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Muslim Civil Society in Urban Public Spaces: Globalization, Discursive Shifts, and Social Movements

Пол М. Любек
Браяна Бритс
Cities are processes, not products. The three Islamic elements that set in motion the processes that give rise to Islamic cities were: a distinction between the members of the Umma and the outsiders, which led to juridical and spatial distinction by neighborhoods; the segregation of the sexes which gave rise to a particular solution to the question of spatial organization; and a legal system which, rather than imposing general regulations over land uses of various types in various places, left to the litigation of the neighbors the detailed adjudication of mutual rights over space and use. (Janet Abu Lughod 1987: 173)
Framing: Muslim Movements in Urban Situations We live in an intellectual moment when the complexity of the global Islamic
revival renders it difficult to generalize about Muslim institutions, social movements, and discursive practices. While diversity and locality remain paramount features of Muslim cities, globalization has inadvertently nurtured transnational Muslim networks from the homeland of Islam and extended them into the web of interconnected world cities. Quite opportunistically, urban-based
Muslim networks and insurrectionist movements now thrive in the interstitial spaces created by the new global communication and transportation infrastructures. What, then, are the long-term patterns for Muslims in cities? Since the last millennium, as Janet Abu-Lughod reminds us, “the Islamic cityhas been the primary site for: defining power relations between ruler and subject, specifying the rights and identities of spatial communities, and regulating urban social relations between genders. Today’s Muslim city remains the epicenter of a burgeoning public sphere in which informed publics debate highly contested Islamic discourses regarding social justice,

Hamas can set an example

Khader Khader

Perhaps the single most important aspect of Hamasoverwhelming victory in Palestinian Legislative Council elections last month is that it was the first time in the contemporary history of the Middle East that democracy was exercised for real without any direct external or internal interference. The ramifications of such free elections may well reverberate around the region for years to come and might mark a new phase in the geopolitical map of the Middle East.
This, however, was not the first time an Islamic political party showed its popularity at the ballot box. Algeria’s Islamic Front appeared headed to certain victory in elections in the mid-1990s before external intervention on the part of the “демократичен” West and its allies in Algiers nipped that experience in the bud. In Algeria, the result of burying democracy has been an extremely bloody conflict that still drags on, much to the embarrassment of western countries, which prefer not to comment. For the ordinary citizen in the Arab world, it was an experience that only added to the sense of oppression and frustration felt in every corner of the region.
Thus Hamaselectoral victory has sparked widespread hope among the Arab masses that they have another chance to find out if an Islamic party can rule better than the current regimes in the Arab world. Хамас, in this sense, carries the hopes of millions of Arabs and Muslims all over the world.
But with such expectations comes a time fraught with danger. Hamas and the way it runs matters in the Palestinian territories can set a very interesting example: if it succeeds; if it proves it can run Palestinian affairs more transparently and to the benefit of more ordinary Palestinians than previously, while at the same time managing tough negotiations with Israel, the experience will encourage other Islamic movements in the Arab world to use it as an example to convince their citizens that Islamic political movements are a viable alternative.
But if Hamas fails in its difficult and challenging task, the setback will strike a devastating blow to all Islamic movements and parties in the region. A Hamas failure could perhaps send the entire region into another period of political wilderness akin to the era after the failure of the pan-Arabists.
Thus, Hamas in power is an interesting and illuminating phenomenon, and one that will be followed closely by all concerned parties. According to a leading Hamas figure in Khan Yunis, Dr. Younis al-Astal, the International Muslim Brotherhood has already expressed its readiness to assist Hamas with all the needed expertise to make it succeed in its mission. The Brotherhood will of course be the principal benefactor of any Hamas success.
By the same token, however, the West may feel itself forced now to exert all possible efforts to make Hamas fail even if the movement proves successful in meeting the needs of the people. The issue in question here is not how efficient a government is but how loyal a government shows itself to be to the West. This is the measure the West has generally used to assess the Middle East, where billions of US dollars have been spent on keeping Arab regimesmoderate and realistic”, especially in relation to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
There is a curious parallel to the Cold War now in the dynamic that is developing between the West and the Muslim world. During the Cold War, the West was confident that democracy would bring the Eastern Bloc to its knees and forcefully spread the message that individual freedom and the right to vote were human rights par excellence.
Now, however, that same message is likely to backfire on the West. If real elections were held in Egypt and Jordan, it is highly likely that Muslim Brotherhood movements would come to power and cast into doubt the peace treaties between those countries and Israel, in which the West has invested so much effort.
Everyone knows that democracy comes at a cost in the Middle East. Is the world ready to engage in this game? The key is likely to be the success or otherwise of Hamas, which is operating under extremely adverse conditions. Arabs and Muslims across the region, so often let down by political promise from various quarters, may well be disappointed again. But in the meantime their hopes are with a political movement that is posing the first serious challenge in decades to Arab regimes everywhere.

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 (Хамас). 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.

IS TAYYIP ERDOĞAN THE NEW NASSER

Hurriyet DailyNews
Мустафа Акьол

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!”

