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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

July 29, 2005

 

CSID EMAIL BULLETIN – July 29, 2005 

> CSID Announces New Website and New Publication
> CSID Monthly Lecture Series: Recent Elections and the Future of Religious Democracy in Iran

>US Muslim Religious Council Issues Fatwa Against Terrorism
>US Muslim Scholars to Forbid Terrorism
>From Muslims in America, a New Fatwa on Terrorism
>London Attacks: Turning Point for US Islamic Community
>Yemen’s President has Raised the Bar for Other Arab Leaders
>Moderate Islamist Al Wasat Party Edges Closer to Legality

>Lessons from a Journey Across the Arab World
>Tunisian Government Puts Financial Squeeze on Press to Curb Freedoms
>Understanding Conflict by Bina Shah
>Democracy Fellowship at NED

CSID Announces New Website & New Publication

Dear Fellow CSID members: 

Salaam from Algeria, where I am now on a travel tour of the region (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan) trying to establish a new network of democrats in the MENA region.

The great news is that CSID has just completed the required A-133 Audit (required by federal laws) and we received an excellent report, that highlights the great improvements and accomplishments that we have instituted during the past year in terms of financial accountability and administrative controls.  To receive your copy of this report, please send me your name and address to zahir@islam-democracy.org in order to make sure that we update our database and send you the report to the appropriate address.

Similarly, I am pleased to inform you that our new website:   http://www.csidonline.org/ and https://www.csidonline.org/arabic/  are now ready.  The new websites will be much more dynamic than our previous website (www.islam-democracy.org  which we will also keep) and will be updated on a much more frequent basis.  In it, you will also find a copy of our newest publication (DEMOCRACY WATCH – in both English and Arabic) which is funded by NED and will be used to monitor political and democratic reforms in the MENA region.  The Editor-in-Chief of the new publication is Mr. Slaheddine Jourchi, a well known and well-respected Tunisian journalist (sjourchi@yahoo.fr).  The contents of the first (July) issue of the new monthly publication include :

• Egypt: External Pressure and Internal Protest
• Morocco: Freedom of the Press; Give and Take
• Sudan: A Political Remission under Security Perils
• Jordan: Democratization, Desire and Predicaments
‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ¬¨¬¢ Tunisia: A Step Toward Free Press, But …
• Mauritania: Confrontation with Islamists
• Muslim Brotherhood Announce a Reform Plan

If you are a CSID member or if you subscribe to our publications, you will receive your printed copies in the mail very soon.  With best wishes and regards, and hoping that you are enjoying your summer.

Radwan A. Masmoudi

President

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CSID Monthly Lecture Series:  Recent Elections and the Future of Religious Democracy in Iran

Recent Elections and the Future of Religious Democracy in Iran

By: Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina (CSID Board member)

Wednesday, August 31, 2005
12:00 ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ” 2:00 p.m.
Brown Bag–Cold Drinks Provided
2121 K Street, NW , Suite 700
Washington DC, 20037

Summary:

For the first time in the Islamic Republic, the privileged members of religious elite had to beg for people’s support. Their plea for the people’s vote made them share the same platform as other candidates, thereby breaking down the barriers between turbaned and non-turbaned politicians. Despite criticism of the whole process of sifting the candidates for their loyalty to the state ideology under the religious leader as undemocratic, the last elections demonstrate that democratic culture has taken root since 1979 when the Islamic republic was constitutionally established.

The aura of sacredness that once surrounded some of the religious leades (ulema) has been eliminated through their direct involvement in the dirty politics of the country. Rafsanjani’s appeal to his special relationship to the late Imam Khomeini, who, according to Rafsanjani’s claim, held his hand during his last moments and advised him to support Ayatollah Khamenei, did not impress even the hardcore religious masses. The marginalized groups who once favored religious candidates were determined to vote out their elite representative, Rafsanijani.

No one believes that Ahmadinejad will fulfill his campaign policies of equal distribution of wealth and power. Moreover, everyone knows that Ayatollah Khamenei had endorsed his candidacy as a person who could be pushed around more easily than the powerful Rafsanjani to whom the Imam had left the responsibility of supporting Khamenei. In other words, support for Ahmadinejad demonstrated frustration with Khatami and distrust of Rafsanjani as the one who would continue the failed policies of reform and support of the well-to-do classes. What is remarkable is the openness with which the issues were debated and support formulated.

About the Speaker:

Born in Tanzania, Abdulaziz Sachedina is a Member of the Board of CSID and professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia. He contributed to Human Rights and the Conflict of Cultures: Western and Islamic Perspectives on Religious Liberty (University of South Carolina Press, 1988) and recently published his study The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism (Oxford University Press. 2001). Dr. Sachedina areas of expertise are political Islam, religious conflict resolution through analysis of Islamic legal tradition; Islamic roots of religious and political pluralism and human rights in the Middle East, Pakistan, and East Africa

Seats are limited.  Please RSVP by Aug. 25 to Layla Sein: sein@islam-democracy.org

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U.S. MUSLIM RELIGIOUS COUNCIL ISSUES FATWA AGAINST TERRORISM

The Fiqh Council of North America wishes to reaffirm Islam’s absolute condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism.

Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢 life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ” or forbidden – and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨martyrs.‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌

The Qur‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢an, Islam‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s revealed text, states: “Whoever kills a person [unjustly]‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ¬¨¬∂it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Qur‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢an, 5:32)

Prophet Muhammad said there is no excuse for committing unjust acts: “Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

God mandates moderation in faith and in all aspects of life when He states in the Qur‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢an: ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨We made you to be a community of the middle way, so that (with the example of your lives) you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind.‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ (Qur‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢an, 2:143)

In another verse, God explains our duties as human beings when he says: ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨Let there arise from among you a band of people who invite to righteousness, and enjoin good and forbid evil.‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ (Qur‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢an, 3:104)

Islam teaches us to act in a caring manner to all of God’s creation. The Prophet Muhammad, who is described in the Qur‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢an as ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨a mercy to the worlds‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ said: ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨All creation is the family of God, and the person most beloved by God (is the one) who is kind and caring toward His family.”

In the light of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state:

1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam.
2. It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.
3. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians.

We issue this fatwa following the guidance of our scripture, the Qur‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢an, and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ” peace be upon him. We urge all people to resolve all conflicts in just and peaceful manners.

We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism. We pray for the safety and security of our country, the United States, and its people. We pray for the safety and security of all inhabitants of our planet. We pray that interfaith harmony and cooperation prevail both in the United States and all around the globe. 

FIQH COUNCIL OF NORTH AMERICA

Members
1. Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi
2. Dr. Abdul Hakim Jackson
3. Dr. Ahmad Shleibak
4. Dr. Akbar Muhammad
5. Dr. Deina Abdulkadir
6. Shaikh Hassan Qazwini
7. Dr. Ihsan Bagby
8. Dr. Jamal Badawi
9. Dr. Muhammad Adam Sheikh
10. Shaikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti
11. Shaikh Muhammad Nur Abdallah
12. Dr. Salah Soltan
13. Dr. Taha Jabir Alalwani
14. Shaikh Yahya Hindi
15. Shaikhah Zainab Alwani
16. Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah
17. Dr. Mukhtar Maghraoui
18. Dr. Nazih Hammad

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U.S. Muslim Scholars To Forbid Terrorism

By Caryle MurphyWashington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, July 28, 2005; Page A11http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/27/AR2005072702082.html

An organization of top American Muslim religious scholars plans to issue a formal ruling today condemning terrorism and forbidding Muslims to cooperate with anyone involved in a terrorist act, according to officials of two leading Islamic organizations.

The one-page ruling, or fatwa, will be issued by the Fiqh Council of North America, an association of Islamic legal scholars that interprets Islamic law for the Muslim community. Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group, said the ruling does not represent a new position on terrorism.

Rather, Hooper said, “it is another way to drive home the point that the American Muslim community rejects terrorism and extremism.”

Although Muslim leaders and political organizations have repeatedly denounced religious extremism, Hooper added, “any time any Muslim goes on a talk show or on television, the first question is, ‘Why haven’t Muslims condemned terrorism?’ “

Louay Safi of the Islamic Society of North America noted that there is an important difference between a fatwa and previous statements from the Muslim community. The fatwa “is not a political statement. It’s a legal or religious opinion by a recognized religious authority in the United States,” said Safi, whose group is based in Indianapolis.

The fatwa, to be released at a news conference in Washington, was prompted by the condemnation of terrorism in a similar ruling from the Muslim Council of Britain after the July 7 terrorist attacks in London, Hooper said.

Safi, who heads the society’s Leadership Development Center, said yesterday that “the statement prohibits Muslims from giving any support to terrorist groups who have carried out attacks against unarmed civilians. Groups like al Qaeda have misused and abused Islam to fit their own radical and criminal agenda, and I feel the statement is an important step to repudiating such groups.”

Although the fatwa is important, Safi added, “there is a need to become more proactive in addressing the issue of terrorism by American Muslims.”

The British fatwa did not name al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and neither does the ruling to be issued today. But a March 11 fatwa from the Spanish Muslim Council on the first anniversary of the Madrid train attacks received widespread publicity because of its harsh denunciation of bin Laden by name.

John O. Voll, a professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University, said naming bin Laden and al Qaeda is not a major issue. “I think that it is very important for both Muslim and non-Muslim leaders to go beyond the fixation on Osama bin Laden,” he said. “The important thing is to condemn violent extremism done in the name of Islam.”

