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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

June 30, 2006

CSID Email Bulletin

June 30, 2006

June 7, 2006

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  1. CSID 7th Annual Conference Papers POSTED Online

  2. ARTICLE:  U.S. Pledges Full Support for Middle East Democratization (by David Shelby)

  3. ARTICLE:  Civil Society bodies eye talks with Islamic groups (The Peninsula)

  4. ARTICLE:  Arab-Americans Sue U.S. Over Re-entry Procedures (by NEIL MacFARQUHAR)

  5. ARTICLE:  Islam’s Ann Coulter (by Stephen Julius Stein)

  6. ARTICLE:  Needed: A new policy on Islam (by Patrick J. Buchanan)

  7. ARTICLE:  Muslim Women Don’t See Themselves as Oppressed, Survey Finds (by HELENA ANDREWS)

  8. PRESS RELEASE:  Syrian Authorities Escalate Security Campaign (CIHRS)

  9. ARTICLE:  Hamas and Fatah to Implicitly Recognize Israel (by Scott Wilson)

  10. ARTICLE:  Arab Anger Flares at Israeli Incursion (by LEE KEATH)

  11. ARTICLE:  No Women Chosen in Kuwait Vote (by Faiza Saleh Ambah)

  12. ARTICLE:  Poll: Turks Oppose Headscarf Ban, Back Religion (by Reuters)

  13. ARTICLE:  The long haul in Morocco (by Anouar Boukhars)

  14. ARTICLE:  Morocco Cracks Down on Islamist Opposition Group JSA (by Chris Zambelis)

  15. ARTICLE:  A veil of uncertainty (by Shahnaz Taplin Chinoy)

  16. ARTICLE:  U.S. silence on Egypt betrays democracy activists (by Jeffrey Azarva)

  17. ARTICLE:  A Democracy Policy in Ashes (by Joshua Muravchik)

  18. ARTICLE:  Think Again: Al Jazeera (by Hugh Miles)

  19. NEW BOOK: NEW BOOK: Democratic Transitions Will Fail without Greater International Support (DCP and FRIDE)

  20. ANNOUNCEMENTS:  Atlas Essay Contest: Freedom in the West and in the Muslim World & Atlas Accepting Nominations for the Freda Utley Prize

CSID 7th Annual Conference Papers Online

 

The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) held its seventh annual conference on May 5-6, 2006, in Washington, D.C., where the theme was The Challenge of Democracy in the Muslim World. Keynote speakers included Randall L. Tobias, administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development; and Carl Gershman, president, National Endowment for Democracy. The event included panel discussions of the prospects for democracy in individual countries as well as regions, a debate on the role of the media in advancing democracy, and a roundtable to launch CSIDs Network of Democrats in the Arab World. Saadeddine Elothmani, secretary-general of Moroccos Party of Justice and Development, received CSIDs 2006 Muslim Democrat of the Year award at the events annual banquet. Click here (http://www.csidonline.org/) for the complete agenda, papers, and conference materials.

 

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U.S. Pledges Full Support for Middle East Democratization

Welch says U.S. accepts Islamic parties, rejects radicalism

 

By David Shelby

Washington File Staff Writer

http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2006&m=June&x=20060628104001SDyblehS0.1901667

 

 

Houston – The United States is committed to supporting democratic reforms in the Arab world, even if they produce election results that the U.S. government does not favor, according to Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch.

 

"We understand that there may be outcomes with which we are uncomfortable. We strongly support democracy, but we also reserve the right, as a government, to have a policy that contradicts the objectives of a particular political party, even if that political party was fairly elected," Welch told participants in a panel discussion on political Islam and democracy at the U.S.-Arab Economic Forum in Houston June 27.

 

Welch said that the presence of real political alternatives would ultimately undermine the appeal of radicalism. He said the United States is not opposed to dealing with Islamic political parties in principle. (See related article.)

 

"We should recognize that the concept of political Islam represents a broad diversity of views within the Arab and Islamic worlds. We should remind ourselves that violent jihadi groups form a very small minority among Islamist groups. The majority in many cases are legal Islamist political parties," he said.

 

The assistant secretary added that the United States has constructive dialogues with Islamist parties in Kuwait, Morocco, Turkey and Indonesia. He said American and foreign laws prevent the U.S. government from dealing with certain Islamic political groups. By law, the U.S. administration cannot have dealings with parties considered to be terrorist organizations, and it will not engage groups that are not recognized as legitimate political parties under their own domestic laws.

 

Welch said that the demand for democratic reforms is rising in the Arab world and that change is inevitable.

 

"With this mounting pressure, governments across the region face important challenges: do they find ways to accommodate these demands or do they attempt to stifle them?" he asked.

 

He said that the change should be peaceful but that "it’s up to the leaders of the region to provide a vision for the future that mobilizes people and offers hope."

 

Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Turki Al Faisal affirmed that democratic principles are entirely compatible with Islam. "According to Islamic tradition and practice, self-legislation and interpretation of law and imposition of law is part and parcel of Islamic practice," he said. "You have the divine message from God, and you have the words of the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, and then it’s for the rest of us to interpret what those words mean."

 

The ambassador added that Saudi Arabia does not consider Islamic political parties appropriate. "Once you put a brand called ‘Islam’ on a political party, then by the nature of that branding, you’re excluding the others from Islam," he said. The formation of Islamic political parties fosters the attitude that certain people have special access to God while others do not, he said.

 

Assistant Secretary Welch said the goal of the U.S. reform policy in the Arab world is to help build "strong institutions politically, economically and educationally so there can be an environment in which there is stable political competition and an informed population that can make a choice between what is legitimate and what is illegitimate in political _expression."

 

He said democracy would take different forms in different countries but that it should have universal characteristics, such as freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of association, freedom of the press, rule of law, protection of minorities, and rotation of power.

 

Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa pointed out that democracy is not a new concept in the Arab world, where some countries had democratic institutions as early as the nineteenth century. He said most of these institutions fell victim to the pressures of Cold War politics in the late twentieth century but that voices within the Arab world have been demanding government reforms since the fall of the Soviet Union. (See related article.)

 

He said the Arab League, through its 2004 Tunis Declaration, is leading the drive for democracy and political transparency in the Arab world.

 

The U.S.-Arab Economic Forum was founded in 2003 as a means of facilitating dialogue between the United States and the Arab world.

 

 
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Civil Society bodies eye talks with Islamic groups

 

Source ::: The Peninsula

http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/Display_news.asp?sectionfiltered=Local_News&subsectionfiltered=Qatar+News&month=

June2006&file=Local_News2006061951048.xml

 

 

DOHA The Arab Civil Society organisations will explore possibilities of opening dialogue with various Islamic movements and business communities as part of strengthening democratic process in the region.

 

The decision comes in the wake of the civil society outfits’ realisation that they cannot afford to remain a single entity in their struggle to strengthen democracy in the region, said Ziad Abdel Samad, Executive Director, Arab NGO Network for Development.

 

"Across the world, Islamic movements have emerged as major players at social and political levels. In our struggle to strengthen the democratic process, we will try whether we could open a dialogue with them and find a common ground", he told The Peninsula, while briefing the outcome of the two day meeting of Arab Civil society organisations which concluded here today..

 

"Of course, we are aware of the challenges ahead. But Islam movements are not a homogenous body. Within these movement,, there are several moderate outfits which are eager to join hands with us. We will start with them," he said. .

 

In the building-up process of democracy, Business communities can play an influential role. In fact, it is a more eager section which desires for a permanent peace and stable political system. But for one reason or other, they have been keeping aloof without having a direct involvement in the venture. The civil society organizations will also discuss how they can ally with the business community in the process of strengthening democracy in the region, he said.

 

Until recently, civil society outfits have been treating the State as their enemy. But of late, they have realized State could play a mutually beneficial role in building up a better democracy. We are also in the process of opening dialogue with mainstream political parties, Ziad added.

 

"All these years, the idea of democracy has been veering around civil society movements. But now we have realized that we should have strong partners to achieve the goal. In the process of strengthening democracy, civil society outfits can no longer remain as a single entity. A close-knit work with socio-political and economic forces is essential to accentuate the process", he said.

 

An international workshop to be held at Oxford next week will finalize the indicators to measure the advancement of democracy in the Arab region. The workshop will also come out with a national plan detailing the key problems faced by individual countries in the area of democracy, Ziad added.

 

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Arab-Americans Sue U.S. Over Re-entry Procedures

 

By NEIL MacFARQUHAR

Published: June 20, 2006

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/20/us/20lawsuit.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

 

 

A group of Muslim and Arab-Americans, frustrated by what they say is the climate of suspicion and fear that dogs their re-entry into the United States from trips abroad, sued the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. yesterday, demanding that the courts protect their civil rights.

 

The seven main plaintiffs in the class action suit assert that both the United States Congress and the federal government are ignoring the plight of innocent Americans harassed repeatedly because of problems with the terrorist watch list.

 

The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Chicago by the American Civil Liberties Union, contends that the courts alone can ensure that antiterrorism policies do not repeatedly subject ordinary Americans to detention, questioning, fingerprinting and the like.

