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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Category: Secularism
Can Islamism Be Democratic?
September 15th, 2010 by Jason
In an Atlantic article titled “When Islamism is Liberal-Democratic”, Max Fisher notes that the recent passing of a constitutional referendum in Turkey is being described in some quarters as a turn away from the country’s secular past. He asserts that it is actually a move towards liberal democracy: “Islamic rule and liberal democracy, far from mutually exclusive in the Middle East, can go hand-in-hand.” He goes on to describe Middle Eastern Islamic movements as essentially “populist” and not all that different from populist movements in the U.S. or elsewhere. As Fisher points out, Islamic governments are often more representative of the populace than secular dictatorships, promoting cooperation and trust between the government and the people. The dictatorships, which have often been supported by the U.S. in the past, often cause “…more harm than good.” He concludes by saying,” We might prefer that all governments be secular liberal democracies like our own. But if we must choose between an Islamic democracy or a secular autocracy, regional history suggests we should prefer the former every time.”
Posted in Civil Society, Democracy Promotion, Freedom, Iran, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Public Opinion, Secularism, Turkey | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Is Turkey Becoming Less Democratic?”
September 13th, 2010 by Anna
On Monday, September 13th, POMED hosted an event entitled “Is Turkey Becoming Less Democratic?” The event was moderated by Bill Schneider, Distinguished Senior Fellow and Resident Scholar at Third Way and the Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University. The discussion featured three panelists: Gonul Tol, Executive Director of the Center for Turkish Studies at the Middle East Institute; Daniel Brumberg, Director of the Muslim World Initiative at the U.S. Institute of Peace; and W. Robert Pearson, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and President of the International Research and Exchanges Board.
POMED’s full notes continue below or read them as a pdf.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Elections, Freedom, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Judiciary, Kurds, PKK, Political Islam, Political Parties, Reform, Secularism, Turkey | Comment »
Turkey: Referendum a Test for AKP, Military
September 7th, 2010 by Evan
Days ahead of the Turkish constitutional referendum, Steven Kinzer suggests the vote will be a critical test of both AKP’s (Justice and Development Party) and the military’s power: “If the referendum passes, it will be taken as a sign that Turks are fed up with the military’s involvement in politics.” Should the referendum pass on Sunday, Kinzer writes, it will likely empower AKP to draft a new constitution in the coming year, which he believes is “essential if Turkey is to reach European levels of democracy” and may, in the long run, facilitate the resolution of Turkey’s conflict with the Kurds.
Posted in Kurds, Reform, Secularism, Turkey | Comment »
Islam and Democracy
August 24th, 2010 by Farid
Writing at Comment is Free, Brian Whitaker discusses the Quilliam Foundation’s claim that “violent and nonviolent Islamists broadly share the same ideology and disagree only on tactics.” According to the Quilliam Strategic Briefing Paper, “Preventing Terrorism: where next for Britain?, “Although some Islamist groups have accepted aspects of democracy, political pluralism and the concept of universal human rights, few — if any — Islamist groups have accepted all of these principles either fully or simultaneously.” The paper goes on to say that Islamism constitutes a threat to secular democracy and “tolerant society,” adding that Islamist ideology promotes an “anti-democratic, fascist state” comparable to racial apartheid.
Presenting a different analysis, Whitaker argues that the key issue is not Islamist violence, but the fact that Islamists “believe in the ’sovereignty of God,’” which “conflicts with democratic ideas about the sovereignty of the people.” According to Whitaker, the underlying problem is “an anti-libertarian assumption that linking the state with religion is both legitimate and necessary. Not only that, but religion claims the right, at least in some circumstances, to override the will of the people.” Whitaker attributes the increasing popularity of Islamist groups in the world to Western support of undemocratic regimes, adding that “the lack of scope for political and religious debate means that their basic ideology often remains unchallenged in the public discourse.” However, responding to Whitaker, Inayat Bounglawala​points to Turkey as model for reconciliation between Islamic values and democracy. In his assessment, he writes that “across the Islamic world, polls have repeatedly found widespread support in favour of the implementation of both democracy and Islamic values.”