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

Паоло Кота

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

Хаим малка

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. Буш. 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, тероризъм, 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

Дейвид Мефъм

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, и, 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 Ghazali

Юли 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, Палестина, 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.

Political Transitions in the Arab World

Дина Шехата

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.

The W&M Progressive

Julian Carr
Richael Faithful
Итън Форест

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. However, 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.

Engaging Islamists and Promoting Democracy

Мона Якубиан

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, Jordan, 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, Jordan, 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.

Islam, Political Islam and America

Арабска прозрение

although the factors accounting for the deterioration of America’s reputationin the Arab and Muslim world after Sept. 11 are numerous, the U.S. positionvis-à-vis political Islam remains an important factor in reinforcing the negativeview of America. An important issue that has driven much of the anti-Americanismwe observe in the region today pertains to an evident contradiction between U.S.discourse on democratization and political reform on one hand, and its negativeresponse to the electoral gains made by groups like Hamas in the Palestinian Territoriesor the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. As a result of this discrepancy, manyobservers have proposed alternative ways for Washington to advance the cause ofdemocracy in the Arab world. One of the proposed ideas involves holding-off oncalling for immediate elections, and focusing instead on promoting other prerequisitesof political reform. Others suggested employing new strategies that wouldguarantee the defeat of political Islamists at ballot boxes.Undoubtedly, there is a soaring need for a better understanding of Islamistmovements in the region, given the fundamental differences among such groups.Moreover, many Islamist movements are experiencing a process of change thatwarrants a revision of the existing conventional wisdom about political Islam. Notonly that, but many of those groups remain unknown in Western, particularlyAmerican, discussions of Islamist movements. Therefore, formulating a constructiveand effective American policy toward Islam in a broad sense, but more specificallytoward political Islam, will require a new and a more nuanced intellectualmapping of contemporary Islam and political Islam in the region.Given these various demands, the editorial team of Arab Insight took the initiativeto shed light on the topic of American policies toward both Islam and politicalIslam. The topic is presented in two sections:Section I presents several Arab responses to American policy toward Islamists.


Египет: Background and U.S. Relations

Jeremy M. Sharp

In the last year, Egyptian foreign policy, particularly its relationship with the United States, hasbenefitted substantially from both a change in U.S. policy and from events on the ground. TheObama Administration, as evident in the President’s June 2009 speech in Cairo, has elevatedEgypt’s importance to U.S. foreign policy in the region, as U.S. policymakers work to revive theArab-Israeli peace process. In choosing Cairo as a venue for the President’s signature address tothe Muslim world, Egyptians feel that the United States has shown their country respectcommensurate with its perceived stature in the Arab world.At the same time, continuing tensions with Iran and Hamas have bolstered Egypt’s position as amoderating force in the region and demonstrated the country’s diplomatic utility to U.S. foreignpolicy. Based on its own interests, Egypt has opposed Iranian meddling in the Levant and in Gazaand has recently expanded military cooperation with Israel in order to demonstrate resolve againstfurther Iranian provocations, such as arming Hamas or allowing Hezbollah to operate on Egyptiansoil. Furthermore, Israel’s Operation Cast Lead (Декември 2008 to January 2009) highlighted theneed to moderate Hamas’s behavior, attain Palestinian unity, and reach a long-term Israel-Hamascease-fire/prisoner exchange, goals which Egypt has been working toward, albeit with limitedsuccess so far.Indications of an improved bilateral relationship have been clearly evident. Over the last sixmonths, there has been a flurry of diplomatic exchanges, culminating in President Obama’s June2009 visit to Egypt and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s trip to Washington in August 2009,his first visit to the United States in over five years. Following President Obama’s June visit, thetwo governments held their annual strategic dialogue. Several months earlier, the United Statespledged to expand trade and investment in Egypt.Despite the appearance of a more positive atmosphere, inherent tensions and contradictions inU.S.-Egyptian relations remain. For U.S. policymakers and Members of Congress, the question ofhow to simultaneously maintain the U.S.-Egyptian strategic relationship born out of the CampDavid Accords and the 1979 peace treaty while promoting human rights and democracy in Egyptis a major challenge with no clear path. As Egyptian opposition figures have grown more vocal inrecent years over issues such as leadership succession, corruption, and economic inequality, andthe regime has subsequently grown more repressive in its response to increased calls for reform,activists have demanded that the United States pressure Egypt to create more breathing space fordissent. The Egyptian government has resisted any U.S. attempts to interfere in its domesticpolitics and has responded harshly to overt U.S. calls for political reform. At the same time, as theIsraeli-Palestinian situation has further deteriorated, Egypt’s role as a mediator has provedinvaluable to U.S. foreign policy in the region. Egypt has secured cease-fire agreements andmediated negotiations with Hamas over prisoner releases, cease-fire arrangements, and otherissues. Since Hamas is a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and calls forIsrael’s destruction, neither Israel nor the United States government directly negotiates with itsofficials, using Egypt instead as a go-between. With the Obama Administration committed topursuing Middle East peace, there is concern that U.S. officials may give a higher priority toEgypt’s regional role at the expense of human rights and democratic reforms.