Monday, April 25, 2011
Iraq has the distinct disadvantage compared to all other countries of the Middle East of having not one, but two authoritarian regimes. In Baghdad, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government has not only suppressed peaceful protests but has systematically moved to eliminate any system of checks and balances that would constrain his power. In the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), President Masoud Barzani has likewise worked to remove any challenges to his authority. In this process, his Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) had been supported by the other power broker in the KRG, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Put differently, Iraqis are oppressed by two authoritarian governments, one Arab and one Kurdish.
With all the current attention on Libya, Syria and Yemen, Iraq has been neglected in the Western media. However, demonstrations have continued both in the Arab and Kurdish areas of the country. These demonstrations have led to numerous arrests, and demonstrators being wounded and even killed. Despite ethnic differences, Arabs and Kurds in Iraq are protesting against the same issues.
In Baghdad, demonstrators continue to protest state corruption, the lack of public services, and the failure of the government to abide by transparent governance and the rule of law. Iraqi protesters have demanded that the al-Maliki government implement its election promises and cease attacking peaceful demonstrators who are trying to exercise their rights. On February 26th, 23 protesters were killed as Iraqis, following democracy activists elsewhere in the region, began their own "Day of Rage."
Following widespread arrests over the past two months, protesters are now demanding that the al-Maliki government release those who have been arrested. In other Middle Eastern countries, the slogan "Day of Rage" has characterized the regular Friday protests that follow mosque prayers. In Iraq, protesters have now added to that slogan, "The Friday commemorating the imprisoned innocents" ((jum'at mu'taqal al-abriya').
As reported by al-Hayat, (April 2), Iraqi security police have arrested women, children and the elderly and not just young men. These arrests have sparked more protests as security forces have blocked off streets around Liberation Square (Sahat al-Tahrir) in central Baghdad to prevent more Friday demonstrations.
Iraqi protesters have a right to be concerned with corruption. The Iraqi parliament's Integrity Committee has been investigating numerous cases of corruption which have been given greater impetus by country-wide protests that have condemned misuse of public funds (see al-Hayat, April 23). According to the committee's assistant chairperson, Ibrahim al-Juburi, financial and administrative corruption is widespread. He asserted that the lack of oversight since 2003, and the control of government funds by political parties and powerful political figures, explains Iraq's corruption problem.
The cases that the Committee are investigating range from contracts for buying aircraft from Canada, to expired foodstuffs that were purchased to be distributed to needy Iraqis, to metal detectors that do not function, to the purchase of a plot of land in downtown Baghdad on which a new university will be built. The new university, which will be known as al-Sadiq University (Jami'at al-Sadiq) will be run by one of al-Maliki's advisers, al-Shaykh Husayn Baraka al-Shami. The conditions under which the land for the new university was purchased are very suspect.
One of the important steps taken by the Iraqi parliament has been to abolish Article 136 of the District Courts' Foundational Law that prevents investigative agencies such as the Parliament's Integrity Committee, or the Agency for Financial Oversight (Diwan al-Riqaba al-Maliya), from prosecuting high ranking employees of government ministries, namely those who are director-generals or above.
Even with the Parliament's action, an unnamed high ranking member of the Integrity Committee expressed fear that the elimination of Article 136 would be prevented on political and legal grounds. al-Maliki's efforts to eliminate the independence of the Independent High Electoral Commission and the central bank, among other government agencies, raises questions of how much power Iraq's parliament can exert in controlling maleficence in the executive branch.
In the KRG, the Western and Arab media have been particularly remiss in not reporting the continuing demonstrations in the region's second largest city, Sulaimaniya. These demonstrations, which have been ongoing since last February 17th, follow the same pattern as in the Arab south. Protesters have demanded accountability on the KRG's part, an elimination of corruption, and the awarding of government employment on the basis of merit and not on the basis of ties to one of the two main political parties, the KDP or PUK.
While demonstrations have continued, security forces have attacked demonstrators and arrested numerous journalists who have sought to report on the protests. Reporters Without Borders has said that at least 14 journalists have been beaten and/or arrested in various areas of the KRG in connection with the demonstrations (al-Hayat, April 21).
Meanwhile, Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, also PUK head, has accused the new Gorran (Change) Party of inspiring the unrest. Gorran is a party that was formed in 2009 that split from the PUK in demanding democratic reforms in the KRG. It successfully contested the July 2009 KRG Regional Parliament elections, winning 25 seats.
Talabani's response to peaceful protests parallels that of al-Maliki and other authoritarian leaders throughout the Middle East. Rather than confront legitimate grievances, blame is cast on "troublemakers, outside agitators, and Islamists." In this instance, his ire has been directed at Gorran for "stirring up trouble."
What developments throughout the Middle East suggest is the need for greater coordination among democracy activists. In Iraq, it would make great sense for Arab and Kurds (and Turkmen and other groups) to unite in a cross-ethnic coalition, much as occurred during the period of the powerful Iraqi nationalist movement (1908-1963) which brought together all Iraq's ethnic groups, Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs, Kurds, Christians, Jews, Turkmen and others.
Indeed, the Gorran Party flag contains the Arabic word for "change" (taghyir), indicating that it is not hostile to Arabs. Because many of the demonstrators who support Gorran in the KRG are young, like many of the demonstrators in the Arab south, there is the opportunity for both groups to use social media to coordinate their activities and make known to the rest of the world the oppressive behavior of both the al-Maliki government and the KRG. In other words, a Kurdish-Arab coalition, inspired by Gorran, could become a powerful force for democratic change in Iraq.
Ultimately, it would be helpful to have all democratic movements, from Egypt's April 6th Movement to Syria's Insan human rights organization to Gorran in the KRG, share websites that would serve as clearing houses for information, strategies and tactics throughout the Middle East. As we know, democracy is never a gift. It only comes to those who organize.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The following remarks that I delivered were intended to welcome Dr. Tariq Ramadan and contextualize a lecture that he gave at Rutgers University on April 19, 2011.
It is my great pleasure to add my welcome to Dr. Tariq Ramadan who we are very fortunate to have lecture to us tonight on the topic of “Religion, Radicalism and the Quest for Pluralism.”
In his recently published, The Quest for Meaning: Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism, Dr. Ramadan begins his study by pointing to a world lacking in self confidence, a feeling that he rightfully argues is closely associated with fear.
While I am not a student of religion but rather of politics, much of what Dr Ramadan argues in The Quest for Meaning and his other writings resonates with my own research on the Middle East, especially the problems of youth, sectarian identities and democratization . Thus I would like to share some thoughts as a political scientist on the topic of the evening, namely how do we arrive at a more pluralist and tolerant world.
