect of EU membership has been used to bring about far-reaching change in eastern and central Europe is a good example of this. The process of Turkey’s accession to the EU can be seen in a similar vein.
A critical question is whether such a process might be used more broadly to stimulate political reform across the middle east, through initiatives like the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The ENP will provide participating middle-eastern states with a stake in EU institutions, in particular the single market, providing a powerful incentive for reform. It also allows for the EU to reward countries that make faster progress against agreed benchmarks for political reform.
There are no simple answers to the current problems besetting the middle east. But the lesson to be drawn from the Hamas result is emphatically not that the international community should give up on the cause of political reform in the region. Rather it should become more serious and sophisticated about helping to support it.

Trial of the Holy Land Foundation begins

Abdus Sattar Al Ghazali

Julho 24, 2007 – The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development went on trial today in Dallas, Texas as the federal agents were raiding two other Muslim charities in Dearborn, Michigan. The Holy Land was being tried on suspicion of aiding terrorism by helping the Palestinian militant group Hamas while the two Michigan charitiesthe Goodwill Charitable Organization and Al-Mabarrat Charitable Organization were suspected of having ties to extremist groups in Lebanon. Just like the Holy Land, assets of the two Michigan charities have been frozen.

The Holy Land, founded in 1989 was one of the largest Muslim charities in the nation before it was shut down under executive orders in December 2001. It was one of six Muslim major charities in the country that have been shut in recent years as the Muslim charities were scrutinized and persecuted as part of a broader backlash against Muslims after the 9/11 attacks. Other five shut down charities are: Global Relief Foundation, Benevolence International Foundation, Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, Islamic American Relief Agency and Kind Hearts USA.

Under a provision of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, the government has largely unchecked power to designate any group as a terrorist organization. When that happens, a group’s property may be seized and its assets frozen. The charity is unable to see the government’s evidence and thus understand the basis for the charges. And it has only a limited right of appeal. So, the government can target a charity, obtain indictments against its leaders, and then delay a trial indefinitely.

The Bush administration froze the Holy Land Foundation’s assets charging it with funneling money to Hamas, an allegation strongly refuted by the Holy Land officials. According to its mission statement, the Foundation is a humanitarian organization that works to findsolutions to human suffering,” primarily focusing on providing urgent nutritional and medical care to the destitute and displaced Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Palestina, and Lebanon.

The government says Hamassupport organization in the United States, known as thePalestinian Committee,” organized theOccupied Land Fundin 1988. The name was later changed to the Holy Land Foundation. First based in California, the foundation moved to Richardson, Texas in 1992.

The defendants named in a 42-count indictment in 2004 are Holy Land Foundation, which federal authorities raided and shut down in December 2001; Shukri Abu Baker, the charity’s president; Ghassan Elashi, its chairman; Abdulrahman Odeh; Mohammad El-Mezain; and Mufid Abdulqader. Two other men named in the indictment remain fugitives.

This is the third trial involving Ghassan Elashi brothers. The court, because of the complexities of the investigation, decided to break the proceedings into three trials, with the one beginning today being the most expansive and the one directly related to the Holy Land Foundation. In summer 2004, five brothers who ran Infocom were convicted of selling computers to countries that support terrorism. In April 2005, three of the brothers were convicted of conspiracy, money laundering anddealing in the property of a terrorist.

The Hamas Victory in the Palestinian Elections

Riaz Hassan

The parliamentary election triumph of Hamas surprised almost everybody, including the Hamas leadership, if the press reported correctly. The Bush Administration is blaming its intelligence services for failing to predict Hamas’ victory. Most observers forecast that Fatah would win theelections because of its political dominance in Palestinian affairs. Why, then, did most politicalobservers in the West get it so wrong? This political miscalculation will be the subject of much analysis and commentary in the coming months.A number of specific local issues delivered Hamas its historic electoral victory. Credit must goto the Palestinian people, who turned out to be astute voters. A significant number of Palestinians were simply unable to accept the corruption and cronyism that allegedly flourished under the Palestinian Authority led by Fatah. While most Palestinians remember well and admire the sacrifices made by Fatah leaders in the past, they were simply deterred by their in ability to institute political and economic reforms to better the lives of ordinary people. Hamashad a much better reading of the Palestinian political pulse. It was not difficult for Hamas to doso: Hamas delivers health, educational and social services to large numbers of Palestinians,making daily life bearable.Unlike Fatah, which had several candidates contesting the same constituency, resulting in asplitting of Fatah’s votes, Hamas ran an extremely disciplined political campaign. Hamas alsomade use of its female supporters, sending them door-to-door to canvass voters and to pollingstations to campaign for Hamas’ candidates. These election strategies obviously worked in Hamas’ favor. Hamas has also amassed political capital through its resistance and military campaigns against the Israeli occupation. It was these actions which led to Hamas’ being labelled and treated as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union andseveral other western countries. In a political environment in which ordinary Palestinians feelcompletely powerless, Hamas’ acts of resistance and tough rhetoric gave Palestinians a senseof empowerment that may well be the reason for its electoral victory over its opponents.

