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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Category: Islam and Democracy
POMED Notes: “After Mubarak: What do the Egyptian People Really Want?”
February 18th, 2011 by Kyle
On Wednesday, the Middle East Institute hosted an event focused on the public opinions of Egyptians in the wake of Mubarak’s fall from power, entitled, “After Mubarak: What do the Egyptian People Really Want?” The Middle East Institute hosted two speakers; Steven Kull, Middle East public opinion expert and director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, along with, Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Saban Center of the Brookings Institution.
For full notes, click here for pdf. or continue below.
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Posted in Diplomacy, Egypt, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Mideast Peace Plan, Military, Muslim Brotherhood, Protests, Public Opinion, Reform, Sectarianism​, US foreign policy | Comment »
Bahrain Update: Al Wefaq Suspends Parliamentary Participation
February 17th, 2011 by Naureen
On Thursday, al-Wefaq, Bahrain’s main Shia Muslim opposition group, announced that it was suspending its participation in parliament and called for the government to initiate dialogue. Protesters have continued to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who has governed Bahrain since its independence in 1971. They are also demanding the release of political prisoners and the creation of a new parliament.
Posted in Bahrain, Islam and Democracy, Protests | Comment »
Writing A New Political Narrative in the Middle East
February 17th, 2011 by Naureen
Writing at The Huffington Post, Lebanese-American political analyst and POMED board member Randa Slim argues that the events in Tunisia and Egypt have “dealt a heavy blow to old myths about democracy and political transformation in the region” and have constructed a new political narrative for the regime with four major themes emerging.  The recent uprisings in the Middle East demonstrate that democracy is not a Western concept. In the past the region has seen democracy in two forms: imposed by the West as in Iraq and the “lip-service democracies of most Arab governments, repressive and corrupt.” We are now seeing a third form emerge in which democracy is “the right of the people to live their lives, and decide their fate without heavy-handed control by a police state.”
These uprisings also show us that real change can come through non-violent means and that a regime which emerges through peaceful uprisings will have “more authenticity and credibility” than those in Iran, Syria and Lebanon.  It is also clear that these movements are not Islamist in nature and while Islamists will have “a seat at the table,” moving forward, leaders of both the Ennahda movement and Muslim Brotherhood have announced that they will not seek to gain presidency or majority seats in parliament. These movements were about governance and spurred by the people’s frustrations over corruption, unemployment and poverty and desire for good change and participation in the decision-making process.  Now, Slim says, the  hard work of nation-building begins; she calls on the West to help these “stories end well.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Freedom, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Muslim Brotherhood, Protests, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
Mikhail Gorbachev Calls for a Democratic Future in the Arab World
February 15th, 2011 by Kyle
Mikhail Gorbachev​, former leader of the Soviet Union, in a recent op-ed for the International Herald Tribune, supported the Egyptian people and argued that the only way forward for the Arab World is through democracy. He addressed the concerns of Islam’s role in Egypt’s future, but stated, “democratic processes and genuine socioeconomic achievements in countries like Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia offer optimism.” Gorbachev addressed the apparent “bargain” that Arab regimes have struck with their people exchanging freedom and human rights for economic growth, which has since created a disconnect between the people and their rulers. He believes that the events in Egypt have serious implications across the region and that Arab leaders must take heed: “One needs to muster courage for real change, because power without accountability cannot last. This is what hundreds of thousands of Egyptian citizens, whose faces we’ve seen on television, stated loud and clear.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements | Comment »
Sen. McCain and Ahmed Zewail Make Strong Statements on Face the Nation
February 15th, 2011 by Naureen
Speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation this Sunday, Egyptian activist and Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail expressed his optimism for a rapid democratic transition in Egypt with elections possibly taking place by this summer. He also called for the immediate lifting of the emergency law. Responding to the demand, Egyptian Ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry stated: “The Supreme Council has indicated its commitment to lifting the state of emergency. And I believe they will do so as soon as the conditions are appropriate.” When asked about protesters demands for the dissolution of the cabinet, Shoukry responded by stating that given the current economic and security situation the dissolution of the cabinet is difficult.
U.S. Senator John McCain, also speaking on Face the Nation, stated that “We should have seen this coming when the Egyptian government failed to move forward with a process of democratization. The last election was particularly flawed.” He also criticized President Barack Obama for failing to take a stance against Iran during protests in 2009. McCain cautions that elections are not the end of the story in Egypt, “It is the modalities. It is the education of voters. It’s all the things that go to a free ad fair elections” which will need to be addressed especially to prevent any “extremist element” from hijacking the election. McCain also stated, “this revolution is a direct repudiation of al Qaeda” and expressed concern that similar demonstrations in Iran and Syria will face severe government crackdown. He called on Iranians to “let your people have peaceful demonstrations” and expressed his optimism over the spread of democratic revolution throughout the Middle East.