 

"These are law-abiding citizens, and it is too extreme, too offensive," said Harvey Grossman, the legal director for the A.C.L.U.’s Illinois branch, saying that repeated complaints to Homeland Security as well as senators or congressmen barely get a response. "The court is the only forum where these people have a chance to get a hearing."

 

The lawsuit asserts that repeated border detentions and improper actions of border guards violate the plaintiffs’ constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure and their right to travel.

 

Civil rights lawyers and government officials note that the courts have often struck down efforts to limit the scope of searches or questioning by border agents. But at least one other suit, a New York case involving five Muslim Americans who were detained without explanation after returning from a religious conference in Toronto, is proceeding.

 

"We will not let anybody into the country until we are sure they are not going to do harm to our citizens and violate our laws; it is that simple," said Bill Anthony, the senior public affairs spokesman for United States Customs and Border Protection. He said Congress had given the agency broad authority to conduct border searches. Mr. Grossman said most case law on border searches hinged on criminal suspects, with extended detention and searches deemed reasonable to catch drug smugglers. His plaintiffs are not outlaws and are always re-admitted eventually the government could question them at home if needed, he said.

 

He noted that Robert S. Mueller III, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, testifying May 2 before the Senate Judiciary Committee, could not guarantee that inaccuracies on the terrorist watch list would be corrected within the next five years.

 

 

The watch list, maintained since 2003 by the Terrorist Screening Center of the F.B.I., had more than 237,000 names in 2005, according to a Homeland Security report. Some 12 agencies can add names, and only the originating agency can remove a name.

 

Donna A. Bucella, the center’s director, said that matches were made every day from the list and that it was an important tool for local law enforcement agencies. "Obviously there have been a lot of people complaining about it, so there must be ways the U.S. government could refine it and make it better," Ms. Bucella said.

 

The Illinois lawsuit, expanding on one first filed a year ago, focuses on two main issues. First, those whose names resemble ones on the watch list and who find it virtually impossible to get off the list.

 

A June 2005 government review found that 42 percent of the calls to the screening center from December 2003 to January 2005 showed that the wrong person was being detained. Second, some people on the list are wrongly categorized as dangerous, resulting in agitated, armed border agents swarming them, the suit claims.

 

The customs agency says the number of passengers detained for additional checks is relatively small roughly 2 percent.

 

The men suing compare their brusque treatment to that in a totalitarian state.

 

Niaz Anwar, 55, who fled Afghanistan 11 days after the Soviets occupied the country in 1978 and eventually settled near Boston, said he has been detained nine times since April 2004. In April at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, he said, a border agent asked him his opinion about the Iraqi war and his party affiliation.

 

"I was thinking that I was in Moscow during Brezhnev’s time," Mr. Anwar said.

 

Mr. Anthony denied that any such questions could have been asked, saying any officer who did risked termination.

 

Dr. Elie Ramzy Khoury, a 68-year-old Christian who immigrated from Jerusalem in 1963 and has been an American since 1974, said he had been stopped seven times since May 2002 and now avoided even family funerals abroad because he so dreaded the return. When he complained to Homeland Security, he received a letter back two years later explaining how he could board domestic flights, which is not the issue.

 

"They never tell me what they are looking for nor what they want," Dr. Khoury said. "I’ve never done anything unlawful or irregular. I’m a practicing physician and I’ve been criminalized."

 

Critics believe the government has not recovered from the shock that the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks were moving about freely and has constructed a big, ineffective sieve to try to avoid a repeat.

 

But the erroneous detentions show intelligence gathering remains poor, Mr. Grossman said. "It is this endless collection of information without any kind of focus, and they allow it to go on and on and on."

 

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Islam’s Ann Coulter

The seductive and blinkered belligerence of Wafa Sultan.

 

By Stephen Julius Stein

June 25, 2006

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/opinion/la-op-stein25jun25,1,7803731.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

 

 

RECENTLY I WAS one of about 100 L.A. Jews invited to attend a fundraiser for a Jewish organization that seeks to counteract anti-Israel disinformation and propaganda. The guest speaker was Wafa Sultan, the Syrian American woman who in February gave a now legendary interview on Al Jazeera television, during which she said that "the Muslims are the ones who began the clash of civilizations" and "I don’t believe you can reform Islam."

 

The audience warmly greeted Sultan, a psychiatrist who immigrated to Southern California in 1989. One of Time magazine’s 100 "pioneers and heroes," she said she was neither a Christian, Muslim nor Jew but a secular human being. "I have 1.3 billion patients," she quipped early in her remarks, referring to the global Muslim population. Sultan went on to condemn inhumane acts committed in God’s name, to denounce Islamic martyrdom and to decry terror as a tool to subjugate communities. Those statements all made perfect sense.

Then this provocative voice said something odd: "Only Arab Muslims can read the Koran properly because you have to speak Arabic to know what it means you cannot translate it." Any translation is, by definition, interpretation, and Arabic is no more difficult to accurately translate than Hebrew. In fact, the Hebrew of the Bible poses many more formidable translation problems than Arabic. Are Christians and Jews who cannot read it ill-equipped to live by its meanings?

 

Another surprising remark soon followed: "All Muslim women even American ones, though they won’t admit it are living in a state of domination." Do they include my friend Nagwa Eletreby, a Boeing engineer and expert on cockpit controls, who did not seek her husband’s permission to help me dress the Torah scroll? Or how about my friend Azima Abdel-Aziz, a New York University graduate who traveled to Israel with 15 Jews and 14 other Muslims and left her husband at home?

 

There is no subjugation in the homes of these and other American Muslim women I know. They are equal, fully contributing members of their families.

 

The more Sultan talked, the more evident it became that progress in the Muslim world was not her interest. Even more troubling, it was not what the Jewish audience wanted to hear about. Applause, even cheers, interrupted her calumnies.

 

Judea Pearl, an attendee and father of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl, was one of the few voices of restraint and nuance heard that afternoon. In response to Sultan’s assertion that the Koran contains only verses of evil and domination, Pearl said he understood the book also included "verses of peace" that proponents of Islam uphold as the religion’s true intent. The Koran’s verses on war and brutality, Pearl contended, were "cultural baggage," as are similar verses in the Torah. Unfortunately, his words were drowned out by the cheers for Sultan’s full-court press against Islam and Muslims.

 

My disappointment in and disagreement with Sultan turned into dismay. She never alluded to any healthy, peaceful Islamic alternative. Why, for example, didn’t this Southern California resident mention the groundbreaking efforts of the Islamic Center of Southern California, the leading exemplar of progressive Muslim American life in the United States? Why didn’t she bring up the New Horizon School-Pasadena that the center started, the first Muslim American school honored by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon School?

 

You might wonder why a rabbi is so uneasy about Sultan’s assault on Muslims and Islam. Here’s why: Contrary to practically every mosque in the U.S., the Islamic Center has a regulation in its charter barring funding from foreign countries. As a result, it is an American institution dedicated to propagating an American Muslim identity. Maher and Hassan Hathout are the philosophical and spiritual pillars of the mosque. They also have been partners of Wilshire Boulevard Temple rabbis and others throughout L.A. for decades.

 

The Hathouts’ mosque has twice endorsed pilgrimages to Israel and the Palestinian territories, its members traveling with fellow L.A.-area Jews and Christians. It invites Jews to pray with them, to make music with them, to celebrate Ramadan with them. This is the mosque whose day school teaches students about Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah alongside lessons in Arabic and the Koran. Recently, the Islamic Center joined the food pantry collective of Hope-Net, helping feed the hungry and homeless.

 

Make no mistake: I am not an Islamic apologist. But Sultan’s over-the-top, indefensible remarks at the fundraiser, along with her failure to mention the important, continuing efforts of the Islamic Center, insulted all Muslims and Jews in L.A. and throughout the nation who are trying to bridge the cultural gap between the two groups. And that’s one reason why I eventually walked out of the event.

 

Here’s another: As I experienced the fervor sparked by Sultan’s anti-Muslim tirade and stoked by a roomful of apparently unsuspecting Jews, I thought: What if down the street there was a roomful of Muslims listening to a self-loathing Jew, cheering her on as she spoke of the evils inherent in the Torah, in which it is commanded that a child must be stoned to death if he insults his parents, in which Israelites are ordered by God to conquer cities and, in so doing, to kill all women and children and this imagined Jew completely ignored all of what Judaism teaches afterward?

 

In a world far too often dominated by politicians imbued with religious fundamentalism of all flavors Jewish, Christian, Muslim we need the thoughtfulness, self-awareness and subtlety that comes from progressive religious _expression. We have that in Judaism, in Christianity and in Islam, right in our backyard. If only Sultan, applauded in many quarters yet miscast as a voice of reason and reform in Islam, were paying attention.

 

STEPHEN JULIUS STEIN is a rabbi at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, where he also directs inter-religious programming.

 

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Needed: A new policy on Islam

Patrick J. Buchanan

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article13741.htm

 

 

06/23/06 "WorldNet" — — In 1938, the year of Anschluss and Munich, a perceptive British Catholic looked beyond the continent over which war clouds hung and saw another cloud forming.