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From Muslims in America, a New Fatwa on Terrorism

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Published: July 28, 2005 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/28/national/28fatwa.html?

Muslim scholars in the United States and Canada plan to release a fatwa, or judicial ruling, in Washington today saying that Islam condemns terrorism, religious extremism and any violence against civilians, including suicide bombings.

They said the fatwa is a response to the bombings this month in London and Egypt, and that they wanted the message to reach both non-Muslims who believe that Islam supports terrorism, as well as Muslims in North America and elsewhere, especially youths who could be susceptible to Islamic extremism.

“Young people might not have had the opportunity to understand the teaching of Islam in depth,” said Jamal Badawi, chairman of the Islamic Information Foundation in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a member of the council issuing the fatwa. “We are trying to be proactive, not wait until something happens.”

The fatwa cites the Koran and other Islamic texts, and says that making innocent people targets is forbidden – “haram” – and that those who commit such violence are “criminals” and not “martyrs,” as supporters of suicide bombers have often claimed.

The edict is signed by 18 Islamic scholars who serve on the Fiqh Council of North America, an association of Muslim jurists who interpret Islamic law, and is endorsed by more than 100 Muslim organizations, mosques and leaders. The text is embargoed until its release at a morning news conference today in Washington organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy organization.

The fatwa reiterates previous antiterrorism statements that many American Muslim leaders and organizations have repeatedly issued in recent years in response to terrorist attacks. But Muslim leaders said they hoped that by calling it a “fatwa” this time, they would convince Americans that Islam does not condone violence.

” ‘Fatwa’ seems to be one of those hot-button terms,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Maybe now they’ll listen.”

Similar fatwas have been issued by Muslim leaders in other countries. After the bombings on the London underground and a bus earlier this month, hundreds of imams and scholars in England endorsed a fatwa asserting that Islam cannot be used to support terrorist bombings.

American Muslim leaders say they have become frustrated at what appears to be a growing conviction in the United States that equates Islam with violence and terrorism. For example, this week a talk-show host in Washington said on the radio that Islam was “a terrorist organization.”

Imam Yahya Hendi, the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University in Washington and a member of the Fiqh council, said: “We hear from our fellow Americans very often that Muslims have not spoken aggressively about terrorism, that Muslims have not made their voices very clear. I disagree. Muslims have made their voices very clear from day one. So maybe we needed to do more. The more you do, the more you realize you need to do.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations recently began 30-second public service announcements on television dramatizing that terrorism is “Not in the Name of Islam.” The council plans to announce today that it is taking that publicity campaign to radio.

Imam Hendi said he has seen a growing number of Muslim judicial groups issuing denunciations of terrorism in the last few months. He said he recently spoke at conferences in Morocco, Uzbekistan and Jordan where scholars had already issued or were discussing similar fatwas.

However, Islamic judicial councils have no authority to enforce a fatwa, Mr. Badawi said. The only authority a group of jurists like the Fiqh council has, he said, is “a moral authority.”


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London Attacks: Turning Point for US Islamic Community
By SHADI HAMID
The Christian Science Monitor, July 28, 2005

http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0728/p09s02-coop.html

It was all too familiar. Part of me felt a tinge of desperation, a feeling of inevitability. But this time, there was something else – a feeling that we, the American Muslim community, were now ready to take the steps we should have taken long ago.

Where we had slowly become desensitized by the endless reports of slaughter in Iraq, 7/7 came unexpectedly, forcing our community to finally confront an uneasy reality. On that day, something clicked inside me and so many other Muslims who, in focusing primarily on the threat to Muslim civil liberties, had not paid enough attention to the threat of religious extremism in our own communities.

July 7 will haunt us for the foreseeable future – as it should. As American Muslims, we had seen terrorism as something uniquely foreign – relevant, but remote. But the London attacks were a frightening reminder that if anti-American anger and jihadist sentiment were left unaddressed in our communities, the consequences would be devastating. Too often, in the face of nearly daily terror attacks abroad, American Muslims had wiggled and equivocated. Past condemnations of terrorist attacks have been sincere, no doubt, but they’ve sometimes had the appearance of being forced. This time around the response from the national Islamic organizations has been more forceful and resolute but that, alone, isn’t enough.

First, the July 7 bombings reaffirmed what already should have been obvious – Islam has been hijacked by a band of murderers. It’s imperative that Muslims, instead of waiting for others to remedy the situation, offer a stronger, more systematic response to terrorism. Mosque leaders must begin by instituting a policy of zero-tolerance for terrorism. In practice, this means that anyone caught advocating violence against the US government or its citizens should be, first, expelled from mosque grounds, and then reported to the appropriate authorities.