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Iran, Islam and Democracy, Military, Protests, Reform, al-Qaeda | Comment »
POMED Notes: “After the Uprisings: U.S. Policy in a Changing Middle East”
February 11th, 2011 by Naureen
On Thursday, the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) hosted a discussion on recent and ongoing events in Tunisia and Egypt and their influence on U.S. relations with the region’s governments and people and what steps the U.S. government can take to support democratic transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. POMED Executive Director Stephen McInerney made opening remarks and introduced panelists: Larry Diamond, Senior Fellow at Hoover Institution at Stanford University and founding co-editor of the Journal of Democracy; Tom Malinowski​, Washington Director at Human Rights Watch; and Mona Yacoubian​, Special Adviser at the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, United States Institute of Peace. 
To read full notes continue below, or click here for pdf.
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Posted in Algeria, Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Egypt, Event Notes, Events, Freedom, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Jordan, POMED, Protests, Reform, Tunisia, Yemen | Comment »
Understanding Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood
February 9th, 2011 by Alec
Mohammed Morsi, from the Muslim Brotherhood’s media office,  said on Wednesday that the Brotherhood was not seeking power and only sought to participate in the process and that the group would not be fielding a presidential candidate. Morsi also stated the group’s rejections of the “religious state” and further distanced the Brotherhood from recent statements made by Iran’s Ayatollah and Supreme Leader Ali Khameini that protests in Egypt were part of a wider “Islamic awakening” in the Middle East.
Jack Shenker and Brian Whitaker of The Guardian published an exclusive interview with Essam el-Erian, a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader, on Tuesday, outlining the history of the group and its stated political intentions in Egypt. Although the authors outline the Brotherhood’s previous history of violence, they say the group has long since renounced violence as a means to achieve its objectives. They claim that decades of repression and semi-illegal status have created a genuine concern within the organization for human rights issues, often agreeing in principle with European notions of the concept.  El-Erian was careful to stress however, that “each country has its own particulars” when it comes to human rights promotion, thereby excluding gay rights.  The go on to quote el-Erian, “an outspoken reformist,” that the group has no plans to run a candidate for the presidency nor even seek a majority in parliament, instead opting to seek out “wide coalitions” and support “unity” candidates for President.  Shenkar and Whitaker also argue that the Brotherhood itself is fractured between members who view “social evangelism” as the group’s main function and those who see political power as the ultimate goal.
Nina Shea, Senior Fellow and Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, has seemingly remained skeptical of the Muslim Brotherhood, posting at the institute’s NRO Corner blog, that the group remains the likely winner in free and fair elections in Egypt, especially in parliament.  Shea also posted a report by Palestinian Media Watch on former Brotherhood director Mustafa Mashhur’s book Jihad Is The Way.  She states that the book itself reveals much of the Brotherhood’s true ideology that it keeps hidden from public view.
Posted in Egypt, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Muslim Brotherhood, Political Islam | Comment »
POMED Notes: “From Tunisia to Egypt: Protests in the Arab World”
February 4th, 2011 by Naureen
On Monday, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted a discussion of the developments in Egypt and their implications of the Arab world, where protests began in Tunisia and have spread to Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, and Algeria. Marwan Muasher, Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment, moderated the event and introduced the other panelists: Amr Hamzawy, Research Director and Senior Associate of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut who joined the panelists from Midan Tahrir in Cairo, Michele Dunne, Senior Associate in the Middle East Program at Carnegie Endowment, and Marina Ottaway, Director of the Middle East Program at Carnegie Endowment.
To read full notes continue below or click here for pdf.
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Posted in Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Event Notes, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Journalism, Muslim Brotherhood, Protests, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
Kerry-McCain Draft Resolution Calling for Transition to Interim Government in Egypt
February 3rd, 2011 by Naureen
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry (D-MA) and Senator John McCain have cosponsored a resolution calling on Egypt President Hosni Mubarak to “immediately begin an orderly and peaceful transition to a democratic political system,” including “the transfer of power to an inclusive interim caretaker government in coordination with leaders from Egypt’s opposition, civil society and military.” While they hope that Egypt will “hold free, fair, and internationally credible elections this year,” they also expressed their “concern over any organization that espouses an extremist ideology, including the Muslim Brotherhood.” They also noted that it is vitally important that any new government continue “to fulfill its international obligations, including commitments under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.”