Among the many important questions that Dr. Ramadan raises in The Quest for Meaning, one for me as a political scientist is particularly telling In his chapter on freedom, he asks: What can thinking about freedom and society mean, if society does not guarantee me the preconditions for my humanity?
This question took me back to my days at the University of Chicago when I conducted a study for my MA thesis on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. I had begun my study as a comparative analysis - comparing religio-politcial movements in the United States with those in the Middle East. However, the Brotherhood quickly captured my attention.
As I focused on the Brotherhood, to my surprise, I discovered that the large sample of its members that I was able to develop through my research included few clerics or ‘ulama. Instead, I learned that most Brothers were well educated and from secular backgrounds, mostly from the teaching and other professions. What was characteristic of all the members of my sample was that they were both horizontally and vertically mobile. In other words, they were migrants from rural areas to Cairo and to other large Egyptian cities who aspired to upward mobility.
Unable to achieve this mobility once they arrived in urban areas because they lacked the requisite wasta or influence that would have allowed them to turn their education onto success, the Muslim Brothers often turned to radical politics and even violence. The name the Brothers used for the cells they organized was al-usra or family - an indicator of the alienation from society that they felt.
What I had discovered in my study of the MB was the beginning of what we refer to today as globalization. While authors such as Thomas Friedman and others extol the benefits of globalization, my own research in Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East has pointed to its dark under side.
What we see taking place throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century is the destruction of the agricultural sector of the economy and a massive rural to urban migration. With limited job creation in urban areas, the economies of Egypt and many other Middle Eastern and non-Western countries cannot absorb the migrants or their booming population growth . Egypt alone needs to create 250,000 jobs each year just to keep abreast of population growth.
The irony of globalization is that, on the one hand, we live in a world that is economically integrated . However, at the same time, we lack the political and social institutions as well as cultural knowledge that would allow us to interact as a global community based on values of pluralism, tolerance, mutual respect and social justice- all themes that are central to The Quest for Meaning.
Just as the members of the Muslim Brotherhood were angry that they could not realize their aspirations and dreams earlier in the 20th century, so too do many people in advanced capitalist countries and non-Western countries find their dreams thwarted as well. The so-called Tea Party with its xenophobic rhetoric, including anti-Muslim attitudes, indicates that the question of pluralism is global in nature and not a problem of the non-Western world alone.
In the Middle East, the problem of being able to look forward to a rewarding future is especially difficult for the large population of youth - what sociologists refer to as the “youth bulge” - where 70% of the population is under the age of 30. As economic inequality increases, employment opportunities shrink, education becomes more difficult to obtain, and health care is increasingly the realm of the privileged, many of those adversely affected by these processes of globalization are retreating from totalizing cross-cultural discourses, namely secularism liberalism and various forms of socialist thought.
Exactly at a time when the world is becoming more economically interdependent, the angry and the alienated withdraw into narrowly conceived forms of political discourses. These new forms of political discourse construct build rigid boundaries between “Us” ands “Them, between those who are “Authentic” such as the Tea Partyiers who claim to be the true and authentic patriots, and the vilified “Other” who becomes the scapegoats for all of a group or nation’s problems. These disaffected groups substitute hostility and sometime even violence for rational discourse based in shared values and negotiation. In this process, as Dr. Ramadan points out, pluralism, tolerance and mutual respect are the casualties.
While the process I have just described is often thought by Westerners to characterize the non-Western world, it permeates the West as well. All too often in the West, Islam is accused of standing against pluralism and reform, and of being supportive of intolerance, the suppression of women and authoritarian political practices. Certainly, such thinking reflects the undertone of the recent Congressional hearings on so-called radicalization of Islam in the United States that were held by Representative Peter King of New York.
It also explains why television evangelist Pat Robertson and Fox News Talk show host Glenn Beck recently supported the deposed president of the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo. Despite his having decisively lost the November 2010 presidential elections, and having refused to leave office and the fact that he was a repressive and corrupt ruler, Mssrs. Robertson and Beck still supported him. They argued that, despite losing the presidential elections, the West could not allow Gbagbo to be pushed from office because the rightly elected president of the Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, was a Muslim, and his taking office would mean yet another African nation-state falling under the control of Islam. This view of Islam as a political ideology rather than a religion that is hostile to the West is the antithesis of the pluralism that Dr. Ramadan advocates in The Quest for Meaning.
What my comments about the Muslim Brotherhood and Westerners are intended to suggest is that those who are hostile to Islam (or any other religion) do not understand the meaning of religion. The religion of those who are characterized by fear and anger is really politics pretending to be religion - what in Arabic is referred to as al-din al-musayyas or politicized religion. In this instance, basic tenets of religion are distorted to produce desired political outcomes, almost always at the expense of other groups in society.
One of the most notorious examples of politicized religion in the United States is the Ku Klux Klan that invoked Christianity to lynch innocent African-Americans in an effort to intimidate them and exclude them from political and economic life. The irony is that those who promote politicized religion rarely know the fundamentals of the religion of which they purport to believe.
This evening we, the members of the audience - whether Muslim or non-Muslim - are not here to address an “problem of Islam, ” but rather to ask what role can religion - in the true meaning of the term- play in promoting our ability to live together as a global community. We are all God’s children. The famous section in Voltaire’s Candide where the two armies, one comprised of Christian Bulgarians and the other of the Muslim Turks pray to God to vanquish their respective enemy highlights the absurdity of thinking that God loves one social group more than another.
In his interpretation of Islam in many scholarly texts Dr Ramadan argues that religion needs to constantly be subject to examination as to how it applies to contemporary life. This calls attention to the dispute between Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib when the Khawarij condemned him for negotiating with his enemy, the Ummayids. When accused of substituting human reason for God’s word, Imam Ali laid a Qur’an on the table and asked it to speak. To this the Khawarij responded that the Qur’an is not human and therefore cannot speak. Imam Ali replied by saying that this is precisely the case since it is human beings who must interpret God’s word and hopefully apply it in the proper manner in their daily lives. This rejection of fanaticism and more humble approach to religion is precisely what is required if pluralism is truly to become a widely accepted value.
My recent research with Iraqi youth between the ages of 14 and 30 provides reason for hope, as does the mass movement of youth throughout the Middle East who are calling for freedom of expression and thought and the right to decide their own destiny. The Iraqi youth in my focus groups - both Arab and Kurd - are anti-sectarian and look to a future Iraq where employment is right of all citizens, where building a family is not beyond their reach, and where political leaders serve their constituencies rather than their wallets.
On the other hand, many of these youth know little about the history of their country or about religion. Clearly, education - another central theme in Dr. Ramadan’s writings, precisely what is happening here tonight, must capture more of our resources and attention if we care to transcend insecurity and fear of the Other.