Second, national Islamic organizations and local mosques must do more to encourage political integration of young American Muslims. Most Muslims will continue to oppose the Bush administration’s policies abroad, especially its unbalanced approach to the Palestinian conflict and its continued support for various Arab and Muslim autocracies. Yet, at the same time, an effort should be made to convince young, easily impressionable Muslims that the key to change lies not in a return to some idealized notion of an Islamic state, but rather in a pragmatic, nuanced approach to involvement in the American political process.

Finally, Muslims must rediscover their religion’s deep respect for the sanctity of human life – whether the lives in question are British, Iraqi, or Israeli. The Muslim community’s inability or unwillingness to speak out against suicide bombing in Israel is reflective of the moral depths to which we’ve so tragically sunk. Some things in life are morally ambiguous. The killing of Israelis in cafes and pizzerias, however, is not one of them. When we argue that the immorality or illegality of suicide bombing is contingent upon political considerations, we’re on a dangerously slippery slope.

If these steps are taken, the preachers of hate will find it harder to gain support in the Muslim community.

Ultimately, American Muslims aren’t walking time bombs or potential fifth columns. To see it that way is to misunderstand the nature of the struggle ahead of us. Rather, Muslims here should be seen as one of the best weapons against terrorism. With their diversity and knowledge of Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu, they’re an untapped resource. As the US wages not only a war on terror but a war of ideas, American Muslims can do much to strengthen public diplomacy efforts in the Arab world that, so far, leave much to be desired.

The war on terror is a generational battle, and American Muslims, whether they like it or not, will be on the front lines. Muslims have tired of their religion being defined by extremists. I remember, last year, the reaction to the detention of Ali al-Timimi, a US-born “Islamic scholar” who was charged with exhorting followers to take up arms for the Taliban. Although few American Muslims sympathized with such sentiments, many defended his right to express his views, however extreme they might have been. (Mr. Timimi’s words got him a life sentence in prison this month for his conviction on treason-related charges of soliciting followers to join the Taliban and fight the US.) But freedom of speech is not and cannot be absolute.

In the wake of the London bombings, there is a growing realization in the Muslim community that the intolerance by some of its own can no longer be tolerated.

In these most dangerous of times, the margin for error is small. And considering how small it is, American Muslims now have a unique opportunity to play a greater, more central role in the continuing struggle against those who brandish the name of Islam so selfishly in the service of terror.

• Shadi Hamid just returned from Amman, Jordan, where he was a Fulbright fellow researching Islamist participation in the democratic process.


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Yemen’s president has raised the bar for other Arab leaders

Daily Star – Editorial
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=17&article_id=16905

On the 27th anniversary of his rise to power, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh shocked a crowd of some 1,200 people who had gathered for a reception to mark the occasion when he announced that he would not be running for re-election in 2006. It was time, Saleh said, for him to step down, so that Yemenis could begin to train themselves “in the practice of peaceful succession.” Saleh then urged all political parties – including the opposition – to nominate young leaders to run in the upcoming poll.

Could it really be the dawn of a new era in Yemen? Is Saleh an astute leader who is trying to make serious contribution to the political development of his country? If he is, he is certainly moving Yemen on its way to better things after a long history of turmoil. And the move would also bolster the image of the government in the view of the public, who recently ranked their leaders as among the world’s most corrupt, according to a poll by Transparency International.

But Saleh’s announcement was met with understandable skepticism. Some critics said that he was only trying to appease the United States amid Washington’s growing calls for democratic reform in the Middle East. Others suggested that the move was merely a ploy and that Saleh and his ruling General People’s Congress Party will soon engineer the teary-eyed crowds who will beg him to stay in power. Still others fear that Saleh has been grooming his son to take over power and that his announcement was intended to pave the way toward this end. There is also considerable room for Saleh and his allies to scuttle any of their opponents in the polls. Saleh’s ruling General People’s Congress Party still holds a majority in Parliament, which must approve all candidates in advance. And Saleh’s overwhelming victory in the 1999 election, the first presidential poll in the country to be carried out by direct voting, was marred by allegations of vote-buying and fraud.

And it is only natural for people to be skeptical of democratic gestures in this part of the world. The Assads, Mubaraks, Gadhafis and Ben Alis – the royal families of the region – have all paid lipservice to democratic concepts while maintaining a stranglehold on their respective states.

But Saleh’s announcement is nonetheless a historic gesture in the Middle East, where peaceful and democratic transitions can only be witnessed in a handful of states. It is unheard of for an Arab leader to step down from office voluntarily in the absence of a constitution mechanism that would force him to do so. In this respect, Saleh has certainly raised the bar for Arab leaders across the region.

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Moderate Islamist Al Wasat party edges closer to legality

By Charles Levinson
Friday July 22, 2005
http://www.cairomagazine.com/?module=displaystory&story_id=1192&format=html

In his office on Qasr Al Aini Street, the leader of the moderate Islamist Al Wasat Party proudly displays a certificate from a Presbyterian church in Buffalo, New York, recognizing his efforts in furthering Muslim-Christian understanding.