 

"It has always seemed to me … probable," wrote Hilaire Belloc, "that there would be a resurrection of Islam and that our sons or our grandsons would see the renewal of that tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and what has been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent."

 

Belloc was prophetic. Even as Christianity seems to be dying in Europe, Islam is rising to shake the 21st century as it did so many previous centuries.

 

Indeed, as one watches U.S. Armed Forces struggle against Sunni insurgents, Shia militias and jihadists in Iraq, and a resurgent Taliban, all invoking Allah, Victor Hugo’s words return to mind: No army is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.

 

The idea for which many of our adversaries fight is a compelling one. They believe there is but one God, Allah, that Muhammad is his prophet, that Islam, or submission to the Quran, is the only path to paradise and that a godly society should be governed according to the Shariah, the law of Islam. Having tried other ways and failed, they are coming home to Islam.

 

What idea do we have to offer? Americans believe that freedom comports with human dignity, that only a democratic and free-market system can ensure the good life for all, as it has done in the West and is doing in Asia.

 

From Ataturk on, millions of Islamic peoples have embraced this Western alternative. But today, tens of millions of Muslims appear to be rejecting it, returning to their roots in a more pure Islam.

 

Indeed, the endurance of the Islamic faith is astonishing.

 

Islam survived two centuries of defeats and humiliations of the Ottoman Empire and Ataturk’s abolition of the caliphate. It endured generations of Western rule. It outlasted the pro-Western monarchs in Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Ethiopia and Iran. Islam easily fended off communism, survived the rout of Nasserism in 1967 and has proven more enduring than the nationalism of Arafat or Saddam. Now, it is resisting the world’s last superpower.

 

What occasioned this column was a jolting report in the June 20 Washington Times, by James Brandon, alerting us to a new front.

 

"Arrests Spark Fear of Armed Islamist Takeover" headlined the story about the arrest, since May, of 500 militants who had allegedly plotted the overthrow of the king of Morocco and establishment of an Islamic state that would sever all ties to the infidel West to end the poverty and corruption they blame on the West.

 

The arrests raised fears that Al Adl wa al Ihsane, or Justice and Charity, was preparing to take up arms to fulfill the predictions of the group’s mystics that the monarchy would fall in 2006. Though illegal, Al Adl wa al Ihsane is Morocco’s largest Islamic movement, which boycotts elections, but has hundreds of thousands of followers and has taken over the universities and is radicalizing the young.

 

Its founder is Sheik Abdessalam Yassine, who has declared its purpose is to reunite mosque and state: "Politics and spirituality have been kept apart by the Arab elites. And we have been able to reconnect these two aspects of Islam and that is why people fear us."

 

And, one might add, why people embrace them.

 

If Morocco is now in play in the struggle between militant Islam and the West, how looks the correlation of forces in June 2006?

 

Islamists are taking over in Somalia. They are in power in Sudan. The Muslim Brotherhood won 60 percent of the races it contested in Egypt. Hezbollah swept the board in southern Lebanon. Hamas seized power from Fatah on the West Bank and Gaza. The Shia parties, which hearken to Ayatollah Sistani, brushed aside our favorites, Chalabi and Iyad Allawi, in the Iraqi elections. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the most admired Iranian leader since Khomeini. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is staging a comeback.

 

This has all happened in the last year. And where are we winning?

 

What is the appeal of militant Islam? It is, first, its message: As all else has failed us, why not live the faith and law God gave us?

 

Second, it is the Muslim rage at the present condition where pro-Western regimes are seen as corruptly enriching themselves, while the poor suffer.

 

Third, it is a vast U.S. presence that Islamic peoples are taught is designed to steal their God-given resources and assist the Israelis in humiliating them and persecuting the Palestinians.

 

Lastly, Islamic militants are gaining credibility because they show a willingness to share the poverty of the poor and fight the Americans.

 

What America needs to understand is something unusual for us: From Morocco to Pakistan, we are no longer seen by the majority as the good guys.

 

If Islamic rule is an idea taking hold among the Islamic masses, how does even the best army on earth stop it? Do we not need a new policy?

 

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Muslim Women Don’t See Themselves as Oppressed, Survey Finds

 

By HELENA ANDREWS

June 8, 2006

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F50B17FC3E550C7B8CDDAF0894DE404482

 

 

WASHINGTON, June 7 Muslim women do not think they are conditioned to accept second-class status or view themselves as oppressed, according to a survey released Tuesday by The Gallup Organization.

 

According to the poll, conducted in 2005, a strong majority of Muslim women believe they should have the right to vote without influence, work outside the home and serve in the highest levels of government. In more than 8,000 face-to-face interviews conducted in eight predominantly Muslim countries, the survey found that many women in the Muslim world did not see sex issues as a priority because other issues were more pressing.

 

When asked what they resented most about their own societies, a majority of Muslim women polled said that a lack of unity among Muslim nations, violent extremism, and political and economic corruption were their main concerns. The hijab, or head scarf, and burqa, the garment covering face and body, seen by some Westerners as tools of oppression, were never mentioned in the women’s answers to the open-ended questions, the poll analysts said.

 

Concerning women’s rights in general, most Muslim women polled associated sex equality with the West. Seventy-eight percent of Moroccan women, 71 percent of Lebanese women and 48 percent of Saudi women polled linked legal equality with the West. Still, a majority of the respondents did not think adopting Western values would help the Muslim world’s political and economic progress.

 

The most frequent response to the question, "What do you admire least about the West?" was the general perception of moral decay, promiscuity and pornography that pollsters called the "Hollywood image" that is regarded as degrading to women.

 

An overwhelming majority of the women polled in each country cited "attachment to moral and spiritual values" as the best aspect of their own societies. In Pakistan, 53 percent of the women polled said attachment to their religious beliefs was their country’s most admirable trait. Similarly, in Egypt, 59 percent of the women surveyed cited love of their religion as the best aspect.

 

At 97 percent, Lebanon had the highest percentage of women who said they believed they should be able to make their own voting decisions, followed by Egypt and Morocco at 95 percent. Pakistan was lowest, at 68 percent.

 

The survey, "What Women Want: Listening to the Voices of Muslim Women," is a part of The Gallup World Poll, which plans to survey 95 percent of the earth’s population over the next century.

 

Dalia Mogahed, the strategic analyst of Muslim studies at The Gallup World Poll, said the new data provide fresh insight into the Muslim world, where Western perceptions generally cast women as victims. "Women’s empowerment has been identified as a key goal of U.S. policy in the region," said Ms. Mogahed, adding that Muslim women’s rights have generated a lot of interest without much empirical information on "what Muslim women want."

 

Ms. Mogahed, who was born in Egypt and wears a Islamic head scarf, rejected the idea that Muslim women had been brainwashed by the dominant male culture, citing as proof the fact that women freely stated that they deserved certain rights.

 

"In every culture there is a dominant narrative, and in many cases it is constructed by people in power who happen to be men," Ms. Mogahed said.

 

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Cairo, June 28, 2006.

 

Syrian Authorities Escalate Security Campaign to Suppress Reformists and Human Rights Activists

 

Press Release

 

The Syrian authority seriously escalated its security campaign, and continued to terrorize and suppress civil society reformists and human rights activists in total disregard of all human rights principles. The CIHRS is deeply disturbed at prohibiting Dr. Radwan Zyada, head of Damascus Center for Human Rights from traveling on June 26, 2006 to Jordan where he was supposed to participate in a conference on "Human Rights in the framework of Criminal Justice," sponsored by Mr. Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States. The CIHRS has been notified that such prohibition is not limited to Jordan that it is general in nature and that review of such prohibition is conditional upon the approval of the intelligence services.

 

It is worth-mentioning that more than 13 human rights and political activists and others calling for reform and democracy in Syria were exposed last month to severe arrest campaign. They have been accused of various charges, the penalty of some of which amounts to life imprisonment, because of peaceful _expression of their viewpoints. Detainees have been also exposed to physical assault in places of detention.

 

In continued violation of the freedom of opinion and _expression and relevant international conventions ratified by the Syrian Government, Syrian authorities blocked the independent e-paper entitled "The Syrian Scene" issued by the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of _Expression. In addition, the Syrian authorities continue to bring inhuman pressures to bear upon Syrian citizens because of their human rights-related and political activities. For example, two public employees were harassed and dismissed from their jobs.

 

Denouncing the oppressive practices of the Syrian authorities and continued campaigns against civil society activists and human rights defenders, the CIHRS calls anew upon the Syrian authorities to immediately release and drop the charges made against detainees; to cancel the decisions made to prohibit some of them from traveling abroad; and to safeguard Syrian citizens’ right of movement according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It also calls upon the authorities to unblock the "Syrian Scene" e-paper; to respect citizens’ right to express their opinion and choose the suitable means of _expression; and demands that employees dismissed from their jobs because of their human-rights-related and political activities be compensated.