In The Quest for Meaning, Dr. Tariq Ramadan argues that “Analytic reason does not recognize any dogma” (30) His writings seek to provide us with ways of transcending our fear of the world by coming together under a “big tent” in which all well intentioned people can enjoy the benefits of pluralism, grow as human beings and live together in peace and social justice. Working together, even in small ways, we can make his vision of the world a reality.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Guest author: Kira Baiasu
There has been much debate surrounding the role of social media in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Though the movement that led to the ousting of President Husni Mubarak has been dubbed the “Facebook Revolution,” it is not the first time that foreign media has been quick to connect a social networking site with a popular uprising.
The 2009 Iranian protests were labeled the “Twitter Revolution,” and ever since there are those who are adamant that social media is a vital instrument for mobilizing the masses while others argue that social media is just a new means of communication in a history of popular uprisings that fared quite well without these new technological innovations.
While social media is not necessary for organizing revolutions it served three important functions leading up to the Egyptian Revolution. It aided in building a politically conscious civil society over the course of a number of years prior to the Revolution, it lowered the threshold for engaging in political dissent by providing a relatively anonymous space for political debate in a country that outlaws gatherings of five or more people, and it allowed organizers to plan protests more easily and anonymously.
One of the first scholars to coin the term “cyber-resistance” in the context of Middle Eastern social movements was Mamoun Fandy. As far back as 1999, Fandy identified that Saudi opposition movements, such as the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (MIRA), were using the internet as a tool for circumventing the ever watchful eyes of the oppressive regime.
Fandy found that the internet offered both opposition groups and the state an intermediate space where they were able to disseminate information in a virtual space that was beyond limited conceptual and physical spaces. The internet provided “a new space for airing grievances with minimal risk.” By emailing opposition newsletters and information throughout the Kingdom, MIRA was able to promote its cause without the physical risk of going out into the streets in protest or holding illegal meetings that could be shut down by the authorities.
Critics might argue that there was little difference between the use of email and the more traditional method of distributing cassette tapes by anti-regime clerics, but the novelty was that by using email, information could be disseminated simultaneously and immediately to a large number of people simply with a click of the mouse.
Other than the work of Fandy and a few others, there was little written about the use of social networking in political protest movements for quite a while. While the media began to latch on to the importance of social networking after Facebook and Twitter helped rally the youth vote in the 2008 American presidential elections, it was during the protests following the 2009 Iranian presidential elections that social networking sites were deemed such a central tool in mobilizing the masses that the uprising was labeled by many as the “Twitter Revolution.”
Within the Iranian context, Twitter was used to organize protests and disseminate information. According to Time magazine, Twitter was the medium of the movement because it was easy for average citizens to use but difficult for government authorities to control. The purpose of Twitter is for news to spread and spread fast, which makes it an ideal method for organizing a mass protest. Even when the government attempted to block Twitter, proxy servers were set up to allow Twitter content into Iran through network addresses that had not been blocked.
In June 2009 the U.S. State Department reached out to Twitter and asked the company to delay its planned upgrades so that Iranian protesters using the social networking site would be protected and would have access to it as a means of communication. This request by the U.S. government highlights the importance of sites such as Twitter and Facebook not only for casual social networking but also as a political instrument, a fact that governments both promoting democratic initiatives and attempting to maintain authoritarian rule are beginning to recognize.
Just as soon as the media began to proclaim that social networking was pivotal for mass mobilization in the Iranian uprisings, others began to question how important these sites really were and claimed that their centrality was overstated. Throughout history, protests against oppressive regimes occurred without the use of social networking sites. People still managed to organize and amass large crowds virtually overnight before the advent of Twitter, including during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Wasn’t Twitter just a new way of doing the same old thing?
The debate over the importance of social networking continued during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Just as the Iranian protests had been labeled the Twitter Revolution, the foreign press was quick to cast the Egyptian uprising as the Facebook Revolution. However, as quickly as the name caught on, it was called into question on January 27, 2011 when the Egyptian government took the unprecedented step of shutting down all internet service in the country.
In addition to the Internet blackout, a large number of Egyptians lost mobile service. Despite the unanticipated loss of virtually all modern technological means of communication, protest organizers were able to bring out larger crowds than ever using flyers and leaflets, word of mouth, and mosques as centers for congregation.
If protest organizers were still able to amass large crowds in such a short period of time without the use of social networking then why bother to call it a Facebook Revolution at all?
The importance of Facebook in the Egyptian Revolution lies in the events leading up to the Revolution. Revolutions are not usually spontaneous events. While outsiders may not anticipate the uprising until it occurs, revolutions often take careful planning and slowly unfold over a long period of time.
In 2008, the April 6 Youth Movement used Facebook and YouTube to organize a nationwide strike in support of workers in al-Mahalla al-Kubra. During the strikes citizen journalists used Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr to report on strikes and draw attention to their cause. By 2009 a New York Times article reported that the April 6 Youth Movement Facebook group had 70,000 members, mostly young educated Egyptians who were novices to the political scene.
The group members’ primary political grievances have centered on free speech, government nepotism, and economic stagnation. In addition to followers using the Facebook page as a public forum for political discussion, the organizers of the April 6 Youth Movement are able to post politically relevant news articles and videos to their wall and send out messages to followers providing political updates, accurate information, and news about upcoming events and protests.
In terms of bringing people off the web and into the streets, it has been a place for debating and planning protests and calling followers to engage in political activism. In a relatively closed society with government controlled media, the Movement was able to use Facebook as a tool for developing a young, politically informed civil society. Social media, in this case Facebook, lowers the threshold for political participation in countries ruled by authoritarian or closed regimes. While individuals’ private preferences may be in favor of regime change, the risks to one’s safety are often too large to publicly display such preferences.
The Internet provides a greater degree of anonymity where citizens can express their political ideas with less fear of reprisal. It also allows groups to circumvent the Egyptian Emergency Law that criminalizes the assembly of 5 or more people in a gathering that could "threaten public order." Facebook allows citizens from different areas of the country, who might otherwise never meet, to share political views and realize that they are not alone in their feelings of opposition to the regime. In short, Facebook aids in the development of civil society, particularly in countries where open political opposition is often curbed by force.
The April 6 Youth Movement is not the only group to use social media to reach the Egyptian masses. We are all Khalid Said, founded by Google executive Wael Ghonim as both a Facebook page and blog, was created in response to the death of twenty-eight year old political blogger Khalid Said at the hands of Egyptian police in Alexandria after Said posted a video on his blog exposing police corruption.
The purpose of the pages was to end torture in Egypt by exposing the brutality of the Egyptian regime. Posting graphic pictures and videos and providing information on Egyptian torture, the pages outraged many Egyptians and in 2010 more than 11,000 people heeded the call for silent protests in Cairo, Alexandria, and across Egypt against Khalid Said’s death. These protests were organized on the "We are all Khalid Said" Facebook page. We are all Khalid Said has become the largest Egyptian dissident page, attracting over one hundred thousand followers, who again came out in protest during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.