A savvy politician who shies away from the term ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨Islamist,‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ Abou Elela Mady does not seem the sort of fundamentalist party leader likely to cause fitna, or discord, in Egyptian society. On 10 July, a judicial committee headed by a Coptic judge agreed, suggesting that Al Wasat‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s decade-long struggle for legitimacy may finally be over.

For 10 years the government has consistently denied Al Wasat Party a license, based primarily on the longstanding ban on religious parties. The thinking goes that if the Muslims had a party, then the Copts would also want a party. Politics would split along religious lines. Sectarian discord, the number one cause of instability in the region, would ensue. That, and the law makes a convenient pretext to keep the most powerful opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, beyond the legal margins of politics.

Nor have Al Wasat‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s prospects been helped by the historical ties between many of the party‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s leaders and the Muslim Brotherhood. Fifteen of the party‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s 200 founders are ex-members of the banned organization. ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨The regime fears a kind of reconciliation between Al Wasat and the Brotherhood in the future,‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ says Rafiq Habib, a former member of Al Wasat and the architect of the recent failed alliance between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular opposition.  

The Cairo Administrative Court is due to issue a final ruling on Al Wasat in October. Following the judicial committee’s endorsement, the judge is almost certain to approve the party. This same court, however, has twice rejected Al Wasat’s appeals, once in 1996 and again in 1998, leaving observers to wonder: why the change of heart?

Elela Mady credits a fair-minded judge, the inclusion of Copts among the party‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s founders and a revamped political program that emphasizes economic policy‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ”a policy which he defines broadly as a free market economy with safety nets for the poor. That willingness to outline an economic agenda also serves to set the party apart from other Islamic movements, which are generally preoccupied with social issues. ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨We stressed our economic agenda in detail,‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ he says. ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨This is a problem with all Islamists. They don‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢t answer questions about their economic policies.‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌

Al Wasat’s reversal of fortunes comes at a time when many, both in Egypt and abroad, are beginning to see the importance of including Islamists in politics. Noted Egyptian secularists such as Saad Eddin Ibrahim have, in recent months, spoken out against the ongoing ban on the Muslim Brotherhood.

More worrying for the Egyptian regime would have been comments by Bush administration officials indicating a growing US willingness to accept Islamists‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢 participation in the region‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s politics. Bush was referring to Hizbullah when he told reporters in March, ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨I like the idea of people running for office. It‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s a positive effect when you run for office.‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ He could just as easily, however, have been referring to the Muslim Brotherhood. Similar comments by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have resonated throughout the Arab world in newspaper columns and political salons.

Few think the judges who have endorsed Al Wasat were responding to political pressures. There is wide agreement among political wonks that the regime remains as anti-Wasat as it has ever been. Still, the party’s emergence could provide a much-needed outlet for an increasingly frustrated Islamist political bloc, and in a form more digestible to a regime historically wary of Islamists. Al Wasat, lacking the historical prestige and the social networks that have made the Muslim Brotherhood so popular, presents a less menacing threat to the status quo.

‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨Excluding the Islamists leads to extremism and terrorism,‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ says Nabil Abdel Fattah, editor of the religion report at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨There needs to be a place for the moderate stream of Islam inside Egyptian politics, as a historical solution to the conflict between Islamist groups and the government.‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌

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Lessons from a journey across the Arab world 

Rami G. Khouri
The Daily Star, July 20, 2005.

In the last seven weeks I have had the opportunity to make working visits to seven Arab countries and to engage in political and other discussions with local officials, academics, journalists and opposition activists. The experience has been instructive, and simultaneously heartening and depressing, suggesting obvious opportunities and dangers in the dual quest to respond to the rights of Arab citizens and defeat the global terror plague.

Based on my visits and discussions in Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine and Morocco, along with meetings with colleagues from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and Kuwait, I sense a common mood across the Arab world: the prevailing status quo is neither satisfying to the majority of citizens, nor sustainable for the rulers in its current state; but neither is it on the verge of revolutionary or violent change.

The obvious overarching trend throughout the Arab world is that of citizenries and ruling elites that are both worried by the status quo, but unsure of how to change it. In every Arab society, demons from the past – a harrowing litany of excesses and errors – now haunt the rulers and the ruled alike: Tens of millions of educated but underemployed, unemployed, restive and frustrated young men and women have given unnatural birth to thousands of active terrorists and anarchists, targeting our own and foreign lands. A deep distortion of traditional Islamic and Arab values is manifested in a desperate, violent, criminal search for revenge against the domestic and foreign forces that have degraded the last three generations of Arabs. Urban environments are exploding in uncontrollable spontaneous growth, with increasingly negative impacts on water, arable land and other vital natural resource bases. Drug- and corruption-based criminality is our new pan-Arab growth industry, expanding on a regional and global scale. Tens of millions of armed men and women in official military, police and security establishments have brought neither palatable security nor even the more modest goal of honorable national self-respect to the Arab region as a whole. Some desperate lands in our midst are ruled like private fiefs by thugs, killers, former cops and men of very limited abilities, in some absurd cases men who have remained in power for three or four decades without interruption – and in all cases without any formal, credible ratification by their own citizens.