 

Moataz El fegiery

programs coordinator

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies(CIHRS)

 

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Hamas and Fatah to Implicitly Recognize Israel

Palestinian Leaders Agree on National-Unity Government

 

By Scott Wilson

Washington Post Foreign Service

Tuesday, June 27, 2006; 2:44 PM

 

 

GAZA CITY, June 27 — Leaders of Hamas agreed Tuesday to establish a new national-unity government in the coming weeks as part of an accord signed by the largest Palestinian political factions that implicitly recognizes Israel’s right to exist, according to Palestinian officials involved in the talks.

 

The agreement signals a major shift by the political leaders of Hamas, who for the first time have effectively endorsed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It comes at a time when Hamas leaders are confronting internal divisions, international economic sanctions and the threat of an Israeli ground assault here to force the release of a 19-year-old Israeli soldier abducted two days ago by Palestinian gunmen.

 

It is also a significant political victory for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who had threatened to place the deal before Palestinian voters next month unless Hamas accepted its key conditions. The referendum will likely be called off.

 

"In our view, this is an important step toward a lasting peace," said Walid Awad, a spokesman for Abbas. "The Hamas government has recognized the state of Israel."

 

It was unclear, however, whether Hamas’ military wing would abide by the terms. The group, known as the Izzadeen al-Qassam Brigades, was involved in the Sunday attack on an army post inside Israel that killed two soldiers and wounded four more. So far, the group, along with two smaller armed factions, has refused to release Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped during the assault on the post at the strip’s southeastern edge.

 

"The political leadership of Hamas does not have the strength to control the military wing," said Issa Ali Nashar, a senior Hamas political leader, in an interview in the Gaza city of Khan Younis. "All they can say right now is to keep the soldier safe."

 

The agreement, resulting from weeks of negotiations, could lead to an easing of the international economic sanctions against the Palestinian government, which Hamas has managed since the end of March. Abbas, who heads the rival Fatah party, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas were expected to outline the details here Wednesday.

 

Awad said the makeup of the next government has not been settled and could take weeks to work out, although it is unlikely that a Hamas official will lead it. He said it would likely be composed of Palestinian leaders unaffiliated with either of the major political movements.

 

Since Hamas won January parliamentary elections, most foreign donors have frozen aid to the Palestinian Authority, which relies on the funding for nearly half of its $2 billion annual budget. Israel has stopped the monthly transfer of $55 million in tax revenues it collects for the Palestinian government — sanctions that have left most of the authority’s more than 150,000 employees without pay for four months.

 

International donors have demanded that Hamas, known formally as the Islamic Resistance Movement, renounce violence, abide by previously signed agreements, and recognize Israel in return for a resumption of aid. Hamas leaders had refused to do so, although the agreement Tuesday appears to address some of those demands.

 

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said that while details of the final agreement are not yet known, previous versions have fallen short of those conditions. He said the agreement would likely have "minimal effect" on Israel’s position toward the Palestinian government, and he expressed "frustration" that Palestinian leaders were discussing the deal rather than focusing on the soldier’s release.

 

"There is an immediate crisis," Regev said. "That the Palestinian leadership was putting energy into this document that has no bearing on the most pressing issue is disappointing."

 

As outlined by officials involved in the talks, the agreement calls for a future Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, territory Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East War. Since its founding nearly two decades ago, Hamas has called for the creation of an Islamic state across a far larger stretch of land that now includes Israel.

 

The agreement, based on an 18-point document announced last month by Fatah and Hamas leaders in Israeli prisons, also calls for confining future armed operations against Israel to the occupied territories under a unified command, the right of Palestinian refugees to return, and freedom for thousands of prisoners in Israeli jails.

 

Nashar and other Hamas leaders said the agreement does not commit Hamas to recognizing the Jewish state, which they believe was created illegally on Arab land by a 1947 U.N. resolution. But it does endorse previously signed agreements that do so, as well as the 2002 Arab peace initiative that calls for Israel to withdraw from all territories occupied in the 1967 war in exchange for peace and recognition.

 

The deal will lead to internal reforms of the Palestinian political structure, particularly the Palestine Liberation Organization.

 

In recent years, the umbrella organization representing Palestinians inside and outside the territories has lost its influence to the Palestinian Authority, the semi-autonomous government in the West Bank and Gaza established by the 1993 Oslo accords with Israel.

 

Abbas, who heads the PLO, could use his success with Hamas as proof that he has the political strength to enforce any peace agreement signed with Israel. The Israeli government has dismissed Abbas’ relevance in Palestinian politics since Hamas’ election victory, suggesting he would be unable to push through any negotiated agreement.

 

Neither Hamas nor Islamic Jihad are members of the PLO, which has signed agreements recognizing Israel. The organization, dominated by the secular-nationalist Fatah movement, is responsible for managing peace negotiations with Israel.

 

The deal struck Tuesday calls for a future summit meeting of all Palestinians factions in Cairo to elect new PLO representatives, including members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

 

The agreement came as Israel threatens a military strike to free Shalit and runs counters to views held by its hard-line leadership in exile headed by Khaled Mashal, whom Israeli officials believe was behind the Sunday attack. Some Hamas leaders in Gaza, along with Abbas and Egyptian interlocutors, have called for the soldier’s release.

 

Israeli soldiers, meanwhile, searched parts of the West Bank for an 18-year-old Israeli settler missing since Sunday. The radical Popular Resistance Committees, an armed group involved in Sunday’s kidnapping, claims to be holding Eliyahu Asheri, who is from the settlement of Itamar in the northern West Bank. Settlement officials said he was last seen hitchhiking from the French Hill junction in Jerusalem.

 

"We don’t know what happened and we pray he is okay," Moshe Goldschmidt, a leader of the settlement, said in a phone interview.

 

A gradual military buildup continued along Gaza’s periphery amid calls from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for Israel to allow more time for international diplomacy to secure soldier’s release.

 

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Arab Anger Flares at Israeli Incursion

 

By LEE KEATH

The Associated Press  –  June 29, 2006; 2:46 PM

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/29/AR2006062901247.html

 

 

CAIRO, Egypt — Anger flared across the Middle East on Thursday over Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, and Arab governments were assailed for not aiding Palestinians. The Egyptian government’s top rival, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, urged Egyptians to gather at pro-Palestinian demonstrations Friday, the day of weekly Islamic prayers.

 

The Israeli offensive put the governments of U.S.-allied Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in a bind.

 

They have been cold to the new Hamas government, having done little to help amid the West’s financial boycott to pressure Palestinians into moderating their positions on Israel. That has resulted in many Arabs feeling their governments are leaving the Palestinians in the lurch.

 

The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood accused Arab leaders of being impotent.

 

"We haven’t heard even a whisper from you," Mohammed Mahdi Akef said. "You can’t provide medicine and milk and the necessities of life to our besieged people in Palestine …. You take a hesitant stance toward their freely elected government, fearing the spread of the virus of freedom to your own fertile pastures."

 

Akef called on Arabs and other Muslims to "express your anger over what is happening, make the thunder of your voices heard … using the peaceful means that are at your disposal."

 

The Brotherhood called for protests in Cairo and other Egyptian cities after Friday prayers. Past protests organized by the group have erupted into clashes with security forces.

 

In Jordan’s capital, Amman, some 50 people held a sit-in protest, holding banners reading: "Wake up Arab nation! Save the babies, the old men, the land and our honor."

 

Jordanian columnist Taher Adwan accused the Israelis of being "criminals and killers."

 

"What is frustrating is that the world, under U.S. pressures and bribes, has put them above the law," he wrote in the independent newspaper Al-Arab Al-Yawm.

 

The head of an alliance of Persian Gulf countries _ some of which have taken quiet steps toward economic ties with Israel _ called the Israeli offensive "barbaric."

 

"This dangerous escalation against the Palestinian people is a war against innocent civilians, women, children and the elderly that has left Gaza without water and electricity," Abdel Rahman Attiye, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, said in a statement issued on behalf of the group’s six member countries.

 

An emergency session of the 22-member Arab League in Cairo urged Arab nations to provide "urgent support" for the Palestinians.

 

But Abdul Khaleq Abdulla, a political scientist at United Arab Emirates University, said, "There’s absolutely nothing the Arab world can do. The Palestinians are left alone to go through all this by themselves."

 

Egyptian officials urged the Syrian-based political leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, to obtain the release of an Israeli soldier whose abduction set off the confrontation.

 

An aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said both Abbas and Egyptian officials called Syrian President Bashar Assad to ask him to persuade Mashaal to order the soldier’s release. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak spoke with Abbas on Thursday, Egypt’s state news agency said.

 

Mashaal, meanwhile, sought help from Arab leaders to stop Israel’s incursion, a statement from his office said.

 

"This situation demands that Arab officials and the international community take a tough stance," Mashaal’s top aide, Moussa Abu Marzouk, told Al-Jazeera television. "They should pressure Israel to withdraw from the middle of cities and stop shelling civilians."