Posted in Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Political Islam, Secularism | Comment »
Iran: Clerical Establishment Impeding Democratization
August 19th, 2010 by Farid
Ray Takeyh, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes in the The Washington Post that Iran’s mullah’s owe the Iranian people an apology for squashing “another democratic movement in the summer of 2009,” as they did in 1953 with the fall of Premier Mohammad Mossadegh​. In Takeyh’s view, it was not the instigation of the CIA plot against Mossadegh that played a decisive role in rejecting democratization in Iran, but rather the mullah’s influential voice that refused to accept secular democratization of the country.
Posted in Iran, Islam and Democracy, Secularism, US foreign policy | Comment »
Iranian Journalist Receives World Press Freedom Hero Award
August 10th, 2010 by Farid
The International Press Institute (IPI) has declared Akbar Ganji– Iranian journalist and dissident –a World Press Freedom Hero, in “recognition of his decades of work defending freedom of speech and equal rights for all, in the face of continued harassment and imprisonment.” Ganji spent six years in the infamous Evin prison in Tehran, much of that time in solitary confinement, while continuing to write. Addressing prospects for democracy in Iran, Ganji wrote a “Republican Manifesto” in which he “outlined the steps by which Iran could achieve a secular democracy, and emphasized respect for human rights, an independent press and an independent judiciary.”
Posted in Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Journalism, Reform, Secularism | Comment »
Turkey: Is Reform Truly a Debate Between Secularists and Islamists?
August 3rd, 2010 by Farid
Turkey will hold a national referendum on September 12 “on a wide-ranging set of changes to the constitution.” Advocating for the amendments, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) argues that the “reforms will enhance democracy in Turkey and boost its case for accession to the European Union.” The Republican People’s Party (CHP) however, opposes the reforms, saying that “they violate the independent nature of Turkey’s military and judiciary.” The package of reforms to the 1982 constitution includes 26 amendments encompassing military, judicial, and citizen rights components.
On that note, in a very insightful piece in The Wilson Quarterly, Michael Thumann argues that recent political developments in Turkey are not based on a “clash between Islamist Turks and secularists,” but rather on a conflict between Turkey’s long-reigning political elites and a “rising class of newcomers” with roots outside of Istanbul who also happen to be “religiously observant.” According to Thumann, the veteran elites are “gradually losing their grip on [Turkey’s] central institutions and its society, and they don’t like it.” Elaborating on this point, Thumann points to the issue of headscarves to suggest that “Islam in Turkey is not so much experiencing an upsurge or revival as it is coming out of the closet,” adding that women who wear headscarves have not increased in numbers but rather that they now wish to participate in public life. Correcting mainstream misconceptions about the AKP, Thumann explains that “the AKP has not pursued any Islamist objectives, such as establishing laws based on religious sources.” Turkey’s old elite however, believe that the “commitment to internal Westernization is hanging in the balance,” Thumann explains, adding that compromise is rare in Turkish politics and that “an attempt to make a minor amendment to the constitution may quickly turn into a battle about the very survival of the Turkish republic.” According to Thumann, in a trend similar to those seen in Western nations with diverse populations, “AKP partisans claim the same jobs, access to schools, and even concepts—modernity and democracy—that were once seen as the monopoly of the old elite.” But it is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Thumann argues, who has “assumed command of Turkey’s Westernization drive” and pushed for EU membership.
Regarding the upcoming referendum, Thumann says that the reform package fails to address Turkey’s increasing centralization of government. As of now, local governments in Turkey do not have the authority to make significant decisions, and thus, “Regions that lack self-sufficient local government perforce lack strong representation in the capital to push for local interests,” he explains. In a predominantly authoritarian region, Turkey’s embrace of democracy must be demonstrated by embracing “pluralism in its national life,” Thumann says.
Posted in Political Parties, Public Opinion, Reform, Secularism, Turkey | Comment »
Iran: Islamic Repuplic or Iranian Republic?