In addition to the April 6 Youth Movement and We are all Khalid Said, other groups such as Kifaya, a grassroots coalition that opposed Husni Mubarak’s presidency, began using social networking to organize protests against the regime in 2004, close to the time of the 2005 presidential elections.
There have been numerous smaller political pages that have popped up around the country from Suez to Port Said. However, it is not only the number of followers that a page has that is so important in forming a revolution. If one looks solely at the development of a politically conscious civil society, then the number of followers is a good measure of political activity.
However, the Egyptian Revolution began on January 25, 2011 as an interaction between smaller organized groups, such as the April 6 Youth Movement, We are all Khalid Said, Justice and Freedom, Muslim Brotherhood youth, ElBaradei's campaign, The Popular Democratic Movement for Change (HASHD), and The Democratic Front, and a larger mass of disorganized, everyday citizens with economic grievances.
Though small, the organizing groups were clearly effective in bringing people to the streets who had never engaged in political activity a day in their lives. While organizers did meet in person, social media was sometimes a safer way to interact and plan. In protests organized in the years preceding the revolution, oftentimes organizers would never meet in person, conducting all planning and coordinating through Facebook.
While there will remain skeptics who feel that the role of social media leading up to the Egyptian Revolution has been overstated, one thing is certain. If one logs onto Facebook today, there are more Egyptians than ever before using the site to discuss the constitutional referendum, the role of the military, and a host of politically pressing issues. It appears that at least in the near future, Facebook will provide one of the primary forums for Egyptian youth’s political debates.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Qaddafi: My Imminent Downfall will be the End of the King of Africa's Kings and the Dean of the Arab Rulers
Guest author: Dr. Abdelhamid al-Siyam
القذافي: سقوط انفرادي محتوم لملك ملوك أفريقيا وعميد الحكام العرب
عبد الحميد صيام
في عام 1992 قام وفد صغير من الأمم المتحدة بالوصول إلى خيمة القذافي جنوب طرابلس وقام رئيس الوفد الروسي الجنسية بتسليم العقيد رسالتين واحدة من الأمين العام بطرس بطرس غالي يدعوه فيها للتعاون مع المنطمة الدولية في مكافحة الإرهاب وتسليم المتهمين عبد الباسط المقراحي والأمين خليفة فحيمة كما نص القرار الذي اعتمد للتو 731 (1992). أما الرسالة الثانية فكانت موجهة للعقيد من عضوين دائمين في مجلس الأمن وقد طلب من الوفد تسليمها فقط كأمانة. تلك الرسالة التي غيرت سياسة القذافي الخارجية من زعيم داعم للثورات وحركات التحرر إلى رئيس دولة صغيرة وقع في شرك الدول الكبرى وليس أمامه إلا أن ينصاع انصياعا كاملا لما هو مطلوب منه دون مناقشة أو اعتراض. وتحمل الرسالة سبعة عشر شرطا طلب من العقيد تنفيذها بالكامل كرزمة واحدة لا مجال للمساومة أو الاختزال أو التخفيف منها. وبقاء النظام أو انهياره كان الفرق بين تنفيذ سلة المطالب تلك أو عدم تنفيذها.
إذن بعد حادثة لوكربي عام 1988 شعرالعقيد أنه وقع في الفخ وأن الأمريكان والبريطانيين لن يغفروا له هذه الجريمة، واقتنع أن نظامه الشمولي الغريب من نوعه لا يستطيع البقاء أمام ضغط أمريكي بريطاني حقيقي، فاختار الاستسلام والخنوع المذلين لإملاءات السياسة الأمريكية البريطانية دون نقاش أو حق اعتراض.
في السبع سنوات التالية ولغاية تسليم المتهمين في نهاية عام 1999 عمل العقيد على تنفيذ كل ما جاء من إملاءات أمريكية بريطانية مقابل عدم الإطاحة بحكمه. تخلى عن الفصائل التي كان يدعمها وقدم قوائم وكشوفات بكل الجماعات التي تدربت في ليبيا أو تلقت مساعدات منها من الجيش الجمهوري الإيرلندي إلى ثوار المورو في الفلبين وصولا إلى كافة الفصائل اللبنانية والفلسطينية والأفريقية وأوقف كل برامج ودراسات ومعامل تتعلق بأسلحة الدمار الشامل وكشف عن الخبير النووي الباكستاني عبد القدير الذي ساعد ليبيا ودولا أخرى في إنشاء برامج نووية وأغلق معسكرين للتدريب ذكرا بالإسم وأبدى استعداده للتعامل مع إسرائيل حيث أرسل قافلة مكونة من 200 ليبي للحج إلى مدينة القدس في الأول من شهر حزيران (يونيو) عام 1993 والهدف بالتأكيد لم يكن للتقرب إلى الله من ساحات المسجد الأقصى بل التقرب إلى إسحاق رابين في تل أبيب لكن مغامرته المكشوفة هذه باءت بالفشل الذريع. بل وذهب أبعد من ذلك عندما قام في أيلول (سبتمبر) عام 1995 بطرد 30,000 فلسطيني وصادر أملاكهم ورمى بهم على الحدود مع مصر ليتبث للغرب أنه انتقل بالفع لا بالقول إلى جانب الولايات المتحدة وحليفتها إسرائيل بل إنه أشد قسوة على الفلسطينيين من إسرائيل نفسها.
كان يتمنى القذافي لو أن تسليم المتهمين سيحل الأزمة إلا أن بريطانيا وأمريكا لم تكونا في عجلة من أمرهما خاصة وأن مجلس الأمن كان تحت سيطرة الدولتين تماما بعد انهيار الاتحاد السوفييتي. في السنوات السبع تلك شهد نظام القذافي ضعفا وتفككا ومعارضة داخلية واسعة وذلك لأسباب ثلاثة:
أولا: الانصياع الكامل لإملاءات الولايات المتحدة وبريطانيا وتبديد بلايين الدولارات للتعامل مع الأزمة وخاصة بعد الحصار الذي فرض على ليبيا
ثانيا: زيادة القمع غير المحدود
ثالثا: المغالاة في تأليه شخصيته للتغطية على إذلاله وانصياعه الكاملين.