 

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No Women Chosen in Kuwait Vote

Advent of Female Suffrage Seen Forcing Attention to New Issues

 

By Faiza Saleh Ambah

Special to The Washington Post

Friday, June 30, 2006; Page A20

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/29/AR2006062901990.html

 

 

KUWAIT CITY, June 30 — Despite braving searing heat and turning up in the tens of thousands, Kuwaiti women, voting for the first time, chose not to put a woman in parliament in Thursday’s elections.

 

According to partial returns reported Friday morning, none of the 27 women in the field of 250 candidates won a seat — a result that was not unexpected, even though nearly 60 percent of the Kuwaiti electorate is female.

 

Originally scheduled for next year, the elections were brought forward in May after Kuwait’s emir, Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, dissolved parliament following widespread calls for electoral reform. As a result, the women "had no political experience, no political groups backing them, and only one month to prepare their campaigns," said Madi al-Khamees, owner of al-Hadath newspaper.

 

"If they start preparing from now," he said, "they might make it in the next elections," scheduled for 2010.

 

Despite what some saw as a setback for women, their mere presence in this month’s elections has changed the emirate’s political landscape, analysts and candidates said.

 

"Women’s participation in this election will transform the way parliament works," said Adnan al-Shatti, a child psychologist who ran for office.

 

"All the candidates were forced to consider women’s issues in their campaigns because the women now have a lot of political weight," said Shatti, who handed a stack of leaflets to his daughter to distribute at the entrance of the Muhammad Abdul-Wahhab Middle School for Girls, one of the polling stations set aside for women.

 

Many male candidates, even conservatives who had opposed women’s suffrage for years, made extra efforts to woo the female vote, Shatti and others said.

 

Basil al-Rashid, who ran against several of the strongest female candidates, said he concentrated during his campaign on female voters.

 

"I met with women many times and asked them about their needs and what was important to them," said Rashid, a former member of parliament seeking reelection. "They are a very important constituency, and their issues will be highlighted in the next parliament."

 

Outside the polling station, Rashid’s supporters, dressed in orange T-shirts and colorful head scarves, opened car doors for women coming to vote and offered to escort them under silver umbrellas to shield them from the blazing sun. "Vote for Basil al-Rashid, he deserves it," they said, handing out long-stemmed roses. When Rashid walked into the polling station, he was greeted with ululations. "Basil, Basil, Basil," his supporters shouted as they threw rose petals at him.

 

Inside, women stood sweating in hour-long lines, fanning themselves with fliers and leaflets on the hottest day in Kuwait this year — around 120 degrees.

 

Hanan Ashkanawi, a 25-year-old administrator, said she felt it was important to show up at the polls today. "We have been asking for the right to vote for years and, thank God, they finally gave it to us. I had to come to prove that women were serious," she said.

 

Rabah Ali Boubian, 58, a homemaker in a wheelchair, said that despite her infirmity, the heat and the crowd, voting was an opportunity she was not willing to miss.

 

Others seemed to feel their presence at the ballot box was almost a mystical experience. Khulood al-Feeli, a communications specialist and activist who had fought for women’s rights for more than a decade, said she felt she was creating history as she was voting. "I got goose bumps standing in front of the ballot box. I was in awe, and all the long years of struggle and the demonstrations flashed through my mind," she said.

 

But candidate Rola Dashti, out soliciting votes till the last moment, said she wanted women to think of the future. Dressed in a rose-colored suit, she handed out small bottles of water to women standing in the long lines and paused beside a young girl named Nabila who was there with her mother.

 

"I want your support," she said, standing in the middle of a crowd of women. "Make your vote count today. Do it for Nabila," she said as she held up the girl’s hand. "For Nabila," she repeated.

 

Political analyst Ghanim al-Najjar said that although no female candidates made it to parliament, the elections were a positive step for women. "This was a completely novel experience for the [female] candidates and voters," he said. "They were up against seasoned veterans. But it was constructive because it gave them good experience and training."

 

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Poll: Turks Oppose Headscarf Ban, Back Religion

 

Reuters

Wednesday, June 14, 2006; 6:13 AM

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/14/AR2006061400377.html

 

 

ANKARA (Reuters) – A majority of Turks say a ban on women wearing the Muslim headscarf in public offices and universities should be lifted and just two fifths favor a military government, according to a poll published on Wednesday.

 

The survey, conducted by scholars from two Istanbul universities and published in the liberal Radikal daily, shows Turkey, a Muslim but secular country that hopes to join the European Union, to be conservative on social and moral issues.

 

Three fifths of those canvassed attributed failure in life to a lack of religious faith and said they would oppose their daughter marrying a non-Muslim. Nearly a third said boys and girls should be taught in separate classes at school.

 

The results of the poll make fairly pleasant reading for Turkey’s ruling AK Party, which has Islamist roots, showing two thirds back its efforts — so far unsuccessful — to relax a ban on women students and civil servants wearing the headscarf.

 

Many in the military, academic and judicial establishment view this ban as a key pillar of Turkey’s secular order.

 

More than half said they were happy with the AK Party government. Turkey faces a general election by November 2007.

 

Forty percent of those polled said they would prefer a military-led government and nearly a third expressed dissatisfaction with the democratic process.

 

Turkey’s powerful armed forces traditionally rank as the institution most respected by Turks. The military has ousted democratically elected governments four times in the past 50 years but has seen its powers trimmed by EU-backed reforms.

 

The poll confirmed falling support for Turkey joining the EU, down to 57 percent from 74 percent a few years ago.

 

Ankara began entry talks last October, but faces more tough reforms and is also under pressure to establish ties with EU member state Cyprus under its internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government. Ankara now backs breakaway Turkish Cypriots.

 

Slightly more than half of the Turks surveyed said political freedoms should be restricted and that human rights could be curtailed for the sake of national interests.

 

Nearly half of those surveyed said tourists spoil Turkish morality and harm its culture.

 

Conservative Turks are uncomfortable with the spectacle of naked or near-naked tourists soaking up the sun at Turkish resorts, though tourism is a key pillar of Turkey’s economy.

 

The survey, conducted in March and April by Isik and Sabanci Universities in Istanbul, canvassed the views of 1,846 people in more than 20 towns and cities across the country of 72 million.

 

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The long haul in Morocco

Anouar Boukhars

 

bitterlemons-international.org

Middle East Roundtable

Edition 23 Volume 4 – June 22, 2006 

 

Steps toward meaningful political reform in the Arab world have stalled, blocked by official changes of heart about the merit of representative democracy in stemming the tide of rising popular disaffection and Islamist jihadism. To be sure, support for democratic principles by the region’s rulers has always been ambivalent at best. It is hard to believe that any absolute monarch or president-for-life would willingly agree to implement genuine change that would necessarily entail free and fair elections and constitutional reforms that dilute executive power and empower legislative and judicial branches of government. Even King Mohamed VI of Morocco, well known for his penchant for reforms and repeated rhetorical calls for embracing modernity and democracy, has shown no real taste for the diffusion of power, the structural base of any democratic polity. Despite evidence of democratization and the king’s stated noble motivations, the Moroccan political system lacks any meaningful framework of checks and balances.

 

Morocco is still a quasi-absolute monarchy governed with a mixture of enlightened authoritarianism and relative parliamentary politics. Mohamed VI’s endeavors to invent a new ruling bargain that breaks with his father’s authoritarian reign yet perpetuates the dominance of the monarchy have succeeded in creating an image of Morocco as a modern and progressive constitutional monarchy. Domestically, however, the king has failed to deliver, leaving a large number of Moroccans impatient for the real political and economic reforms they hoped for when he assumed the throne in 1999. The current generation of young adults still complains of the same old practices of privilege, nepotism and cronyism that have plagued the Moroccan government for decades. Even the much-trumpeted official anti-corruption campaigns have met resistance in the inefficient and corrupt government bureaucracies. The powerlessness of elected institutions has created a suspicion of change and widespread political apathy captured by numerous surveys that show only a small minority of Moroccans trust politicians.

 

Today, Morocco is at a crossroads: The king can either prolong his father’s authoritarian rule in a new guise at his own peril, or he can spearhead serious political reforms, anchored in human development and substantial democratic change. The country desperately needs the cultivation of a genuine nation of law that functions transparently, accountably and independently from the whims of the ruling establishment. This does not mean that the monarchy would necessarily lose its commanding influence. On the contrary, the king can still retain his prestigious role as a national symbol, enterprising power broker and honest arbiter in a democratic system bound by institutional checks and balances and constitutional responsibility of power.

 

Mohammed VI can be a powerful force for change if he could translate his rhetorical promises and vague endorsements of reform into concrete programs that could open the way for more power diffusion and compromise within the confines of well charted principles of political participation and a mutually agreed-on set of values endorsed by all nonviolent elements of the political spectrum. If constructed in good faith, a comprehensive and negotiated reform plan that openly embraces all segments of the population committed to democratic principles, including religious tolerance, women’s equality and political pluralism, could go a long way toward ensuring a sustainable democratic outcome.