August 2nd, 2010 by Farid
Majid Mohammadi argues at Gozaar that the Green Movement in Iran has “reshaped the Iranian political factions” inside and outside of the country. Noting two different tendencies both inside and outside of Iran, Mohammadi writes, “One section of the movement pursues its goals within the framework of the existing regime and its constitution, while the other does not believe the regime is capable of reform and aims to overthrow the regime through a series of non-violent actions.” Mohammadi says that those in favor of working within the current system– Islamists –and those against it– secularists –are debating the vision of an Iranian republic vs. an Islamic republic. Describing the secularists as “revolutionary in substance,” Mohammadi explains that they “want regime change.” On the other hand, Mohammadi points out that Islamists do not hold the Islamic Republic responsible for the “misery of the Iranian people,” but rather hold “Khamenei’s regime to be a deviation from the original idea of the Islamic republic.”
Posted in Iran, Islamist movements, Political Islam, Reform, Secularism | Comment »
Turkey: AKP a Threat to Democracy?
August 2nd, 2010 by Farid
Writing in the National Review, Barbara Lerner argues that the current ruling political party in Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP, is indeed Islamist and that “a ‘moderate Islamist party’ is a Western fantasy, a contradiction in terms, concocted by people who are blind to the fundamental differences between Islam and Christianity​.”Assessing Turkish foreign policy under the AKP, Lerner argues that Turks “are now just part of the Middle Eastern mob,” adding that the party pretends to believe in freedom, democracy, and equality while in reality the government consists of “closed-minded, hate-spouting xenophobes and anti-Semites.” Comparing the current Turkish government to the Ottoman empire, Lerner says, “Ottoman emperors were the opposite of the narrow, hate-filled ideologues who govern the Arab and Persian states and, alas, Turkey today,” adding that the regime is “anti-western, anti-Christian, or anti-Jewish.” Lerner expresses four concerns: one, that the Turkish secular military has failed in its duties due to its fear of jeopardizing Turkish membership in the EU; two, that the AKP has infiltrated all secular institutions with its Islamist followers in order to consolidate its power; three that anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment amongst Turks is growing; and four, that the West has failed to hold the AKP accountable for its “extreme hostility to our legitimate and vital security interests.”
In another analysis of political developments in Turkey, Soner Cagapatay writes in Newsweek that “Turkey is heading toward a European model, but it is neither modern nor liberal.” Instead, he argues that Turkey is moving towards the East European model of the 1940’s, “when communist parties took power in democratic elections, only to subvert democracy and veil their nations behind the Iron Curtain.” Cagapatay equates communism with Islamism, saying, “both movements, rooted in an illiberal ideology, see democracy as a means to an end and espouse a Manichaean, us vs. them mentality.” He moves on to propose that the AKP will continue to support Islamist leaders in the region and “trample on free media, gender equality, and democratic safeguards such as an independent judiciary” in its own country. However, like Lerner, Cagapatay is hopeful that Kemal Kiliçdaroglu of the secular Republican People’s Party may gain public support, which Cagtaptay argues can only be achieved through “grassroots politics.” He adds that “the West must stand with democracy by ensuring free and fair elections and maintaining a level political playing field.”
Posted in Elections, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Political Islam, Political Parties, Reform, Secularism, Turkey, US foreign policy | Comment »
Kuwait: Secularism in Education?
July 23rd, 2010 by Farid
Kuwaiti Minister of Education Moudhi Humoud recently decided to “tone down the incendiary religious content of the nation’s school curriculum,” an action with serious political and religious repercussions in Kuwait. The secular minister, who has been criticized for not wearing the headscarf, discussed two questions in a “controversial draft of a ninth- grade final exam”: the issue of the companions of the prophet Muhammad and “appropriate behavior at a cemetery.” As both of these issues are of great contention for both Shi’a and Sunni Muslims, it is conceivable that Humoud was attempting to ease the sectarian tension in Kuwait. However, her aspirations sparked severe criticism from the political and religious establishment, with MP Mohammed Hayef arguing that “Our Islamic religion curriculum is not open to political compromises.” MPs have called for her “grilling” in parliament, which according to many will lead to either her impeachment or her resignation.
Posted in Islam and Democracy, Kuwait, Secularism | Comment »
Iran: Islam or Secularism?