القمع منذ البداية
محنة الشعب الليبي مع هذا المهرج المصاب بجنون العظمة ليست جديدة بل تعود إلى البداية عندما فشل في تسويق نفسه كزعيم قومي ووريث شرعي لعبد الناصر. ثم تحول إلى قائد أممي مع بداية عام 1977 وأطلق ما سمي الكتاب الأخضر والنظرية الثالثة وأعاد تسمية البلد وغير أسماء الأشهر وغير التاريخ الهجري وكاد أن يتلاعب في آي القرآن الكريم. تعامل مع المعارضة بمنتهى الوحشية حيث بدأ يعلق المعارضين على أعواد المشانق أمام الناس وفي مداخل الجامعات ليرهب الناس ويزرع الخوف في قلوبهم. وأدخل البلاد في حروب فاشلة بهدف تفتيت ما تبقى من الجيش مرة مع مصر عام 1977 ومرات عديدة مع تشاد ابتداء من عام 1978 إلى غاية عام 1987 ومرة مع تونس عندما دعم تمردا سيطر على مدينة قفصة في الجنوب عام 1980.
وكلما أوغل العقيد في مسخرة اللجان الشعبية وتأسيس ما سماه أول جماهيرية في التاريخ كلما زادت نسبة التبرم الشعبي وبالتالي يوغل في سفك الدم والتقتيل والتعذيب ليس فقط داخل حدود البلاد بل وفي الخارج أيضا. واستطاع عبر توزيع الرشاوي أو الخداع أن يستدرج أويختطف عددا من المعارضين في الخارج ليفرمهم في الداخل. وكان السيد منصور الكيخيا، وزير الخارجية الأسبق والممثل الدائم لليبيا في الأمم المتحدة أبرز هؤلاء الرموز. فقد تم اختطافه من مصر أثناء مشاركته في مؤتمر عن حقوق الإنسان عام 1993 وتصفيته فورا، خاصة وأن اختطافه تزامن مع محاولة اغتيال العقيد في "بلد الوليد" البعيدة 100 كم جنوب شرق طرابلس حيث تم إعدام نحو 1500 من أبناء البلد.
لقد استطاع القذافي أن يخمد المعارضة الليبية بالعنف المفرط وتهميش الجيش خوف الانقلاب والإغداق علــى رجال الأمن الجهلة الذي أخرجهم من المدارس ولا يعرفون شيئا إلا التسبيح والحمدلة للعقيد.
بعد إعادة تأهيله من قبل الدول الغربية ابتداء من عام 2001 وبعد أن دفع التعويضات الهائلة لضحايا الطائرتين الفرنسية والأمريكية وبعد أن سلم مجلس الأمن رسالة خطية يعترف فيها بمسؤوليته عن حادثة لوكربي- بدأ القذاقي يغالي في تأليه نفسه متجها بملايينه إلى الدول الأفريقية بعد أن ابتعد عنه العرب شعوبا وحكومات. بدأ يتحدث وكأنه يمسك بين يديه ناصية التاريخ والفلسفة والحكمة والعلم والدين. فوضع حلا لقضية فلسطين ضمنه في كتابه الأبيض وأسمى الدولة "إسراطين" لكن أحدا لم يأخذ برأيه، وأعلن أن حلول مشاكل العالم الاقتصادية والاجتماعية والسياسية كلها موجودة في كتابه الأخضر الذي لم يقرأه أحد خارج جماهيريتيه لتفاهته ودعا إلى وحدة اندماجية لكل الدول الأفريقية وأطلق جائزة لحقوق الإنسان وكان أول الفائزين بها، ثم أصبح كاتب قصة ومنح نفسه لقب ملك ملوك أفريقيا وعميد الحكام العرب ومفجر ثورة الجماهير وصاحب أول جماهيرية في التاريخ. وكلما أوغل في تأليه نفسه كلما زاد العالم ازدراء له وتعاظم تململ الشعب الليبي من هذا المهرج المستبد.
ليس من الغريب إذن بل ومن المنطق، عندما هب الشعب الليبي الطيب الصبور ليعلن نهاية حكم الطاغية، أن يجد العقيد نفسه محاصرا دون أصدقاء لا في الممالك الأفريقية ولا عند القادة العرب ولا عند ثوار أفريقيا وآسيا وأمريكا اللاتينية الذين يدعي أنه قائدهم ولا عند الدول الإسلامية التي يدعي أنه يتصدى باسمها لحرب صليبية جديدة. ها هو قائد جماهيرية الوهم محاصر في باب العزيزية دون أنصار ودون أصدقاء ودون أتباع. يترنح قبل السقوط النهائي ولا يجد حوله أحدا إلا بعض أبنائه وحفنة من زبانيته الفاسقة ومن تبقى من المرتزقة الذين استأجرهم لذبح شعبه. وكغيره من الطغاة، لن يجد في هذا الكون من يذرف دمعة عليه بل ستسري موجة من الفرح لدى أبناء الشعب العربي كلهم وفي أولهم أحفاد عمر المختار الذي أذلهم وبدد ثرواتهم وأمعن في احتقارهم وخاصة عندما قرر نقل رفات أسد الصحراء من بنغازي إلى بلدة سلوق في مجاهل الصحراء عام 1980 وإقامة سوق تجاري مكانه لأن الطاغية لا يعترف بتاريخ لليبيا قبل انقلابه المشبوه في الفاتح من أيلول (سبتمبر) 1969. ولن يمر وقت طويل قبل أن نرى ليبيا خالية من صوره وكتابه وأفكاره البلهاء وشعاراته الجوفاء ويعود الشعب الليبي الطيب الصبور المتسامح جزءا عزيزا من أمته العربية يعيش حالة سلام مع الذات ومع الآخرين ويستغل إمكاناته الهائلة لتنمية بلده ومساعدة أمته وترميم الخراب الذي تركه نظام فردي شمولي كاسر أهلك البلاد وأذل العباد لمدة 42 سنة.
أستاذ دراسات الشرق الأوسط والعلوم السياسية بجامعة رتغرز بولاية نيوجرزي
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Guest author: Andrew Spath
The makings of a revolution are not in Jordan. Opposition is divided, the monarchy maintains widespread support as an institution, and reformists are directing grievances against Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit, who succeeded Samir Rifa’i after the king dissolved the cabinet in February, and his new government. In general, the reform activists are appealing to King Abdullah II to expedite responses to their demands, not calling for his ouster.
Despite a lack of full consensus among the opposition, demands generally include a new and representative election law to replace the law drafted last May and used in the November 2010 elections; dissolution of parliament; a new election, based on a new law, to replace parliament; stronger parliamentary power relative to the executive; greater freedoms of speech, assembly, and press; and major strides against corruption and profiteering among government officials.
But opposition is highly fragmented, and the divisions and disagreements among the opposition are hurting their overall cause. In an attempt to bring the formal opposition parties to join a national dialogue on reforms, King Abdullah established the National Dialogue Committee (NDC) in March under the patronage of the president of the Senate, Taher Masri. The Islamist movement, particularly the Islamic Action Front (IAF), is calling for PM Bakhit to resign and for the NDC to be under the patronage of the King himself, making him the reference point for demands and reforms. Parties among the leftists and pan-Arabist opposition are more willing to wait for the government’s response to the suggestions of the National Dialogue Committee in the coming months, as are the centrist parties like the National Constitutional Party (NCP).