 

It is in the monarchy’s best interests to support such a constructive negotiation framework among the regime loyalists, socialists, conservatives, Islamists and other non-violent opposition groups. It is equally important that the ruling establishment reaches out to the Islamists in all their diversity and resists the temptation to use existing institutional constraints to manipulate and de-legitimize the mainstream Islamist movements who have already agreed to abide by the rules of the political game. There is increasing concern that a number of shanty-town populations will swing over to radical Islamists who reject the democratic process altogether, if the moderate Islamists of the Party of Justice and Development (PJD) prove incapable of participating in the system without being thwarted and discredited by it.

 

To meet the needs of a predominantly young and restless population, the monarchy needs to reform itself within a framework of laws and plural democratic values. The political parties are in desperate need of reforms as well. They are internally fragmented and unable to forge far-reaching opposition alliances for political transformation. Their aging leadership is perceived as too pliant, complacent and no longer capable of connecting with voters’ everyday concerns. There were some recent tentative moves by the small parties of the left to regroup into one bloc called the Rally of the Democratic Left but even this attempt failed to entice the main socialist party into joining the merger. It is imperative for the parties of the left and right to regroup to achieve a working majority.

 

As Morocco gears up for the 2007 parliamentary elections, its political system faces two major challenges. One is related to the growing apathy and disillusionment of average Moroccans with politicians, the other has to do with political and human rights that are still lagging behind, despite the significant improvement in the status of women and the cultural rights of Berbers. The year 2007 thus represents an opportunity for the creation of a national pact that could help strengthen reforms already in motion and regain the confidence of the electorate.- Published 22/6/2005 bitterlemons- international.org

 

Anouar Boukhars is visiting professor of political science and director of the Center for Defense and Security Policy at Wilberforce University. He is also editor of Wilberforce Quarterly Journal.

 

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Morocco Cracks Down on Islamist Opposition Group JSA

 

Chris Zambelis

Global Terrorism Analysis

Jamestown Foundation Volume 3, Issue 22 (June 6, 2006) <

http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2370022

 

In a major operation in late May, Moroccan security forces arrested over 300 members of al-Adl wa al-Ihsane (Justice and Spirituality AssociationJSA), including ranking leaders, over vague allegations that the group was plotting a violent overthrow of the monarchy (http://www.aljamaa.com). The arrests were made in a number of major cities and towns over a few days, including the capital, Rabat.

 

Security forces also sealed a number of the JSA’s offices. These reports are significant because the JSA, a Sufi group, does not have a history of violence but instead advocates a moderate political and social reform program. A sudden turn toward violence and terrorism would mark a dramatic shift in the group’s strategy.

 

The JSA is one of the staunchest critics of the monarchy and is counted as the country’s largest opposition group. It is also officially banned as a political movement, although it is tolerated in other aspects largely due to its grassroots popularity. Curiously, all of the detainees were eventually released from detention after only a couple of days (al-Jazeera, May 26).

 

According to Fathallah Arslane, a spokesman for the JSA, allegations that the group was preparing to seize power through an armed uprising and replace the monarchy with a radical Islamic fundamentalist government stem from fabricated reports in the local pro-state media.

 

In response to increasing pressure by the authorities and press reports linking the group to radicalism, the JSA organized what they describe as an extensive "Open Doors" campaign in an effort to reach out to Moroccans in order to refute allegations by the group’s critics linking them to radicalism and terrorism. Arslane believes that the popularity of the "Open Doors" program worried the authorities, especially ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections, prompting them to clamp down (al-Jazeera, May 26).

 

Despite an ongoing political reform process and a steady expansion of public participation and civil society in political life, opposition groups in Morocco continue to face serious obstacles, especially when they directly criticize the institution of the monarchy or other government policies (Morocco Times, May 25). This holds especially true for Islamist movements, including parties such as Hizb al-Adla wa al-Tanmia (Justice and Development PartyPJD) that are represented in parliament and boast a sizeable following among Moroccans (http://www.pjd.ma).

 

Morocco is no stranger to terrorism. Morocco was struck by a series of deadly suicide bombings in Casablanca in May 2003, allegedly the work of homegrown militants inspired by al-Qaeda. A number of ranking al-Qaeda operatives are also of Moroccan origin. Moroccan militants have been implicated in attacks across the globe.

 

Working in conjunction with its European allies, Moroccan authorities also claim to have uncovered a number of radical terrorist cells operating in Europe and elsewhere comprised of Moroccans.

 

Radical Islamists consider the Moroccan government as a heretical and apostate regime on par with other states in the Arab and Muslim world that are viewed as illegitimate, repressive and corrupt U.S. clients, namely Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, among others. As Amir al-Muminin (Commander of the Faithful), Morocco’s King Mohammed VI represents both the head of state and the country’s highest religious authority. Morocco’s 350 year-old dynasty claims to have directly descended from the Prophet Muhammed. In an effort to bolster his legitimacy, the king relies on state-appointed Ulama Councils to counter Islamist opposition views and radical militancy and extremism in Morocco’s mosques and centers of religious learning. Nevertheless, Rabat’s staunch pro-U.S. stance and heavy-handed approach in dealing with local opposition to its rule, especially Islamists of all stripes following the September 11 attacks and the May 2003 bombings in Casablanca, has made it a prime target of local militants and al-Qaeda.

 

Despite the immediate threat facing Rabat by homegrown extremists and al-Qaeda, it is highly unlikely that the JSA plotted to overthrow the monarchy, let alone planned to resort to violence in doing so. Rabat’s decision to release all of the detainees so soon after their initial arrest is another sign that the regime likely used vague and unsubstantiated threats of violence and terrorism to root out opposition elements that pose a challenge to its rule.

 

By all accounts, Rabat continues to see the JSA as a serious threat and is moving to undermine its authority and influence through intimidation.

 

Given the JSA’s history and expanding reach in Moroccan society, however, Rabat’s resort to mass arrests and targeted intimidation is likely to backfire. Sheikh Abdessalem Yassine, the JSA’s ideological leader, spent over a decade in prison and under house arrest for questioning the religious legitimacy of the monarchy and its authority, and labeling the regime as corrupt and immoral.

 

Although he is not regarded as a modernizer or a democratic reformer, he continues to be revered by Moroccans opposed to the king for standing up to the monarchy and speaking on their behalf on vital social and economic issues (http://www.yassine.net). His daughter Nadia Yassine is also an outspoken member of the JSA and a leading democracy and human rights activist, representing the younger generation within the group’s ranks.

 

She recently completed a speaking tour across a number of leading U.S.  universities. Like her father, Nadia Yassine and her husband Abdullah Chibani have also spent time in prison for peaceful dissident activities. She currently faces prosecution in Morocco over remarks she made in 2005 when she stated that a democratic republic has more in common with Islamic theories of political power and government than do monarchies (http://nadiayassine.net).

 

The wisdom behind Rabat’s tactics in dealing with opposition elements is similar to what occurs elsewhere in the region. For example, Egypt’s crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood is frequently portrayed in the context of national security, despite the group’s moderate political and social reform program (http://www.ikhwanweb.com).

 

Cairo’s actions often result in bloody crackdowns and mass arrests. Rabat’s recent actions against the JSA should also be seen in this context.

 

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A veil of uncertainty

While some Arab women embrace the rise of Islamist political parties, others fear they could end up groaning under Taliban-like regimes.

 

By Shahnaz Taplin Chinoy

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2006/06/13/arab_women/

 

June 13, 2006 | The stunned reactions in the West to the victory of Hamas, an Islamist movement that officially refuses to recognize Israel, in the January 2006 Palestinian elections largely overlooked a key issue: that these elections represented a political breakthrough for Arab women. Often shut out of corrupt or ossified secular parties, women now find themselves playing a more prominent political role. Under a quota system in the Palestinian elections, women had to comprise 20 percent of the candidates of both Fatah and Hamas. And the backbone of Hamas’ support is its social service agencies, which are dominated by women. As Helena Cobban reported in Salon, one of the reasons Hamas won was that many wives voted for Hamas, even if their husbands voted for Fatah.

 

But the increasing political power of Islamist, as opposed to secular, parties throughout the Middle East — not just in Gaza and the West Bank but also in countries like Egypt and Jordan — also alarms many Muslim women. They fear that newly elected Islamists could impose sharia law, curbing women’s freedom and independence. Under sharia, for example, marriage and divorce laws are harsher for women than for men.

 

Yet some also believe that, paradoxically, Islamism may in fact be a prerequisite in the transition from authoritarian regimes to democratic ones.

 

Islamists have engaged women in their political rise in distinct ways in different countries. Hamas did better among women voters than among men; seven women in that party won electoral seats, including the mother of a suicide bomber. In Bethlehem, a Fatah stronghold, Palestinian women in their early 30s went door to door just prior to the election, signing up women for classes in politics and elections.

 

In Egypt, women have long been part of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that has inspired other Islamist groups, including Hamas, to bring more women into the political process. Twice banned in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was persecuted by former President Nasser, tolerated by former President Sadat and repressed by President Mubarak. Since the 1980s the party has espoused nonviolence, political pluralism and parliamentary democracy. The Brotherhood’s network of health, education and welfare programs enabled it to mobilize the participation of women alongside men in the November and December 2005 elections and win 20 percent of the parliamentary seats.