July 12th, 2010 by Farid
Hooshang Asadi provides insight on the political and historical transformations of Iran as divided along liberal and fundamentalist lines, arguing that the Constitutional Revolution in 1906 and its collapse occurred precisely because of the popular Islamic shari’a legal system. Despite efforts to integrate the two into a formal constitution, “The self-contradictory nature of this constitution would later give birth to the Islamic Revolution of 1979.” According to Asadi, since the Islamic Revolution, the Iranian government has “sought to suppress civil society by replacing civil law with sharia law,” but he argues that only in the time of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has Iran tried to become an Islamic Caliphate rather than an Islamic Republic. Today, Iran is divided into two camps, Asadi explains — the Shi’a fundamentalists and the Green Movement, or reformists. According to Asadi, “Bearing in mind that Iran has long served as a source of inspiration for many social and ideological movements in the region, it becomes clear how critical is the outcome of the battle between these two camps in Iran for the country, the region, and the world at large.”
Posted in Iran, Political Islam, Reform, Secularism | Comment »
Iran: Infiltrating Schools With Clerics
July 12th, 2010 by Farid
In order to combat Western influence and political opposition, Iranian authorities have ordered to send 1,000 clerics into Tehran schools, according to Mohammad Boniadi, deputy director of Tehran’s education department. According to a piece in The Washington Post, these same measures were taken right after the 1979 revolution, when morality police were placed in schools to “promote the government ideology.” Seeking to enhance the government’s influence on the Internet, Fars News Agency has also reported that they will increase the number of pro-government blogs. Head of the Basij militia force, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, has also declared that the Basij will “increase its Internet capability threefold” by the Persian New Year, March 21.  Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, former reformist member of the Iranian Parliament who is currently a visiting fellow at Stanford University, argued that despite the government’s attempts to enhance its epistemological influence over the youth, it will inherently fail. In spite of years of attempts to Islamize universities in Iran, last year’s uproar around campuses during and after the presidential elections showed that Iranian youths have already “developed their own political and cultural views,” which according to Khoini will be difficult to change.
On the same note, the Hejab and Chastity Conference that has been announced in Iran, has gained significant critique from the rest of the world, since the government’s intentions are to ensure people’s adherence to Islamic dress code and to punish public socializing between opposite sexes while outside of marriage. According to a very interesting observation at Tehran Bureau, “While free expression within the rigid legal and cultural confines of the Islamic Republic has never been easy, enforcement of these draconian guidelines becomes ever more difficult as more and more Iranians adopt Western styles.”
Posted in Freedom, Iran, Islam and Democracy, Middle Eastern Media, Secularism | Comment »
Egypt: Coptic Church Rejects Court Ruling Over Non-Muslim Law
June 23rd, 2010 by Farid
Earlier this summer, the Egyptian Supreme Court passed a law obliging the Coptic Church to allow divorced Copts to remarry in the Church. According to an article in Al-Masry al-Youm, Copts gathered outside of the parliament building to demonstrate against the newly passed law, asserting that it goes against Biblical teachings.
Coptic Pope Shenouda III issued a statement against the law, saying that marriage is not simply an administrative act and that religious doctrines must be respected. In today’s piece in Al-Masry al-Youm, the Pope’s counselor, Hani Aziz, expressed optimism as President Mubarak has promised to finalize the new law with consideration and respect towards laws of the Gospel. The pope also showed his gratitude as  he praised Mubarak “for understanding our rejection of what violates our sacred precepts.” According to Aziz, the finalized version will be finished in two months.
Posted in Egypt, Secularism | Comment »
Egypt: Emergency Laws Extended for Another Two Years Amid Temperate Protests
May 11th, 2010 by Chanan
Less than 12 hours after Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif formally proposed extending the three decade old emergency law for another two years, Egypt’s parliament voted in favor of the measure by an overwhelming majority. The new law modifies elements of previous versions by abolishing powers, such as media censorship, property confiscation and telephone surveillance, originally given to the police. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Moufid Shehab told the Associated Press that “for the first time” the government is limiting the law’s jurisdiction to issues of terrorism and narcotics. “This step,” said Prime Minister Nazif, “shows the world that we are a state that respects its commitments in the area of human rights, and respects the rights and freedoms of its citizens.”