These blocs of formal opposition not only differ in respect to their on the prime minister and his cabinet, but also on the character of a new election law. There is a shared call for abolishing the one-person, one-vote system, but the Islamists support for party list elections worries the less-established centrist and leftist parties. The formal opposition blocs also diverge on their views of the kingship, with calls for reduced executive powers of varying degrees. The king currently appoints the prime minister by royal decree, and many opposition groups want to revoke those powers and give them to the parliament. Resulting from these disagreements and others, formal opposition parties have postponed holding the Friday protests that have become regular in the last two months.
There seems to be little movement among the informal opposition this weekend as well. Successive episodes of reformist mobilization in the form of street protests and sit-ins turned violent at the antagonistic countermobilization of anti-reformists. Two Fridays ago, a demonstration led by Jordanian youth called March 24 Shabab (March 24 Youth) populated Gamal Abdel Nasser Square outside the Interior Ministry in Amman. After 30 hours of populating the square in peaceful protest, anti-reformist protesters and the introduction of the darak (riot police) escalated the situation to a violent attack against the reformists leaving two dead. The protests and subsequent clashes may have taken a temporary toll on the efforts of the constituent youth associations, exposing disagreements among the constituent groups. Last Friday, two prominent factions of the March 24 Shabab Movement did not participate in the sit-in at Ras al-Ain in downtown Amman. Jayeen (We Are Coming) officially withdrew from the March 24 Shabab Movement, and Wihda (the youth of the Democratic Popular Unity Party) did not withdraw but decided not to attend as a result of disorganization.
There is a real window of opportunity here, in the wake of violent events and amidst a temporary recess in the mass street demonstrations of previous weeks, for positive government intervention. The Jordanian government has a chance to exhibit a real commitment to political and economic reforms before potential escalation.
Pessimism abounds, however, as previous opportunities have been largely squandered. Last May, for example, seven months after King Abdullah II dissolved the parliament (for a second time since he took power in 1999) amidst allegations of corruption and inefficacy, the government’s new electoral law – marketed to be a significant step toward political fairness and transparency – was a major disappointed among reformists and opposition groups hoping for fairer representation. Patience among pro-democracy advocates is wearing thin after successive iterations of what Jillian Schwedler identified as the cycle that stagnates Jordanian politics: “new elections law, new parliament, stalemate on economic reforms, dissolution of parliament, flood of temporary laws, repeat.”
The Jordanian government would be mistaken to think that the protests will be placated by small economic measures or shuffling cabinet positions. Since January, the government has increased salaries and pensions for public employees and the military, increased subsidies on fuels and staple foods, drafted a law creating a teachers union, replaced a cabinet and prime minister, established the National Dialogue Committee, and recommitted publicly to continued economic and political reforms without specification. King Abdullah stated last week that he personally guaranteed the changes suggested by the National Dialogue Committee and the potential for constitutional amendments, but only time will tell the seriousness with which he is willing to do so and whether he is willing to cede some of his own power in the process.
Taking a short-term view, these are positive developments. But while these efforts are surely welcomed and constructive, the protesters and reformists have been calling for significant structural changes in Jordan’s politics and comprehensive freedoms. King Abdullah, and King Hussein before him, have pulled short-term levers to pacify dissent on numerous occasions, only to disappoint on long-term, transformational political reforms.
Seizing the opportunity is all the more important in the face of serious threats to stability. Reinforcing social cleavages in Jordan make for a tension-filled political situation, especially during a period in which society is increasingly mobilized and politicized. Despite significant internal diversity, Jordanian social cleavages include a division between East Bank Transjordanians and Jordanians of Palestinian origin. But the divisions are reified in other identifiable ways. East Bank Jordanians constitute the influential tribes in Jordan, maintaining “tribal culture” through traditional networks, while the Palestinian Jordanians, partly as a function of historical uprootedness, rely primarily on the immediate family. The East Bank Jordanians hold the highest positions in the military and security apparatus and are heavy in public sector employment, while the Palestinian Jordanians dominate the private sector. Recent and impending economic reforms therefore exacerbate these divergent identities and create tension among these social groups. As does Jordan’s relationship with Israel and its policies and positions on Palestinian and Israeli peace.
Recent protests exemplify these troubling signs of division. Naseem Tarawneh provides a revealing first-hand account and analysis of the social divide playing out during recent weeks of protest and social activity. She describes the way that public discourse turned away from politics and economics and possibilities for reform, and instead slowly became dominated by the issue of loyalty, pitting the “loyalist” anti-reformists against the reformers who were painted as the traitorous Islamist Palestinians. These divisions are not only manifest on the street but online. Tarawneh points to facebook groups for “Pure Jordanians” for “100% Jordanians only,” and the “[s]eemingly endless calls in support of all the ‘brave Jordanians’ who ‘cleansed’ the Interior Circle from the ‘insurgents’, the ‘Islamists’ and the ‘Palestinians.’”
Calls for, and affirmations of, national unity are ubiquitous in Jordanian political discourse. The government has established major initiatives in recent years for the purpose of creating a sense of national unity with the “Jordan First” and “We Are All Jordan” campaigns. It is clear to anyone who has lived in Jordan or follows the politics of the country that these campaigns have failed to achieve their purpose.
Guest author: Andrew Spath
Empty promises and weak responses to reformist demands will maintain an ever-risky status quo. While it may be impossible to bridge the social divide in the country, significant liberal reforms are the only means to create a sense of fairness in the system and satisfy political demands. King Abdullah has the opportunity to truly champion these reforms, satisfy some of the key demands of the reformists without risking his own position, and prevent an uptick in social unrest. We will find out after the NDC’s suggestions and the government’s decisions on implementation whether the regime will continue tweaking the system incrementally or re-energize a now stagnant process of liberalization.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Meaningful and Positive Secularism in Lebanon
Guest author: Lawyer John Nassif Soueid
لبنان وا لعلمانية الحقيقية أو الإجابية
إن ما يجري على الساحة اللبنانية من مظاهرات ولو محدودة، تدعو إلى تطبيق مبدأ العلمانية في مجتمع تسوده لا بل تتحكّم به الطائفية والمذهبية، أمر يدعو للتفائل.
بالامس سمعنا عن مظاهرات جابت شوارع مدن بيروت، وصيدا ومناطق عديدة من لبنان، كلها تنادي بالتخلّص من الانظمة الطائفية وبدء تطبيق النظام العلماني الحقيقي الذي يساوي بين المواطنين،والذي لا يتعارض مع الدين.