Everywhere in the Arab world the calm on the surface is tenuous and vulnerable. Pressures for change emanate from within the Arab countries, and equally from external pressures. This is driven by economic stress and a deeper sense of the average citizen’s indignity at living in societies where power is neither accountable nor contestable, and where citizen rights are neither codified nor respected.

But these are visceral not constitutional societies, and verbal not digital or parliamentary societies. Body language rules here more than the eloquence or principles of national founding fathers. So do not look for signs of stress or change in polling data, legislative votes or political party activity. Those superficial imports from retreating colonial European powers three generations ago have little anchorage or meaning in most Arab societies. Here, power relationships are negotiated over coffee, meals, chance encounters and leisurely chats – and they are constantly, perpetually renegotiated and reaffirmed, day after day, year after year, generation after generation.

This is what is going on now in every Arab country. Arab rulers and ruled alike fervently but quietly search for the mechanisms of orderly change, aware that the traditional social contract and power equation that have defined this region since the 1920s are on their last legs. The common phenomenon I have witnessed around the Arab world is that growing majorities of ordinary citizens seek peaceful but effective ways to challenge, and change, state structures and the use of power – because these state structures mostly do not offer their people sustainable security, expressions of their real identity, freedom of choice and speech, relevant education, or minimally attractive job prospects.

A very small minority of violent Arab men and women have turned to terror as an instrument that expresses their demented frustrations and desperation; more significantly, the vast mass of Arabs has learned the lessons of the mistakes of the secular and religious political movements that challenged the modern Arab security state using violent means starting in the late 1970. Citizens throughout this region now challenge their ruling elites and foreign interference more peacefully, but also more directly and vocally.

They demand more equitable treatment by their own ruling authorities, less corruption and abuse of power, and a more clear sense of equal opportunities for all citizens, rather than privileged access to power and wealth by a small, often family-, tribe-, ethnic-, or sect-based elite that often includes a criminalized component.

Citizens nonviolently but explicitly challenge the legitimacy of their rulers in some cases, and the conduct of their own security services in others. The first wave of responses from the befuddled Arab security state – a thin sliver of reforms dressed up in limited media liberalization – has been unconvincing to savvy Arab citizenries that expect a much more significant acknowledgement of their humanity, and of their human and civil rights.

The opportunity and the danger for the Arab world both seem rather clear.

The opportunity is to engage and empower the vast majority of Arab citizens who actively and peacefully seek a better, more humane and accountable, political order, through orderly and incremental change. Several hundred million upright, wholesome, ordinary men and women throughout the Arab world cry out for decency in their political order, inspired by the deep righteousness of their faiths and the strong moral values of their cultural and national traditions.

The parallel danger is that Arab and foreign officials will allow themselves to be so mesmerized and distracted by the criminal antics of a few terrorists out there that we end up perpetuating the four basic mistakes that have plagued Arab, American, British and other anti-terror policies in recent years: misdiagnosing the root causes of terror; exaggerating the religious and minimizing the political dimensions of terror; and responding mainly with heavy-handed political and military policies that, astoundingly, only fuel the criminal hormones of the terrorists themselves and also further alienate the hundreds of millions of already fearful ordinary Arabs whose demand to live as dignified, respected citizens of humane and responsive modern states is, in the end, the only sure way to defeat terrorism.

This is the simple but profound lesson that I have learned in my travels and conversations across the Arab world in the past seven weeks. If you seek stability and an end to terror, mobilize the Arab masses through democratic transformations that respect their rights as citizens, rather than alienate them through American, British and other military fantasies in foreign lands that only degrade the Arab people’s already thin sense of self-respect in the face of their own bitter modern legacy of homegrown autocrats and Western armies.

 * Rami G. Khouri writes a regular commentary for The Daily Star

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Tunisian government puts financial squeeze on press to curb freedoms

By Bechir Saade
Daily Star staff
The Daily Star — July 23 2005

Tunisia serves as a prime example of how Arab governments, by exercising subtle control over the media, are able to prevent a genuinely free press from emerging in the Middle East.

Gone are the days when Arab governments could just throw journalists in jail for no good reason. Over the last couple of decades, some Arab states have developed ways of controlling media content through a complex system where all the players of a given Arab economy are dependent on the goodwill of the state.