Activists, such as Human Rights Watch’s Heba Morayef, find these statements puzzling if not whole inaccurate. “The government has stated repeatedly that it would limit the emergency law’s use to narcotics and terrorism. This isn’t a new position,” she said. Backers of potential presidential contender, Mohamed ElBaradei, agreed with Morayef’s assessment. “It’s just a new look for the old emergency law,” said George Ishak, a senior member of ElBaradei’s coalition, the National Assembly for Change (NAC).
Prior to the government’s vote, a couple hundred protestors led by former presidential candidate Ayman Nour demonstrated in front of the parliament. Questioning the effectiveness of these, and other, protests by young Egyptian anti-government movements, Amro Hassan of the Los Angeles Times argued that they lack the organization, experience and resolve necessary to mount forceful pressure on the Mubarak government. “It takes more than Twitter messages, leftist slogans and the indignant musings of bloggers to challenge a regime with a history of crushing dissent,” he wrote.
In related news, Tariq Alhomayed​, editor of the Saudi-funded Asharq Al-Awsat, expressed concern that ElBaradei is casting too broad a coalition that might lead to his “drown(ing) in the corridors of Egyptian politics.” Citing the recent drama surrounding a potential mistranslation of a quote attributed to ElBaradei that suggested he persuaded the Muslim Brotherhood to “work for justice, democracy and a secular state, away from religious suppression of the public,” Alhomayed stressed that ElBaradei must make a decision about his constituency: “The question is does ElBaradei believe in a secular civil state that believes in everybody’s right to life, or is he accepting of a group that brought about injecting religion in politics and has its own goals and approach that are harmful to Egypt.”
In the meanwhile, ElBaradei’s coalition, the NAC, announced the formation of satellite offices throughout the United States in cities such as New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Michigan.
Posted in Egypt, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Legislation, Middle Eastern Media, Muslim Brotherhood, Protests, Saudi Arabia, Secularism, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
Lebanon: Protesters March for Secularism
April 26th, 2010 by Josh
Yesterday, more than 3,000 young Lebanese marched in downtown Beirut to protest Lebanon’s ubiquitous sectarianism that so often derails meaningful political and social progress. “Civil marriage, not civil war,” read banners carried by the demonstrators, who were participating in Lebanon’s first organized rally in favor of a secular state. Many activists also wore shirts with the phrase, “What’s your sect?” on the front and “None of your business” on the back. The march — originally conceived by a group of friends who were frustrated over a decision by a Muslim cleric to shut down a rock concert — was fueled by a Facebook group devoted toward secularism that attracted over 1,000 members in its first 24 hours.
“It is up to us to do something if we want it to change,” said Yelda Yones, one of the demonstration’s leaders. “To stop nagging about the system not functioning and start doing something about it and stay positive and united.” Another organizer insisted that “We cannot live in a country where they divide the chairs of the ministers according to their confessions, not their merits.”
Discussing the relative merits of the secularism movement, Elias Muhanna contends that the imprecise and insufficiently nuanced language used by activists will not succeed in changing Lebanon’s confessional system any time soon. “The current initiative behind the Lebanese Laique Pride march on Sunday seems destined to suffer the same fate as its predecessors: a brief, hopeful moment of energy and goodwill, followed by a quiet death on the op-ed pages of a handful of Lebanese newspapers,” he says.
Posted in Lebanon, Protests, Sectarianism​, Secularism | Comment »
Iraq: Ayad Allawi’s Coalition Wins Parliamentary Elections
March 26th, 2010 by Chanan
Preliminary results from the nationwide March 7th parliamentary elections show former secular prime minister Ayad Allawi ahead of current Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki by about two seats, granting the former’s Iraqiya alliance the first chance at forming a government. Allawi’s predominantly Sunni bloc received 91 seats in the 325-member parliament compared to Maliki’s 89 seats.
After the results were released, the Washington Post quotes Maliki as saying that “some of these results are unacceptable and unreasonable.” Ad Melkert, the United Nation’s representative in Iraq, disagreed saying ”it is the UN’s considered opinion that these elections have been credible and we congratulate the people of Iraq for this success.” Regardless,  Julien Barnes-Dacey​, an analyst at the Control Risks Group, explains in a Bloomberg article that “it doesn’t really matter who came first and who came second because it is basically a tie. Everything is up for grabs now.”