هذا وقد طرح موضوع العلمانية في وثائق السينودوس من اجل الشرق الاوسط في الفاتيكان لاول مرة في شهر تشرين الاول 2010 كحل جدّي لما يعاني منه أبناء الطوائف المسيحية في تلك المنطقة المجذرة بالطائفية.
وبالامس القريب ايضاً، صرّح غبطة البطريرك المنتخب مار بشارة بطرس الراعي،إثر انتخابه،بما مضمونه بان العلمانية قد تكون النظام الافضل للبنان، كونه لا يتعارض مع الدين إطلاقاً، لا بل على العكس يثبّت أسسه المبنية على العدل والحرية والمساوات لكافة أبناء الوطن الواحد، مهما كانت طوائفهم، ومعتقداتهم، باعتبار أن القوانين المدنية هي الصالحة للعلاقات بين المواطنين إلى اي مذهب او طائفة إنتموا دون اية تفرقة.
من جهة أخرى،لقد صرّح مفتي الجمهورية الشيخ محمد رشيد قباني من على منبر صرح بكركي مركز البطريركية المارونية بما يدعو ايضاً الى التفائل وهو الاسراع في تحضير لاجتماع للمسلمين في بكركي للبحث في هذه الامور.
أما على المستوى السياسي، وبالرغم من أن النظام الطائفي مكرّس في الدستور، والقوانين، والاعراف، وعقليات بعض السياسيين المستفيدين من هذا النظام الطائفي. إلا أن البعض الاخر
جاهد وما زال يجاهد في سبيل تطبيق العلمانية، إيماناً منه أنها النظام الامثل للبنان.
نلاحظ أن موضوع الدولة العلمانية المدنية كان مطروحاً في الحقبة الاخيرة من القرن العشرين.
فعميدالكتلة الوطنية ريمون إده كان من اوائل الدعاة لهذا المشروع. فالعميد عارض مشروع
تقسيم لبنان إلى دويلات طائفية كما كان معروفاً بمشروع كيسنجر وآثر البقاء والعيش فيما كان
يسمى المنطقة الغربية حيث الغالبية المسلمة.
بعض الاحزاب اللبنانية حافظت على المبادىء العلمانية في دساتيرها. على الرغم من إشتراكها
في الحرب الطائفية البغيضة التي إجتاحت الوطن لاكثر من ثلاثين سنة. نذكر على سبيل المثال
لا الحصر، الحزب الشيوعي، والحزب القومي السوري الاجتماعي حيث أن اعضاء هذه الاحزاب تتكوّن من مجمل شرائح وطوائف ومذاهب الوطن.
يبقى أن الاكثر علمانية بين الاحزاب اللبنانية هو التيار الوطني الحر، الذي يقوده العماد ميشال عون. وهو مؤمن بان الخلاص للبنان يكمن في تطبيق مبادئ العلمانية وبشكل واع وهادئ،
لادخاله في ثقافة المواطنين، عوضاً عن النظام الطائفي الراسخ في النفوس منذ عهد الاستقلال.
ولم تكن وثيقة التوافق بين التيار الوطني الحر من جهة وحزب الله من جهة اخرى إلا في سبيل ذلك، على ان يتابع مع باقي الطوائف. أما في إنتخابات سنة 2009 فقد خاض التيار الوطني الحر هذه الانتخبات كما دوّن في كتابه المعنون"نحو الجمهورية الثالثة" ما يلي:
في الاهداف: تطبيق ما يرد في الدستور اللبناني من مواد تعزز الصفة المدنية للدولة اللبنانية.وتطويرها بمواد إضافية مكملة.
في الخطوات العملية: العمل على إقرار القانون المدني للاحوال الشخصية، ليطبق على جميع اللبنانيين دون إستثناء.
العمل على إلغاء الطائفية السياسية، بتشكيل هيئة وطنية لدراسة الطرق الكفيلة لتحقيق ذلك.
الحاق المحاكم الشرعية والروحية بوزارة العدل.
فطالما إن العلمنة هي الطريق الاسلم لصهر المواطنين في مجتمع واحد، يحفظ حقوقهم المدنية جميعاً دون تفرقة، وطالما أنه يزيد الولاء للوطن وليس للكيانات الطائفية، وطالما أنه يؤمن المساواة والحرية لجميع أبناء الوطن وشرائحه. وطالما أن العلمنة لا تتعارض ولا بشكل من الاشكال مع حرية المعتقد والدين. فيبقى دين الانسان ومعتقده وعلاقته بالخالق كما هو يؤمن. ويصبح دين الدولة أي نظمها هو العلمنة. ويصبح جميع أبناء الوطن متساوون في الحقوق والواجبات دون اية تفرقة.
لم يعد هناك سبباً يؤخّر تطبيق العلمنة في لبنان ويعرقل مسارها، فالكل يعاني، والكل ينتظر خطوات أيجابية وفعالة خاصة من السياسيين للنهوض بالوطن من بؤرة الطائفية.
كرة الثلج بدأت بالانحدار نأمل أن لا يعرقل انحدارها تدخلات خارجية كما هو حاصل في معظم الامور، والمواضيع الاخرى.
لا بدّ من الاشارة أخيراًإلى أنه صحيح ان معظم الاحزاب والتيارات السياسية بالمبدأ علمانية إلاّ انها في النظام الطائفي الحالي، تعمل بالعقلية الطائفية للحفاظ على مصالحها الذاتية ومصالح الطائفة التي تنتمي إليها وتمثلها، مما يؤخر ويعرقل مسار الوصول إلى العلمانية المبتغاة.
من هذا المنطلق،لا بدّ لهؤلاء الشباب المتحمّس للعلمانية من المثابرة على العمل الطويل والجاد
مع الاجيال الصاعدة في المدارس، ومن على شاشات التلفاز والفضائيات ، والمنابر، وبكافة الوسائل والمناهج التثقيفية والعلمية المتاحة لهم لغرس مبادئ العلمانية في النفوس.
المهم هو الثبات على المواقف والمثابرة على العمل، اقتداءً بقول الشاعر:
لا تقل قد ذهبت ايامه كل من سار على الدرب وصل
- نص وثيقة المؤتمر الكاثوليكي للكنائس الشرقية- حاضرة الفاتيكان في 10 تشرين الاول 2010
- نحو الجمهورية الثالثة – انتخابات 2009 change- 2009.com. -
المحامي جان ناصيف سويد
Monday, April 4, 2011
Saturday, April 2, 2011
The Egyptian revolution that began on January 25, 2011, and ended 18 days later on February 11 with the ouster of President Husni Mubarak, ushered in a new era of competitive politics. The revolution not only ended Mubarak's reign, but it also ended the dynamic of limited political contestation and participation in Egypt through the introduction of new and alternative political voices. These change have not only brought about institutional changes such as the new Law on Political Parties, but have also forced traditional parties, both religious and secular, to articulate alternative political platforms.