International Consultation of Muslim Intellectuals on Islam & Política

Stimson Center & Instituto de Estudos Políticos

This two-day discussion brought together experts and scholars from Bangladesh, Egito, India,Indonésia, Kenya, Malásia, Paquistão, the Philippines, Sudan and Sri Lanka representing academia,non-governmental organizations and think tanks. Among the participants were a number of former government officials and one sitting legislator. The participants were also chosen to comprise abroad spectrum of ideologies, including the religious and the secular, cultural, political andeconomic conservatives, liberals and radicals.The following themes characterized the discussion:1. Western and US (Mis)Understanding There is a fundamental failure by the West to understand the rich variety of intellectual currents andcross-currents in the Muslim world and in Islamic thought. What is underway in the Muslim worldis not a simple opposition to the West based on grievance (though grievances there also are), but are newal of thought and culture and an aspiration to seek development and to modernize withoutlosing their identity. This takes diverse forms, and cannot be understood in simple terms. There is particular resentment towards Western attempts to define the parameters of legitimate Islamicdiscourse. There is a sense that Islam suffers from gross over generalization, from its champions asmuch as from its detractors. It is strongly urged that in order to understand the nature of the Muslim renaissance, the West should study all intellectual elements within Muslim societies, and not only professedly Islamic discourse.US policy in the aftermath of 9/11 has had several effects. It has led to a hardening andradicalization on both sides of the Western-Muslim encounter. It has led to mutual broad brush(mis)characterization of the other and its intentions. It has contributed to a sense of pan-Islamicsolidarity unprecedented since the end of the Khilafat after World War I. It has also produced adegeneration of US policy, and a diminution of US power, influence and credibility. Finally, theUS’ dualistic opposition of terror and its national interests has made the former an appealing instrument for those intent on resistance to the West.

Living with Democracy in Egypt

Daniel Consolador

Hosni Mubarek was almost elected president of Egypt in September 2005. Not that the seventy-seven-year-old secular autocrat who has ruled that nationfor the past twenty-four years lost the election; by the official count, he took nearly 85 percent of the vote.His nearest competitor, Ayman Nour, the upstart headof the fledgling opposition party al-Ghad (“Tomorrow”),managed less than 8 percent. The only other candidate to take any significant tally was the aged NomanGamaa of the venerable al-Wafd (“Delegation”)party, who managed less than 3 percent. The Ikhwanal-Muslimeen (“Muslim Brotherhood”), feared by somany Westerners for its purist Islamic social and politicalagenda, didn’t even field a candidate.Mubarek’s decisive victory would seem to be reassuringto most people—particularly secular Americans—worried for the future of the few Westernfriendly,moderate Arab regimes, threatened as theyare by the Islamicization of politics in the region. The Bush administration would also seem to have reasonto be pleased, given its recent change of heart aboutArab democracy. The missing chemical weapons in Iraq and subsequent justification of the war thereas precedent for democratization have inspired theWhite House to push for as many elections as possible in the region. In fact, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke at the American University inCairo in June, she announced to some surprise that“for sixty years” the United States had been mistakenin “pursu[ing] stability at the expense of democracy”in the Middle East. For generations, EUA. pundits weresure that the “Arab street” couldn’t be trusted with the vote, as they might hand over power to communistsor fundamentalist Islamists. Realpolitik dictated that autocrats and dictators, like Mubarek and Saddam Hussein, had to be coddled in order to maintain “stability”in the region. If they would then stage election sor dispense with them altogether, deny free speech,and let loose secret police to terrorize the population,the White House would likely turn a blind eye. But ifMubarek could now claim a true democratic mandate,that would be the best of all worlds.

Political Transitions in the Arab World

Dina Shehata

The year 2007 marked the end of a brief interval of political liberalization in the Arab world which began shortly after the occupation of Iraq and which resulted primarily from external pressures on Arab regimes to reform and democratize. External pressures during the 2003-2006 period created a political opening which activists across the region used to press for longstanding demands for political and constitutional reform.Faced with a combination of growing external and internal pressures to reform, Arab regimes were forced to make some concessions to their challengers.In Egypt, upon the request of the President, Parliament passed a constitutional amendment to allowfor direct competitive presidential elections. In September2005, Egypt witnessed its first competitive presidential election ever and as expected Mubarak was elected for a fifth term with 87%of the vote. Moreover,during the November 2005 parliamentary elections,which were freer than previous elections, the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition movement in Egypt, won 88 seats. This was the largest number of seats won by an opposition group in Egypt since the 1952 revolution.Similarly, in the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, Hamas won a majority of the seats.Hamas was thereby able to establish control over the Palestinian Legislative Council which had been dominated by Fatah since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1996. In Lebanon, in the wake of the assassination of Rafiq Hariri on 14th February2005, a coalition of pro-Hariri political forces was ablet hrough broad-based mass mobilization and external support to force Syrian troops to pull out from Lebanon and the pro-Syrian Government to resign. Elections were held, and the 14th February coalition was able to win a plurality of the votes and to form a new government.In Morocco, King Mohamed VI oversaw the establishment of a truth and reconciliation committee which sought to address the grievances of those who had been abused under the reign of his father.The Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC) also under took some important reforms during the 2003-2006 period. In 2003 Qatar promulgated a written constitution for the first time in its history. In 2005,Saudi Arabia convened municipal elections for the firsttime in five decades. And in 2006, Bahrain held parliamentaryelections in which the Shiite society of AlWefaqwon 40%of the seats. Subsequently, the first Shiitedeputy prime minister in Bahrain was appointed.Theses events, which came to be known as ‘the Arab Spring,’ led some optimists to believe that the Arabworld was on the brink of a democratic transformation similar to those experienced in Latin American and Eastern and Central Europe during the 1980s and1990s. However, in 2007, as political liberalization gave way to heightened polarization and to renewed repression,these hopes were dispelled. The failure ofthe openings of the 2003-2006 period to create a sustained momentum towards democratization can beat tributed to a number of factors. The deteriorating security situation in Iraq and the failure of the United States to create a stable and democratic regime dampened support for democracy promotion efforts within the American administration and reinforced the views ofthose who held that security and stability must come before democracy. Moreover, the electoral successes of Islamists in Egypt and in Palestine further dampened Western support for democracy promotion efforts in the region since the principals of thesemovements were perceived to be at odds with the interestsof theWest.

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. In addition, 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.