Posts Tagged ‘Arab Spring’

July 16th, 2014

Is democracy the question?

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Perhaps the most pertinent question to be asked of Egypt’s revolutionary/counter-revolutionary process in the past three years is this: how can we properly diagnose the persistent incongruity between the slogan of the 2011 revolution—“bread, freedom, and social justice”—and the failures of all political entities in Egypt to achieve them? These entities include the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), a transitional military regime that assumed power directly after the revolution (February 2011–June 2012); the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (June 2012–July 2013); and now, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s new presidency and the immediately preceding civilian regime installed under his military command (July 2013–May 2014). In other words, how and why has every organized entity in Egypt since January 2011 failed to meet the basic demands of the revolution?

July 10th, 2014

Beyond duality, for plurality

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Carl Becker was right in his assessment of great events: they have an ability to create a new normal language of profound significance. Each era has few words that epitomize its worldview. The Arab Spring has been a momentous event of profound significance, but the systematic hampering of ideas into pre-packaged catalogs of binary grouping, as reflected in Mohamad Elmasry’s comment on my reflection on Egypt, has been a major obstacle in revealing the creative ideas of this unique event. This response is to transcend the binary framework in both Dr. Elmasry’s readings of Egypt and the wider discourse regarding the Arab Spring.

My reflection concerns ideas, not groups. Elmasry’s version of the story is the opposite. This is the dividing line between our two viewpoints. Both could be right in their incommensurable paths. As such, there is a conceptual trap in responding to his binary framing of the story. Since his version is a litany of claims for and against the Muslim Brotherhood, a response to them will by default put me in the opposite camp, which I abstain to join.

December 14th, 2012

Morsi’s moves

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On November 21st, a Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took effect, bringing an end to eight days of particularly fierce fighting between the two.

September 14th, 2012

Death in the Middle East: What happens next?

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On the 11th anniversary of the September 11, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt and U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya were attacked amidst protests over a trailer for a purported film entitled Innocence of Muslims.

July 16th, 2012

Egypt at the crossroads

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Mohamed Morsi was declared President of Egypt little more than two weeks ago. Challenger and former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, sent President Morsi a telegram congratulating him on his victory: “I am pleased to present to you my sincere congratulations for your victory in the presidential election, wishing you success in the difficult task that has been trusted to you by the great people of Egypt.”

As thousands celebrated the victory of the Freedom and Justice Party—part of the 84-year-old Muslim Brotherhood organization—in Tahrir Square, just a few blocks away a much more somber mood prevailed.

“Let me enjoy another bottle of beer,” said an old man as he plunked some coins on the counter at a local grocery store. “Soon the Jama’a (Muslim Brotherhood) will ban it.” The store owner, Mr. Ahmad, nodded. “Allah yastur al balad, [May god protect the country]—it will be like Sudan or Pakistan.” Clearly, anxiety and divisions still persist in Egypt. The pharmacists at the nearby El-Ezaby Pharmacy also looked disillusioned. This profession in Egypt is overwhelmingly dominated by the Coptic Christian community, who represent about 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, but 90 percent of whom voted for Shafik according to exit polls.

July 2nd, 2012

Egyptian elections

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The protests in the Middle East and North Africa, and the ensuing political changes, were intended to transcend the old military-Islamist dichotomy, which in Egypt was a legacy of the army-led Egyptian Revolution almost exactly 60 years ago. Yet following a long and contentious electoral season, Egyptians were again left with a choice between Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, and Ahmed Shafik, a military man and the last Prime Minister under Hosni Mubarak. Nevertheless, despite the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ heavy-handed actions and subsequent protests by Brotherhood supporters and other advocates for a civil and democratic state, Egypt has, for the first time, a democratically elected president.

To what extent do current depictions of the Egyptian situation reproduce the simplistic narrative of the “Brotherhood” versus the “Army” as the only options worth discussing? How does this binary either illuminate Egypt’s cultural, political, and religious dynamics or obscure its more complex realities?

June 19th, 2012

Muslim Brotherhood candidate wins Egyptian election

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The New York Times reports on the atmosphere in Cairo today, after news came in that Mohamed Morsi is the winner of the presidential race in Egypt.

June 19th, 2012

Tunisian modernities

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Over at the University of Notre Dame’s Contending Modernities blog, Michael Driessen takes lessons from the secular-Islamist negotiation happening in Tunisia.

June 15th, 2012

“Twin tolerations” today: An interview with Alfred Stepan

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Alfred Stepan is Wallace S. Sayre Professor of Government at Columbia University and founder and director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion. He has written extensively on democratic transitions, military regimes, and the relationship between religion and democracy in countries throughout the world. His theory of the “twin tolerations,” which argues that healthy democracies require religious leaders to grant authority to elected officials, and that state authorities must not only guarantee freedom of private religious worship but allow democratic participation in civil and political society, has influenced political theorists, heads of state, and grassroots activists.