Before the results were announced and in response to a statement released by Maliki last week demanding a recount to prevent “a return to violence,” Spencer Ackerman commented that Maliki has the chance to do more for his country’s budding democracy by losing gracefully than by narrowly winning the election. “Nouri al-Maliki will secure his place in history if he becomes the first non-interim Iraqi leader to willingly relinquish power after the results of an election.”
Earlier in the day, 40 people were killed and more than 60 wounded in two bomb blasts in the Diyala province.
Posted in Elections, Iraq, Political Parties, Secularism, Terrorism, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
Iraq: Debates Over Election Recount, Political Trajectory
March 25th, 2010 by Josh
One day before Iraq’s election results are scheduled to be released, Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) chief Faraj al-Haydari insisted that a manual recount of ballots is unnecessary. This despite statements from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and others espousing support for such a measure to “preclude any doubt and misunderstanding” in the electoral results. “Anyone has the right to suggest,” Haydari said, “but I think we go and work according to the law. We listen to them. We can discuss with them. We can explain to them but we don’t take orders. This is law. It’s an election.” Last Sunday, with just over 90 percent of the ballots counted, the IHEC announced that Iyad Allawi’s coalition held an 8,000 vote lead.
Anticipating the forthcoming political spectacle, Robert Dreyfuss delineates a number of scenarios, each of which has a quite noticeable Rubik’s Cube effect “in which any twist or turn makes progress in one way but causes more problems on the other side of the cube.” Irregardless of who assumes power, Dreyfuss predicts a resurgence of destabilizing and potentially violent forces.
But Marc Lynch offers a rejoinder to those who think that Iraq is unraveling, saying that the electoral results “suggest that Iraqi nationalism is becoming a more potent force than sectarianism and that most voters have no trouble accepting a strong central government.” That said, Lynch admits that the structural deficiencies within Iraq’s political system remain unaddressed, perhaps leading to a “moment of truth” if either Allawi wins or Maliki squeezes out an insufficiently decisive victory and cannot build a governing coalition. Ultimately, however, “the electoral experience has only highlighted the essential irrelevance of the United States to unfolding events.”
Posted in Elections, Iraq, Political Parties, Secularism, US foreign policy | 1 Comment »
POMED Notes: “Elevating Human Rights on the U.S. Policy Agenda for Iran”
February 1st, 2010 by Josh
The Center for American Progress hosted an event to explore the efficacy of various U.S. foreign policy tools toward addressing human rights in Iran. The massive street protests following Iran’s presidential election of June 2009 highlighted Iranians’ disapproval of their ruling regime. Continuing protests during subsequent Iranian holidays and observances have showed that Iran’s opposition movement remains vital, and also signaled that Tehran’s grip on power may be somewhat vulnerable if the international community steadfastly supports Iranians’ basic rights. Though the administration has not ignored human rights in Iran, the issue remains an underutilized lever of American foreign policy. With large demonstrations expected during the February 11 anniversary of Iran’s 1979 revolution, likely to be followed by another government crackdown, the event’s participants examined the policy options currently being debated by the administration, and discussed ways to effectively harness human rights promotion to pressure on the Iranian regime.
For POMED’s notes in PDF, click here. Otherwise, continue reading below the fold.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in DC Event Notes, Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Human Rights, Iran, Islam and Democracy, Multilateralism​, Political Islam, Reform, Secularism, US foreign policy, sanctions | Comment »
Iraq: Election Concerns and Opinions
January 22nd, 2010 by Jessica
A New York Times editorial comments on the turmoil caused by the disqualification of 511 candidates. Many of the candidates are Sunni Muslims, and the Times believes their disqualification raises questions of legality, impartiality, and transparency on the part of the government. Among the disqualified candidates are Defense Minister Abdul-Kader Jassem al-Obeidi and Saleh al-Mutlaq, an influential Sunni politician.