Those means prove to be especially useful now that the Middle East has fallen under the spotlight of international concerns and has to answer with facades of reform.

Take for example, the case of president of the Press Syndicate in Tunisia Lutfi Hajji who has recently worked for Al-Jazeera as a correspondent. Hajji was denied the right to appear on television screens after he founded the syndicate with other Tunisian journalists.

The rest of the founders of the Press Syndicate were also marginalized either by having their press cards withheld, or by being barred from appearing on television.

But today, the Tunisian Press Syndicate is part of the International Federation of Journalists. Although the Press Syndicate is officially recognized by the Tunisian government, it is in reality a vulnerable organization in a lawless environment, according to Hajji.

The government controls the flux of advertisements, a major source of revenue, in any given newspaper by indirectly intimidating companies who place ads in newspapers that are critical of the government. Whenever such ads are placed, the government sends “inspectors,” who present the firms with tax demands, says Hajji.

And using similar threats, the Tunisian state can cut the clientele base of a given newspaper by intimidating subscribers or distributors who are dependent in one way or another on government’s goodwill.

The government has also rendered newspapers dependent on it as a major source of revenue through public announcement and propaganda advertisements. “The Tunisian state even subsidizes paper,” says Hajji.

He adds that whenever media bodies cooperate with the Tunisian government, officials turn a blind eye on breaches.

“There is no rule of law governing the working conditions of the journalist, who’s left at the mercy of companies that have unrestricted powers, through their clientelistic ties with the government” says Hajji.

He contrasts these working conditions with those of journalists in the Gulf who have coherent and law-enforced contracts that protect their professional and civil rights.

For Hajji, “openness is crucially important not just for ethical reasons but also to enhance the situation of the journalist, as the state can at all times marginalize the journalist within press organizations.”

This repressive situation is exemplified by a narrow intellectual spectrum prevailing in the press as newspapers have no editorial boards, “and there is only one guy who decides on what is going to be said, usually someone who has deep interests in following what the government wants him to write” says Hajji.

Thus, even if Tunisian presses are overwhelmingly privately owned, they follow the state’s slogans for economic and security purposes so much so that “even the government has sarcastically recognized that newspapers have similar opinions” says Hajji.

He adds that any impetus for change is efficiently strangled by rigid bureaucratic rules that continue to portray a facade of openness.

For example, to easily prohibit unmonitored entry in the Tunisian market, the government holds the monopoly right of issuing publishing licenses.

“Candidates who want to open newspapers or other mediums can sometimes stay more than a year waiting to get their licenses, for so-called paper-work reasons” says Hajji.

He is more optimistic about Arab cooperation when it comes to his immediate neighbors: “We work a lot with the Moroccan and Algerian journalists and Morocco has moderately open media.”

As for other journalists throughout the Arab world, there is no institution that effectively represents them. Unfortunately, “the existing Arab press syndicate is a body that is a mere reflection of the official line of various Arab governments.” says Hajji.

He adds that “it is crucial to have institutions like NGOs who make sure that journalists can express themselves freely, and keep their basic rights protected.”

Today, neither the Tunisian Press Syndicate nor the Arab Press syndicate operates unhindered by the state.

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Understanding conflict

Bina Shah

BOOK REVIEW:  After Terror, Edited by Akbar Ahmed and Brian Forst,

After the recent bombings in London, it feels odd to be reviewing a book called After Terror ; in today’s world, terror never seems to end. But this book of 28 specially-commissioned essays from some of the world’s greatest thinkers, activists, and writers, edited by university professors Akbar Ahmed and Brian Forst, should be required reading for anyone who believes that terrorism can be defeated by the forces of tolerance, respect, and goodwill. If you are one of them, read on.

The theme of this book as outlined in an essay by its editors ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ” Akbar Ahmed, one of the world‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s foremost Islamic scholars, and Brian Forst, Professor of Justice, Law, and Society at American University ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ” is that there is an alternative to the ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨clash of civilisations‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ that Samuel P Huntington described in his book of the same name. ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨The creation of enemies is essential to cultural identity,‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ said Huntington, but the authors of these essays are unanimously aligned in their opposition to this theory.

This premise can be further broken down into three major themes: the underlying causes of conflict in the world are intolerance; there is a vital and urgent need to expand the dialogue between civilisations, in order to defuse tensions and avert a Huntingtonian clash; and that there is a dire need to identify poor governance and to improve it in order to deal with the very real threat of terror and its many manifestations in today’s world.