June 14th, 2012

Live online panel on Egypt elections

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This Friday, June 15, The Duke Islamic Studies Center’s Transcultural Islam Project is co-hosting a panel discussion on the upcoming Egyptian run-off elections.

May 23rd, 2012

The end of postcolonialism

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The London-based publisher Zed Books recently released Hamid Dabashi’s The Arab Spring: The End of Postcolonialism (distributed in the U.S. by Macmillan).

May 18th, 2012

Coptic Christians and Egypt’s future

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Yasmine Saleh recently reported on the dilemma many Coptic Christians face in the upcoming Egyptian presidential election.

May 16th, 2012

Sunni-Shia discord on the rise?

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The Economist reported recently on the state of Sunni-Shia relations only a few years after a seemingly pivotal moment.

May 14th, 2012

Tunisian Jews and the Arab Spring

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In a recent article, Lin Noueihed and Terek Amara discuss the racism and fear of  harassment Tunisian Jews have experienced since the overthrow of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

May 11th, 2012

The season of revolution

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The online journal Interface: A Forum for and about Social Movements dedicates much of its most recent issue to the “Arab Spring.”

May 3rd, 2012

Misogyny and the Muslim woman

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At The Atlantic, Max Fisher considers the sources of misogyny in the Middle East in light of recent conversations surrounding Mona Eltahawy’s Foreign Policy piece on its prevalence across the region.

April 30th, 2012

Nahda’s return to history

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The Tunisian uprisings of December 2010 are often depicted in negative terms, as lacking leadership, ideology, and political organization. Nahda (the Tunisian Islamist movement that, after decades of exile and repression, won 40 percent of the seats in the elections of October 2011) members are now accused of working to turn Tunisia into a “sharia state,” in which religious freedom, women’s rights, and freedom of expression would cease to exist. While the fears of individuals and groups who disagree with Islamists have to be taken seriously, discussion of current changes needs to be based on a real engagement, not on caricature.

April 16th, 2012

Paradoxes of “religious freedom” in Egypt

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The place of religion in the political order is arguably the most contentious issue in post-Mubarak Egypt. With Islamist-oriented parties controlling over 70 percent of seats in the new People’s Assembly and the constitution-writing process about to begin, liberals and leftists are apprehensive about the implications for Egyptian law and society, including the rights of Egypt’s millions of Coptic Christians.

April 12th, 2012

On the secularist-Islamist divide

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At Al Jazeera EnglishElizabeth Shakman Hurd gives an abridged history of the past half-century of Tunisian politics, and relays the Enahddan notion that the revolution in Tunisia is neither unambiguously Islamist nor secularist.

April 11th, 2012

The year of the Islamist

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David Rohde, in Reuters’ Analysis and Opinion blog, designates 2012 as the year of the Islamist and discusses the likelihood that Islamists will remain in power in Tunisia and Egypt.

April 6th, 2012

Human rights and the Arab Spring

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The New York Review of Books’ blog recently posted a debate between women’s rights groups and Human Rights Watch entitled, Women and Islam: A Debate With Human Rights Watch.

April 2nd, 2012

“The Rise of the Islamists”

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The award-winning documentary radio program, America Abroad, has recently released a new documentary entitled, “The Rise of the Islamists.”

March 13th, 2012

Call for papers: CSID annual conference

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The organizers of the upcoming annual conference of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, “The Arab Spring: Getting It Right,” is currently seeking paper proposals.

March 1st, 2012

Believing in religious freedom

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Like a good movie, the story of international religious freedom offers something for everyone. It pits cowardly oppressors against heroic saviors. It is a story of the triumph of international law over those who fail to adhere to global norms and standards. It is a story of secular tolerance versus violent religion. And today especially, it is a story of the need for the U.S. government and its friends to “convince” others—particularly Muslims—that they should endorse a particular model of religious liberty as a template for organizing and democratizing their politics and societies.

January 5th, 2012

What are the uses of religion?

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Raising issues central to post-secularism, Ryan Gillespie reviews three distinct recent works—Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, Terry Eagleton’s Reason, Faith and Revolution, and Jürgen Habermas’ Between Naturalism and Religion— in the International Journal of Communication.

December 17th, 2011

Tunisia’s election: counter-revolution or democratic transition?

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Today marks the first anniversary of the self-immolation of a young street seller in Tunisia that sparked the Arab Spring. How is Tunisia doing one year on?

According to Jean Daniel, the French commentator and founder of Novel Observateur, in his “Islamism’s New Clothes” article in the December 22, 2011 issue of The New York Review of Books, the answer is: very badly. In his view, the recent elections in Tunisia amount to a “counter-revolution.” It would appear from what he says that the elections could only count as a revolution if they had followed the script of a French model of 1905 laïcité –the most religiously “unfriendly” form of secularism of any West European democracy. Such a model, in a more extreme form, was imposed by the state in the authoritarian secularism under Habib Bourguiba and Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia without free elections from Independence in 1956 until the Arab Spring.