The editorial comments on the support given to the accountability and election commissions by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Though in agreement that supporters of Saddam Hussein should be held accountable for past crimes, there is fear that the disqualifications are politically motivated. The accountability commission is spearheaded by Ali Faisal al-Lami, who is himself a candidate in the elections. The aforementioned candidate has strong ties to Shiite leader Ahmed Chalabi, a prominent force in Iraqi politics. The accountability commission staunchly maintains that disqualifications were made based on candidates’ ties to Hussein’s Ba’th Party. The NYT’s editorial praises the condemnation of many Iraqi citizens regarding the election commission’s procedures and their questions about the reasoning behind the disqualification.
Leila Fadel in an article for the Washington Post reports that Vice President Joseph Biden will visit Iraq in an attempt to diffuse the mounting tensions surrounding the March elections. Fadel expresses concern that the disqualifactions will serve to destabilize the Iraqi government just as the U.S. plans to diminish its military presence in the region. While Biden’s visit is openly welcomed by Iraq’s president, Talabani maintains that, “We are an independent country and will not receive orders from anyone, whether it is a brother Arab country, a neighboring country, or a friend. Mr. Biden made proposals, but we are committed to safeguard and uphold this consitution.” According to Fadel, the Obama administration my be concerned with the timeline of the elections given the growing tensions; if ballots are not printed within the next 10 days then the March elections may not take place.
A post with the Iraqpundit entitled, “Please Don’t Miss the Real Story,” responds to the NYT’s editorial suggesting that the it has overlooked the complexity of Iraqis. The author suggests that the NYT has misrepresented the situation and that while there were protests favoring the disqualification, there were also protests against that same decision. While the aforementioned issues are important, the article calls into sharp focus the issue of post election legitimacy. The author comments on an inherent a lack of integrity and with it a lack of trust in the system, as well as a belief that the election has been held in the most fair way possible. The article suggets that the media for the most part fails to account for the many Iraqis who want democracy and plan to vote for a strong, secular candidate with leadership qualities.
Posted in Elections, Iraq, Journalism, Sectarianism​, Secularism, Uncategorized | Comment »
Egypt: Moussa Won’t Run for President
December 23rd, 2009 by Jason
In an interview (Arabic) with al-Masry al-Youm, Arab League head Amr Moussa announced he will not run for president in Egypt’s 2011 elections. He explained, “The question is, is it possible? And the answer is, the road is closed.” The current constitution makes it nearly impossible for an independent candidate to run for president, and Moussa refuses to join a political party for pure “political opportunism.”
Meanwhile, President Mubarak met with King Abdullah in Riyadh today before heading on to Kuwait. They discussed the Middle East Peace Process and the Houthi insurgency in Yemen. Al-Masry al-Youm reports that the newly elected members of the MB Guidance Bureau swore fealty to General Guide Mahdi Akef yesterday. Sources within the MB suggest a new general guide will be named within two days.
Abdel-Rahman Hussein and Sarah Carr contend Egypt’s opposition groups are “blighted by internal divisions.” They observe that the Muslim Brotherhood has endured “heavy blows from the regime” as the media focused on the Brotherhood’s internal rifts. Meanwhile, Ayman Nour has been physically attacked, disbarred, and legally prohibited from running for office. While opposition groups banded together in October to campaign against the succession of Gamal Mubarak, the Kefaya movement has already withdrawn its support. Now Kefaya is left “trying to prove that it is still relevant” as it clamors for the election of an “alternative president” separate from the regime.
Babylon and Beyond delves deeper into the Muslim Brotherhood’s recent election, which resulted in a victory for the conservative faction. According to MB analyst Abdul Rehim Aly, “hard-liners couldn’t accept the presence of reformers within the group itself, so how can anyone expect them one day to have a dialogue with other people belonging to different religious and cultural backgrounds?”
Dalia Rabie explores several moral controversies of 2009, including the Ramadan arrests, the niqab ban and virginity kits, that “highlighted the conflict between Egypt’s so-called secular government and its age-old traditions.”
Posted in Arab League, Diplomacy, Elections, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Kuwait, Middle Eastern Media, Mideast Peace Plan, Military, Muslim Brotherhood, Palestine, Political Islam, Saudi Arabia, Secularism, Women | Comment »
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