A New Dawn for Secular Parties in Egypt
Contentious politics was not possible under Mubarak’s authoritarian political system. In 2007, The Political Parties Court rejected the legalization of 12 parties, 11 of which were considered secular, on the grounds that they all offered similar political platforms, and could not garner the necessary signatories required from each of Egypt 29 provinces. This placed parties articulating a secular platform (whether liberal or socialist) struggling for representation within a closed political environment against the National Democratic Party, which maintained a hegemonic party status.
Furthermore, this exclusion posited them against the Muslim Brotherhood, the regime’s single most organized opposition movement, to vie for popular support. Secular parties in Egypt lacked the organizational structure and social support the Brotherhood enjoyed even under political constraints. As a consequence, under Mubarak, secular parties (in 2006 over a dozen registered political parties were secular) faced two kinds of challenges: institutional constraints and organizational limitations.
Even during the much lauded 2005 multiparty parliamentary elections that resulted in the Muslim Brotherhood wining 20% (88) of the contested seats, the registered secular parties of al-Wafd, al-Ghad, and the two leftist parties of al-Tagammu’ and the Arab Nasserite parties, together won only 5% of the contested seats.
However, on March 28, 2011 the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces revealed the new Law on Political Parties. This new law requires parties applying for registration to gather 5000 signatures from only 10 of Egypt’s 29 provinces, with the guarantee that their application will be reviewed within 30 days. This new law is being lauded as lifting the political limbo that most parties had found themselves in the past. Since the discussion of this law began weeks ago, dozens of parties have submitted applications for official party status.
One such party is the newly formed Egyptian Democratic Social Party, founded by Amr Hamzawy, which is comprised of hundreds of professionals and university professors. Hamzawy envisions the new party garnering the support of Egyptians, both Muslim and Coptic, and being represented by prominent secular figures such as Emad Gad and Fatima Naaot, to help articulate a new vision for post-revolution Egypt.
On March 31, 2011 the secular Wafd party hosted a symposium for all Egyptian secular parties, both old and new, to join forces to establish a coalition to secure a greater public and political representation in the coming parliamentary elections, currently slated to occur later this year in September.
On March 19, 2011 seventy-three members of Egypt’s oldest leftist party, al-Tagammu, walked out of the party’s conference accusing the leadership of the party of being too close to the remnants of the Mubarak regime, and called for the formation of a new party. They in turn joined the Popular Alliance, a new coalition attempting to bring the fragmented leftist parties of Egypt under a single umbrella organization independent of past political allegiances, with economic freedom with social justice as their new platform of social democracy.
It appears that for the first time since President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s overthrow of the Egyptian Monarchy in 1952, that the secular parties of Egypt 's secular parties are emerging as alternative voices in the Egyptian political landscape. And while, in the wake of the revolution, Egypt's party formation has yet to be finalized, it appears that the newly formed political vision of the Egyptian leftist and secular forces are gearing up for a new era of political contestation, that will manifest itself in the forthcoming September’s parliamentary elections.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the end of their Monopoly of Islam
Just as the past six weeks have ushered in a new era for the leftist and secularist parties, the reign of the Muslim Brotherhood as the single opposition party vying for political power and representation in Egypt has been replaced by several alternative voices, also articulating a Muslim democratic platforms, the political ideological position of the Muslim Brotherhood since 2005.
On February 19, 2011, the first party to gain recognition by the courts in post-revolution Egypt was the previously illegal Wasat Party (The Center Party). Founded by Abul Ela Madi, and several other former members of the Muslim Brotherhood, along with Coptic leaders, and women, the Center Party’s political vision for Egypt is inspired by conservatism but not articulated through Islamism. Members of the Wasat Party, such as Amr Farouq, were integral in the 2004 popular uprising that led to the establishment of the Egyptian Movement for Change, or Kifaya.
In the wake of the revolution, the Brotherhood has found itself caught between the dual commitments it has struggled with over the past decade, whether to remain engaged in politics or return to its roots in da'wa (religious outreach). The latter approach involves a movement relegated to the social sphere that aims to foster a more pious Muslim community, through preaching, social services, and integrity by example. This bifurcation in vision has culminated along the generational divide that has been developing in the Brotherhood since 2005 (see Eric Davis, "Who's Afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood?," February 13, 2011).
The divisions within the Brotherhood are further exacerbated by the organization's youth, whose participation in the protest movement was not only essential to the success of the revolution, but also gave the youth a legitimacy they previously did not enjoy. Thus, the Brotherhood finds itself trying to hold on to its activist youth who during the revolution began to see their leadership as increasingly out of touch with Egypt's social and political realities.
On February 23, 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau (Maktab al-Irshad) announced that it would establish a political party separate from the movement called The Freedom and Justice Party. The new party would be led by Saad Al-Katatni, former head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Parliamentary bloc from 2005-2010. And while the new party would still be banned due to its articulation of religion as its source of guidance, an indication of sectarianism which still renders a party illegal in Egypt, on March 29, 2011, the party invited Coptic Christians to join its membership.
On March 26, 2011, high-ranking Guidance Bureau member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, announced to the gathering of Muslim Brotherhood youth that he would be forming a more liberal Islamic party. This party would still reflect the core ideals of the Muslim Brotherhood, namely piety and social justice, but it would move ideologically beyond the Muslim Brotherhood and embrace "liberal Islamism" as reflected in Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Another high-ranking Muslim Brotherhood member, Ibrahim al-Zafaarani, who is widely respected by the Brotherhood's youth, announced the establishment of the Nahda Party ("Revival Party") that aims to become a party rooted in Islam, with political pluralism and democracy as its main goals.
As younger Islamists have begun to distance themselves from the Muslim Brotherhood's Islamist political identity, moving instead towards a pluralistic framework where the past signifies a part of a strategic evolution of Islamism that is now over, the Brotherhood finds itself in a predicament.
The Muslim Brotherhood is no longer the single voice of Political Islam in Egypt. Over the past six weeks, a new Egyptian political landscape has not only opened the political arena, but is has also created a new marketplace of ideas in which new and different Islamisms are emerging. Islamism, as a reactions to and alienation from the state, is being replaced by pluralistic approaches to justice and development.
And while today much of the public debate on the future of the country centers on questions of the timing of parliamentary and presidential elections and the consequences of the March 17, 2011 vote on the constitutional referendum—one thing remains certain. Egypt has witnessed the end of single-party authoritarian rule with only one organized political movement - the Muslim Brotherhood - standing in opposition. Authoritarian rule has been replaced by a political landscape that has yet to be determined but is well on its way to political pluralism.