Having witnessed, and written about, over fifteen efforts at democratic transitions and having visited Tunisia three times since the start of the Arab Spring, I would argue the opposite: A much more appropriate description of the political situation in Tunisia is to call it the Arab Spring’s first completed democratic transition.

September 13th, 2011

CFP: From Tahrir to Wisconsin

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The political theory graduate students of the Cornell Department of Government will host an interdisciplinary graduate student conference, “From Tahrir to Wisconsin: Rethinking Revolution, Democracy and Citizenship,” April 27-28, 2012. Find more information on the CFP here.

September 8th, 2011

The paradoxes of the re-Islamization of Muslim societies

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The 9/11 debate was centered on a single issue: Islam. Osama Bin Laden was taken at his own words by the West: Al-Qaeda, even if its methods were supposedly not approved by most Muslims, was seen as the vanguard or at least a symptom of “Muslim wrath” against the West… Then came, just ten years after 9/11, the Arab Spring, in which Islam did not play a role, and the killing of Osama Bin Laden, whose death went almost unnoticed among Muslim public opinion. What about the “Muslim wrath”? Suddenly, the issue of Islam and jihad being at the core of the political mobilization in Muslim societies seemed to become, at least for a time, irrelevant. So what went wrong with the perception of the Western media, leaders, and public opinion? Was the West wrong about the role of Islam in shaping political mobilization in Muslim societies? Yes. The essentialist and culturalist approach, common to both the clash of and dialogue of civilizations theories, missed three elements: society, politics, and more astonishingly . . . religion.

August 17th, 2011

Religious liberty, minorities, and Islam: An interview with Saba Mahmood

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Saba Mahmood is an anthropologist who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, and whose work raises challenging questions about the relationship between religion and secularism, ethics and politics, agency and freedom. Her book Politics of Piety, a study of a grassroots women’s piety movement in Cairo, questions the analytical and political claims of feminism as well as the secular liberal assumptions on the basis of which such movements are often judged. In the volume Is Critique Secular? she joins Talal Asad, Judith Butler, and Wendy Brown in rethinking the Danish cartoon controversy as a conflict between blasphemy and free speech, between secular and religious world views. Now, Mahmood is working on a comparative project about the right to religious liberty and minority-majority relations in the Middle East. We spoke over breakfast in New York City.

August 8th, 2011

American evangelicals and the Arab Spring

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At Foreign Policy, Molly Worthen examines the sentiments and commitments that inform many American evangelicals’ ambivalence towards the democratic possibilities of the Arab Spring.

August 3rd, 2011

The suspicious revolution: An interview with Talal Asad

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Not long after his return from Cairo, where he was doing fieldwork, I spoke with Talal Asad at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, where he is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology. Distinguished indeed: with books like Genealogies of Religion and Formations of the Secular, as well as numerous articles, Asad’s work has been formative for current scholarly conversation about religion and secularity, stressing both global context and the ways in which their interaction has been shaped by local histories, in the West and the Middle East. Most recently, he co-authored (along with Wendy Brown, Saba Mahmood, and Judith Butler) Is Critique Secular? (University of California Press, 2009) and contributed a chapter to the just published SSRC volume Rethinking Secularism (Oxford University Press, 2011).

June 14th, 2011

(In)Visible Copts

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At Jadaliyya, Anthony Shenoda reflects on the simultaneous visibility and invisibility of the Coptic Christian community in Egypt.

June 7th, 2011

The Rubicon is in Egypt: An interview with Azza Karam

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Azza Karam is the Senior Culture Advisor at the United Nations Population Fund, where she has pioneered efforts to make human development work more attentive to religion. Karam was born in Egypt and grew up, as the daughter of an Egyptian diplomat, in countries around the world, eventually earning a doctorate in international relations from the University of Amsterdam. Her several books include Transnational Political Islam (2004) and Islamisms, Women and the State (1998). Prior to joining UNFPA, she worked for the World Conference of Religions for Peace, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, and the United Nations Development Program, among other organizations.

May 23rd, 2011

Ducking the Arab Spring in Morocco

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The wave of protests shaking the Arab political regimes has quietly but forcefully made its way to Morocco. The February 20 youth movement—made up of a loose coalition of independent groups, backed by liberal, leftist, labor, and Islamist opposition movements—is leading the call for democratic change. Since February it has organized two mass demonstrations across fifty major cities and towns, drawing several hundred thousands of protesters. Social and political protests in Morocco are not new, nor do they yet threaten the survival of the regime. But the revolutionary spirit and mass appeal of the movement signal a major shift in popular attitudes regarding the monarchy’s monopoly and abuses of power.