 

"After spending years in prison and making lots of sacrifices, the Muslim Brotherhood now deserves to be given a chance," says Amany Abou Fadl, a lecturer in English literature at Cairo University and a longtime supporter of the Islamist organization. Fadl says "political representation for women [in Egypt] is a big problem, but it is hard to address these issues with people who don’t have money. For the average Egyptian woman, politics is a luxury." She says she is focused on getting the current regime to recognize the Muslim Brotherhood as a legitimate political party; in last winter’s legislative elections, members had to run as independents to get around the government’s ban on religious-based parties.

 

The Brotherhood’s "five-year plan" includes a women’s agenda, says Fadl, simultaneously asserting that women should not be given preferential treatment over men because "men and women are equal [in Islam], they are equal as [Egyptian] citizens, and they both suffer poverty, so why feminize poverty and treat women like cripples? We are not crippled."

 

Other Egyptian women are more skeptical about the Brotherhood’s sincerity when it comes to women. Nadia El Awady, deputy editor of Islam Online, who chooses to wear the abaya, a full cloak, has serious reservations about how much power the Muslim Brotherhood will really give them. "When women in the Muslim Brotherhood are decision makers, at what level are they decision makers? What kind of role would they play? Would they have a real voice and real opinions? Or would they be puppets of the Muslim Brotherhood? I don’t know." Awady is not as concerned about the possible loss of freedoms for women under an Islamist government because she does not believe it would strictly enforce repressive laws against women.

 

Aida Eltorie, in contrast, a 22-year-old student who works at a modern art gallery in Cairo, fears increasing extremism and its impact on Egyptian women: "I’m a Muslim girl with my hair showing. I’m not meant to openly announce that I’m Muslim … or wear a veil just to say that I am Muslim. I am to be a Muslim from the heart … Hair being shown … should not be a trigger for anyone to enforce themselves on you."

 

In Jordan, widely considered to be the most moderate Arab nation, Islamists have been represented in Parliament for the past 16 years, and women there seem relatively less anxious about the growing strength of Islamist parties. Shadi Hamid, who was a Fulbright fellow in Amman, says that over time, the Islamists — the only part to include female parliamentarians — have become less idealistic and more pragmatic, with a more pluralistic, democratic vision overriding the importance of implementing sharia law. One Muslim Brotherhood hard-liner, elected to the Jordanian Parliament, Sheikh Abdul Monem Abu Zant, was initially eager to impose a ban on alcohol, but finally said, "If the majority doesn’t agree, then let it be, but I will have done my duty as a Muslim in trying to introduce such laws … Islam is democratic, therefore nothing can or will be enforced." Hamid also notes that Islamists’ political language has evolved to include women’s issues and democracy in the party’s platform.

 

Nuha Ma’ayta, a former member of Jordan’s Parliament, says the Islamist party made a "strategically effective decision" that resulted in incorporating several women in its legislative caucus, a step other parties have not taken. This, she says, has brought smart and highly educated women into the inner circle of the Islamist party. Yet, she adds, the Islamists "don’t give women rights. They have their own agenda and ideology."

 

While the recent victories of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza have emboldened Jordanian Islamists, who are setting their sights on council elections this year and parliamentary elections next year, Jordanian women appear unthreatened by the prospect. Unlike most of the Arab women I met, three women I spoke to in Amman — Shakila (who asked that her real name not be used), 25, a lawyer; Laila Naim, 57, an author and professor of comparative literature; and Salwa Aldiqs, 37, the owner of a beauty salon — do not seem concerned about their rights and freedoms being abridged by the growing strength of Islamists. They point out that Jordan’s democracy affords women many rights, college educations and a strong economy with career opportunities. Nevertheless, college-educated women are often expected to quit working after marriage and stay at home to raise their children. And while the women I spoke with seemed unperturbed about the possible imposition of sharia law, believing Islamists’ primary focus is democratic expansion, the reality is that eventual religious restrictions under sharia law could impact marriage and divorce for Jordanian women.

 

Yet with images of Afghanistan’s repressive Taliban regime still fresh in their minds, many Muslim women in other countries in the region are understandably concerned about the impact of parties like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood on women’s rights. Will Islamists enforce the headscarf for women because women’s hair is considered sexually provocative? Will Islamists segregate classrooms in universities, as they have already done at Al-Azhar University in Gaza? Will music be curtailed at weddings? Naima Sheikh Ali, a Fatah legislator, says she’s concerned that Hamas’ strict interpretation of Islamic law could bar women from becoming judges. In response to such worries, supporters of Hamas say the party will focus on providing water, electricity and jobs rather than act as morality police.

 

Not surprisingly, many women in this region are more deeply troubled by the violence associated with the politics of all ideologies — from the Hamas-supported suicide bombings and counterstrikes by Israel to the bombings in Jordan by al-Qaida — than they are by the potential threat of sharia law.

 

New voices of moderation are emerging, some distinctly feminine. The Palestinian Authority’s outgoing minister of state for Jerusalem, Hind Khoury, a Christian, proposed a different approach in a speech at a conference in Bethlehem in December 2005: "We need non-violence because it is women who have to pick up the pieces when families are destroyed. We [women] understand politics in a different way." Indeed, many observers, both Muslim and non-Muslim, suggest that the rise of a nonviolent Islamism is a necessary step in the transition to democratic government, and that when sectarian opposition parties are banned in places like Egypt and Syria, mosques can help open the door to democracy by allowing space for civil society to develop.

 

What’s more, as John Walsh, senior editor of the Harvard International Review, has written, it is important to distinguish between moderate Islamists and radical Islamists. While Hamas resolutely rejects the nonviolent path, other Islamist parties, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Islamic Action Front in Jordan, denounce violence. And some countries’ Islamist parties have a better track record than the respective secular governments in delivering what their citizens need. For instance, the Muslim Brotherhood has provided health, education, welfare and emergency services to Egyptians during earthquakes, while the Egyptian government has "failed to deliver meaningful economic relief to … the poor, remains undemocratic, and uses violence in an arbitrary fashion," Walsh says.

 

Yet even as political opportunities open up for women in Islamist parties, they can be impeded by the actions of existing regimes — or even by women’s own fears of reform. Consider what occurred in Egypt’s elections last year.

 

Makarem El Deiry was the only female candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood who ran for a legislative seat. When she won, her victory was quashed by a judge, who ruled in her opponent’s favor apparently on the instructions of the regime. But that is only half the story. Professor Fadl told me the other half, which has been overlooked by the media. "The Brotherhood pushed 25 women to run for office, and they pushed us hard. All except one refused to run because we did not want to take the chance of being imprisoned and sexually harassed as all opposition candidates risk … Which Muslim woman will expose herself to that kind of humiliation?"

 

The rights of Arab women, the future of nonviolence and the demand for democratic openings in the region are knotted together in the debate over the participation of Hamas and other Islamist parties in Arab governments. Women will play a major role in unraveling this snarl — but it’s far from clear today how their perspectives will be reflected in the new politics of the Arab world.

 

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U.S. silence on Egypt betrays democracy activists

 

By Jeffrey Azarva

Originally published June 15, 2006

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.egypt15jun15,0,1417899.story?coll=bal-oped-headlines

  

WASHINGTON // The party headquarters of former Egyptian presidential candidate Ayman Nour burned down in a suspicious fire this month. Mr. Nour is serving a five-year prison term, his appeals against spurious fraud charges exhausted.

 

What a difference a year makes.

 

Just a year ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the American University in Cairo and proclaimed that a "hopeful future is within reach of every Egyptian citizen. … You are not alone. All free nations are your allies." The democratic winds appeared to sweep Cairo when President Hosni Mubarak acquiesced to multicandidate presidential elections for the first time in the Arab republic’s history.

 

But just nine months after Mr. Mubarak won his fourth term, he ended the Egyptian government’s experiment with democracy. When he arrested Mr. Nour, the U.S. ambassador in Cairo, Francis J. Ricciardone, declined to comment. Mr. Mubarak saw a green light to accelerate his crackdown.

 

On April 30, the Egyptian government extended the country’s emergency laws for two more years. Under such laws, the government can censor media, ban public demonstrations and detain political dissidents indefinitely. Most political activists had hoped that Mr. Mubarak, under pressure from Washington, would annul them. But the White House remained silent.

 

Determining U.S. rhetoric to be hollow, Mr. Mubarak pushed further. On May 18, thousands of police clamped down on demonstrators expressing solidarity for two pro-reform judges, Hesham Bastawisi and Mahmoud Mekki, who sit on Egypt’s highest appellate court. The government harassed the judges after they questioned government vote rigging during September’s presidential election. Security forces have rounded up scores of other pro-democracy activists.

 

Still, democracy activists continued their vigils. President Bush’s words at his second inauguration seem to have resonance in the Arab world: "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors." But excuse the oppressors is exactly what the White House did.