The essays are divided into four sections: first, the introduction by Ahmed and Forst; next, five essays on ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨The Nature and Sources of the Problem;‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ a section on ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨Pathways to Dialogue and Understanding;‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ and finally, ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨From Concern to Action.‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ Examining the authors of the essays is like reading a roll-call of the world‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s most eminent thinkers, intellectuals, and leaders: Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Bernard Lewis and Joseph Nye Jr, Zbigniew Brzezenski and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks are among the contributors. But do the essays present anything new or meaningful to the reader, or are they merely re-hashings of what has been said over and over again since September 11, 2001?

It‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s a question that isn‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢t easily answered at first. Going back to the major themes of the book, one might find them rather self-evident; but the authors of these essays take pains to explain the nuances and subtleties, as well as illustrate how their own experiences and reflections have helped shape their beliefs. For example, the late Sergio Vieira de Mello (who was killed last year in Iraq), in his essay ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨Civilisation, Human Rights, and Collective Responsibility,‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ writes movingly about his experiences as the UN Commissioner for Human Rights and describes having seen ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨the best and worst of what we have to offer to each other;‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ his work informs his definitions of civilisation, globalisation, citizenship and human rights, which he presents with much wisdom and insight.

Perhaps the most brilliant of the essays in this collection is Zbigniew Brzezenski‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨The Simple Power of Weakness, The Complex Vulnerability of Power.‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ This essay, powerfully and forcefully written, reminds one of just what a genius the former National Security Advisor is in the field of strategic studies, and is an excellent observation of America‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s political and global strategies in dealing with terrorism and the positive role America can play as a global leader. ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨An anxious America, obsessed with its own security, could find itself isolated in the world, the focus of global hatred. . . Will America seek to dominate the world, or lead it?‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ If you buy this book for this essay alone, it will be worth it.

There are many other gems in the collection. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks both look at the role of religion in promoting either tolerance or intolerance. Tutu finds that religion can ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨produce saints or rogues . . . yet all emphasise fundamental morals of honesty, fidelity . . . compassion, the unity of humankind, and peace,‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ suggesting that there is indeed a ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨convergence of basic values and interests‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ throughout the world. Meanwhile, Rabbi Sacks sees religion as something that can create conflict but also unite people in their connection to God, which gives them a universal moral compass with peace and brotherhood as its North and South stars. Shashi Tharoor‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s essay on ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨The Role of the Media in Promoting Tolerance‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ identifies the media as a key player in the way people perceive and understand one another (or fail to) across borders; Joseph Nye Jr fascinates with his analysis of ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨hard‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ and ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨soft‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ power and how cultural exchanges and education will deprive terrorism of its supporters.

Not every essay is a winner, however; Rajmohan Gandhi‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨Closing Chapters of Enmity‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ is a wandering monologue on Pakistan, India, 9/11, America, Palestine, Islam, the Holocaust, etc, one without much focus or original thought and altogether too ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮکfeel-good‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢 to hold its own against the other essays in the collection. Ravi Shankar‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s recollections of his popularity with Westerners during the 60s are intellectually poor and out of place amongst the other, weightier and more profound pieces. And while Judea Pearl‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s essay about his struggle to turn son Daniel Pearl‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s death from an intimate tragedy into a global instrument of dialogue and bridge-building is moving and highly personal, Tamara Sonn‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢s immediately preceding ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚âà√¨The Power of Dialogue: Redefining ‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮکUs‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‚Äö√묢‚àö¬¢‚Äö√ᬮ‌ which describes interfaith dialogues between Dr Pearl and Akbar Ahmed feels odd and self-congratulating in contrast.

A book like this cannot fail to raise high expectations for its content, and Akbar Ahmed and Brian Forst have met those expectations. If you are looking for reading that is thought-provoking, incisive, and challenging, After Terror is the perfect book to read and savour over a period of many days or weeks, or perhaps even months. It offers observations, experiences, and ideas that go beyond the ordinary, and promises to satisfy those who fear that there is only one knee-jerk reaction to the terror attacks of 9/11 and the events that have followed it. Thirty eminent thinkers from around the world believe otherwise: this is your chance to find out why.

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Democracy Fellowships, Washington, DC

National Endowment for Democracy

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) welcomes applications to its Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program for fellowships in 2006-2007. Established in 2001, the program enables democracy activists, practitioners, scholars, and journalists from around the world to deepen their understanding of democracy and enhance their ability to promote democratic change. The program is intended primarily to support activists, practitioners, and scholars from new and aspiring democracies; distinguished scholars from the United States and other established democracies are also eligible to apply. Projects may focus on the political, social, economic, legal, and cultural aspects of democratic development and may include a range of methodologies and approaches. A working knowledge of English is an important prerequisite for participation in the program. The application deadline for fellowships in 2006-2007 is Tuesday, November 1, 2005. For more information, please email fellowships@ned.org.

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For questions or comments about the information in this bulletin, contact
Zahir Janmohamed at
zahir@islam-democracy.org.

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Copyright 2004 Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID).
All Rights Reserved.

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