On Wednesday, McCain also released a statement calling for Mubarak’s resignation: “The rapidly deteriorating situation in Egypt leads me to the conclusion that President Mubarak needs to step down and relinquish power…I urge President Mubarak to transfer power to a caretaker administration that includes members of Egypt’s military, government, civil society, and pro-democracy opposition, which can lead the country to free, fair, and internationally credible elections this year as part of a real transition to democracy.” While he remained concerned about the role of the Muslim Brotherhood, he stated that “Egypt must have a democratic future. It is the will of the Egyptian people. It is in the interest of the United States. And the greatest contribution that President Mubarak can make to the cause of democracy in his country is to remove himself from power.”
Posted in Civil Society, Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Elections, Islam and Democracy, Israel, Military, Muslim Brotherhood, Reform | Comment »
Egypt: Iran 1979 or Indonesia 1998?
February 3rd, 2011 by Alec
In an opinion piece for The New Republic, Thomas Carothers argues that those who compare the situation in Egypt to Iran in 1979 are making a “dangerously misleading” comparison.  He claims that Egypt is more analogous to Indonesia after President Suharto stepped down in 1998.  Carothers argues that the Muslim Brotherhood is “significantly different” from the Islamist movement of Ayatollah Khomeini as it has renounced violence, undergone decades of moderation, and lacks a charismatic central leader like Khomeini: “Egypt is not ripe for a radical Islamist revolution.”  While admitting it is not a perfect analogy, the economic and social situation in Egypt more closely mirrors that of Indonesia than it does Iran: “[…] from its newly assertive mix of idealistic young protestors, civic groups, and political opposition parties to its longstanding effort to balance secular and Islamist values […] Indonesia’s democratization offers some hope for Egypt.”  Shadi Hamid, writing in Slatesays the the U.S. has an “Islamist dilemma” that paralyzes American policy in the Middle East.  He echoes Carothers sentiments that, “the [Muslim] Brotherhood of today is not the Brotherhood of yesterday.”  Hamid says that the U.S. can deal with the group through “creative policymaking” and calls for the U.S. to begin a substantive dialogue with them: “It is always better to have leverage with opposition groups before they come to power, rather than afterward. Afterward is, often, too late.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Iran, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Muslim Brotherhood, Political Islam, Protests, US foreign policy | Comment »
Samer Shehata Discusses Egyptian Unrest on Colbert Report
February 1st, 2011 by Kyle

The Colbert Report
Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Mubarak Mu Problems - Samer Shehata
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>Video Archive
Posted in Diplomacy, Egypt, Freedom, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Protests, US foreign policy | Comment »
POMED Notes: “The Breakdown of Autocracy in Tunisia”
January 31st, 2011 by Naureen
On Monday, The Maghreb Center hosted a discussion at Georgetown University on the causes of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and the role of the United States and France before, during, and after the revolution. Dr. Néjib Ayachi, founding President of the Maghreb Center and International Development Consultant at the World Bank, opened the discussion and introduced the panelists: Stephen King, Professor of Government at Georgetown University, Robert Prince, Lecturer in International Studies at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, and Rust M. Deming, former Ambassador to Tunisia from 2000 to 2003. The event was moderated by Ahmed El-Hamri, Economist at the World Bank and Associate at the Maghreb Center.
To read full notes continue below, or click here for pdf.
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Posted in Democracy Promotion, Event Notes, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Political Parties, Protests, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
Tunisia: Leader of Formerly Banned Islamist Movement Returns
January 31st, 2011 by Alec
Rachid Ghannouchi​, leader of the Ennahda movement, previously banned under the Ben Ali regime for being Islamist, returned to Tunisia on Sunday from London.  He stated that his movement would help build Tunisian democracy but has ruled out running for elected office himself.  Ghannouchi also insisted that his portrayal in Western media as another “Khomeini” were untrue and that his movement was committed to protecting women’s rights.  Prior to his arrival on Sunday, women’s groups in Tunisia protested in the capital of Tunis saying they were worried about an Islamist revival in the country.  In an interview prior to his return, Ghannouchi said the revolt in Tunisia against Zine Ben Ali was a popular revolution and not an Islamist one.
Posted in Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Political Islam, Political Parties, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Tunisia: Protests and Prospects for Change”
January 27th, 2011 by Kyle
On Tuesday, the Project on Middle East Political Science and the Institute for Middle East Studies at The George Washington University hosted an event focused on reactions to the popular uprising in Tunisia entitled , “Tunisia: Protests and Prospects for Change.” Marc Lynch, associate professor of political science and international affairs at The George Washington University, and director of the Institute for Middle East Studies moderated the event. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. The two other speakers were Christopher Alexander, Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean for International Programs at Davidson College and John P. Entelis, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Middle East Studies Program at Fordham University.
To read full notes continue below, or click here for pdf.
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Posted in Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Political Islam, Political Parties, Protests, Reform, Tunisia, US foreign policy, Unions | Comment »
Analysts Question US Officials’ Calls for Reform in the Middle East
January 24th, 2011 by Kyle
Robert Kaplan chronicles Tunisia’s unique history that helped lead to revolution and also discusses the potential for reform in the region, but warns that the outcomes might not be desirable given these countries’ weak institutions, high levels of sectarianism, and likelihood to elect Islamist groups. James Traub also called for U.S. policymakers to not only make statements calling for reform, but also to prepare quickly for the outcomes of the looming governance crises around the region.
Posted in Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Reform, Tunisia, US foreign policy | Comment »
Rentier States and Arab Exceptionalism
January 24th, 2011 by Alec
Ömer Taşpinar, in a piece for Today’s Zamananalyzes the lack of democracy in the Arab world in the context of the recent uprising in Tunisia.  Using culture and religion to explain democratic deficit is erroneous, he argues, citing the examples of Turkey, Malaysia, and Indonesia as Muslim majority democratic nations. Rather, the rentier state theory is a better explanation for authoritarianism in countries like Saudi Arabia, a country that relies entirely on oil wealth and thus does need to tax its citizens.  He draws a direct link between taxation and representative democracy: “when a state has no need to tax its people, the most important part of the social contract that defines the democratic relationship between state and society is missing.”  He extends this argument to Egypt and Jordan, with foreign aid functioning in place of a natural resource.  Both countries have what is called “strategic rent,” proximity to oil-producing states and proximity to Israel: “In that sense, foreign aid is just like oil. It creates unearned easy income, unrelated to economic productivity.”
Posted in Egypt, Foreign Aid, Islam and Democracy, Jordan, Reform, Saudi Arabia | Comment »
POMED Notes: “The Organization of the Islamic Conference: Fatwas on Freedom and Democracy”
January 23rd, 2011 by Kyle
On Wednesday the Hudson Institute hosted an event focused on the issues of fatwas and the organizations involved with speaking for the Islamic community entitled, “The Organization of the Islamic Conference: Fatwas on Freedom and Democracy.” Nina Shea, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute moderated and introduced the speaker Dr. Mark Durie who is a theologian, human rights activist, and pastor of an Anglican church. He has published many articles and books on the language and culture of the Acehnese, Christian-Muslim relations and religious freedom.
To read full notes continue below, or click here for pdf.
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Posted in Freedom, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Political Islam, Saudi Arabia | Comment »
Where are the Islamists in Tunisia’s Democratic Consolidation?
January 20th, 2011 by Cole
Models of constitutional democratic transitions from Eastern Europe are not easily applied to Tunisia, writes Nathan Brown, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at The George Washington University.  Instead, Tunisians must reach consensus by engaging all actors and social groups in the process.  As Islamists seek to re-establish their social presence in Tunisia over the next decade, their participation will become particularly important.
See also the previous contributions to the Democracy Digest​-​POMED Tunisia symposium from Amr HamzawySteven Heydemann​Larry DiamondArun KapilShadi HamidKamran BokhariNabila Hamza, and Kristina Kausch
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Posted in Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Tunisia, Tunisia Symposium | Comment »
Lebanon: Renewed Attempts to Mitigate Tension Amidst Crisis
January 19th, 2011 by Kyle
Following the release of sealed indictments by the United Nations Tribunal and the collapse of the Lebanese Government, Saudi King Abdullah has declared an end to the Saudi-Syrian initiative due to lack of progress. However, the Turkish and Qatari Foreign Ministers, Ahmet Davutoglu and Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, respectively, are attempting to mitigate tension by meeting with Hezbollah and other high-ranking officials in the Lebanese Government. Fears of potential Hezbollah actions in response to the indictments and renewed sectarian violence remain rife. The group conducted a show of force that began early Tuesday in which Hezbollah members silenty patrolled the streets of Beirut in black uniforms, causing fear and panic among city residents. The US State Department responded to recent events stating: “We do have ongoing concerns that various elements within Lebanon – both inside Lebanon and outside Lebanon – will continue to try to politicize this process.”
Posted in Civil Society, Diplomacy, Hezbollah, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Lebanon, Political Islam, Political Parties, Protests, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Nations | Comment »
Reform or Restoration? Tunisia’s Canary-in-the-Coalmine Indicators
January 19th, 2011 by Cole
Tunisia’s strongman President Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali has been deposed. But if his ruling party was kicked out the door, is it now coming back through the window?
There is a serious risk that the old order will cling to power and frustrate hopes for a genuinely democratic transition, writes Steven Heydemann​, Vice President at the US Institute for Peace and Special Adviser to USIP’s Muslim World Initiative.
He identifies the canary-in-the-coalmine indicators that will demonstrate whether the Jasmine Revolution will turn out to be a true turning point for Tunisia and the Arab world.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Reform, Tunisia, Tunisia Symposium, Unions | 4 Comments »
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