 

On May 25, Egyptian police detained Muhammad al-Sharqawi, who at a vigil for Judge Bastawisi and Judge Mekki held up a sign that read, "I want my rights." At the police station, they beat him and sodomized him. Thrown in prison with cracked ribs and urinating blood, they denied him medical care. Mr. al-Sharqawi’s lawyer described his case as the worst act of sadism in Egypt since 1995, when the government cracked down on Islamists. The situation elicits barely a yawn from Foggy Bottom.

 

Mr. Mubarak’s strategy is clear: Deprive Egypt’s fledgling liberal opposition of any political space, all the while telling Washington that he is the only bulwark against militant Islam and a terrorist resurgence. The White House bought the gambit. But the administration need not sacrifice democracy for the war on terrorism. Mr. Mubarak’s survival depends on continuing the fight against terror.

 

Each year, the Egyptian government pockets $1.8 billion in U.S. aid. Mr. Mubarak treats such funds as entitlement. Yet the State Department is afraid to play hardball. C. David Welch, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, testified to the House Appropriations Committee that cutting aid "would be damaging to our national interests."

 

Yet Mr. Bush’s 2002 decision to hold up $134 million in aid until Mr. Mubarak released democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim did not damage U.S. national interests; it augmented them. Not only did the White House win Mr. Ibrahim’s release, but it also bolstered U.S. prestige.

 

Today, U.S. prestige is in free fall.

 

When Mr. Bush, in his 2005 State of the Union address, implored Egypt "to show the way toward democracy," brave individuals across the region took the president at his word. Arab liberals who heeded Mr. Bush’s call feel betrayal. Dictators are emboldened. Democratic allies are already in short supply; alienating them with shortsighted policies will only diminish their ranks.

 

Now, when U.S. assistance is needed most, our silence is deafening.

 

Jeffrey Azarva is a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute. His e-mail is jazarva@aei.org.

 

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A Democracy Policy in Ashes

 

By Joshua Muravchik

Tuesday, June 27, 2006; Page A21

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/26/AR2006062600977.html

 

Gameela Ismail said she was going to collect the ashes and deliver them to the U.S. Embassy. Ismail is the wife of Ayman Nour, who ran second to Hosni Mubarak in Egypt’s presidential election last year. The ashes were what was left of the Nour Cultural Center in the poor Cairo neighborhood of Bab El-Shariya, gutted by a suspicious fire on June 1. This was apparently a further act of vindictiveness by a regime that had already dispatched the diabetic Nour to five years of hard labor for challenging Mubarak.

 

Why did Ismail single out the American Embassy? Not out of knee-jerk anti-Americanism. Nour is as friendly to the United States as Egyptian politicians get; he is often derided in the state-controlled media as an American puppet. Rather, his wife was expressing the bitter disappointment that Egypt’s democrats feel over the apparent waning of the Bush administration’s ardor for their cause.

 

Last year U.S. pressure impelled Mubarak to hold Egypt’s first presidential election. U.S. pressure also led to a relaxation of constraints on freedom of speech, press and assembly that began to change the quality of public life in Egypt. Given this momentum, it was expected that Mubarak, once reelected, would allow further liberalization. Instead, 2006 has brought a wave of repression and brutality that goes beyond the jailing of Nour. The regime’s goons have bloodied and arrested peaceful protesters doing nothing more than expressing solidarity with the dignified protests of Egypt’s judges. Spurred by the persecution of its leaders for exposing election irregularities, the extraordinary judges’ movement has sprung to the forefront of agitation for reform.

 

 

In response to these abuses, U.S. press spokesmen have issued formulaic criticisms, and Nour’s conviction on patently bogus charges led Washington to postpone trade talks. But the mild tone of U.S. protests, the low level at which most have been delivered and the admixture of warm gestures toward the regime — such as the meetings Vice President Cheney and other top officials held with Mubarak’s son and hoped-for heir, Gamal, last month — have combined to create the impression that the Bush administration has begun to pull its punches on Middle East democracy.

 

It’s not only in Egypt that the administration is giving this impression. In Iraq, it has acted to shut down dozens of projects designed to nurture the seedlings of democracy: civil society, political parties, women’s and human rights organizations, and the like. They had been initiated over the past few years through special allocations to the National Endowment for Democracy; the international democracy-building institutes of the Democratic and Republican parties, the AFL-CIO and chambers of commerce; and several similar organizations — all of which constitute the core apparatus through which America works to promote democracy globally. In the supplemental appropriation bill just enacted, the administration sought to eliminate these funds until a Senate amendment partly restored them.

 

The motive for this action is hard to fathom. Perhaps it was more the result of turf battles than a decision to downgrade democratization. But even this would only show how far democracy has slipped in priority.

 

The muted response to Mubarak’s depredations is more decipherable. Clearly, the strong electoral performances of Hamas in Palestine and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt have sown worry about the consequences of democratization. The dilemma is that Middle Eastern liberals usually spring from the educated elite and have little resonance at the grass roots, while Islamists command substantial popular appeal.

 

But this makes our actions toward Egypt all the more foolhardy, for the victims of today’s repression represent a possible alternative to both the Islamists and the regime. Alone among Egypt’s liberal politicians, Nour has demonstrated a populist touch. He also matched the Islamists’ tactic of furnishing social services to poor constituents. That was the purpose of the center in Bab El-Shariya, now destroyed.

 

The judges may present an even more potent "third force." In voting for leadership of the "Judges Club," the professional syndicate of the judiciary, reformers crushed the pro-Mubarak slate. Their top demand is judicial independence from executive interference. This alone would be an enormous step toward democracy. But they also call for free speech, other human rights and clean elections, and some have gone so far as to stage sit-ins and hunger strikes.

 

Although judges are by definition part of the elite, they are deeply respected by the common Egyptian, even the humble peasant, in a way that intellectuals and politicians rarely are. The rebellion by Egypt’s judges is pregnant with the promise of political change. This explains why the Mubarak regime has been so eager to repress it. And it makes inexplicable the halfhearted way in which the Bush administration has responded.

 

Joshua Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is writing a book about Middle Eastern democrats.

 

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Think Again: Al Jazeera

 

By Hugh Miles

July/August 2006

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3497

 

It is vilified as a propaganda machine and Osama bin Ladens mouthpiece. In truth, though, Al Jazeera is as hated in the palaces of Riyadh as it is in the White House. But, as millions of loyal viewers already know, Al Jazeera promotes a level of free speech and dissent rarely seen in the Arab world. With plans to go global, it might just become your network of choice.

 

Al Jazeera Supports Terrorism

 

False, though the network makes little attempt to disassociate itself from those who do.  This claim is one of the loudest arguments that Western critics have levied against the Arabic-language news channel since its inception 10 years ago, when the Doha, Qatar-based network pledged to present all viewpoints.  Just as it describes in its motto, The opinion and the other opinion, Al Jazeera has lent airtime even to hated political figures and extremists, including prominent members of al Qaeda.  Its this willingness to present terrorists as legitimate political commentators that has prompted outspoken critics such as U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to refer to Al Jazeeras coverage of the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as inaccurate and inexcusable.

 

After all, when Al Jazeera offers its estimated 50 million viewers exclusive interviews of Osama bin Laden, its easy to confuse access with endorsement.  And when a journalist who conducts those interviews is jailed for collaboration with al Qaeda, as Tayssir Alouni was in a Spanish court last year, the line between impartial observer and impassioned supporter is certainly blurred.  In addition, al Qaeda is not the only terrorist group that reaches out to Al Jazeera.  Besides the infamous bin Laden tapesat least six of which the network has still never airedAl Jazeera has also received tapes from insurgent groups in Iraq, renegade Afghan warlords, and the London suicide bombers.

 

But the network has never supported violence against the United States.  Not once have its correspondents praised attacks on coalition forces in Iraq.  The network has never captured an attack on the coalition live, and theres no evidence Al Jazeera has known about any attack beforehand.  Despite claims to the contrary, the network has never aired footage of a beheading.  As for Alounis case, conclusive evidence has yet to be presented to the public.  And there is nothing to suggest that the networks funding is illegitimate.  Allegations of supporting terrorism remain just thatallegations.

 

Al Jazeera Is Anti-Semitic

 

Wrong.  Just as Al Jazeera has proven willing to present al Qaedas perspective, it has also devoted airtime to and welcomed another regional pariahIsrael.  The network was the first Arab channel to allow Israelis to present their case in their own words, in Hebrew, English, or Arabic.  This move was a major departure from past practices and truly shocked the Arab public.  Until Al Jazeera arrived, most Arabs had never even heard an Israelis voice.  Al Jazeera regularly airs clips of Israeli officials within news bulletins and conducts live interviews with six to 10 Israelis each month.  The network covers Israeli affairs extensively and is widely watched in Israel.  In fact, Al Jazeera gives more airtime to Israeli issues than any other channel outside Israel itself.

 

Although Israel has accused Al Jazeera of bias and anti-Semitism (and some of the networks guests have certainly fit that bill), the networks coverage has occasionally been of concrete benefit to the Israelis.  When Israel invaded Jenin in the spring of 2002, Al Jazeeras exclusive television reports from within the besieged city thoroughly dispelled rumors of a massacre, leading to a U.N. special investigating committee appointed by the secretary-general being unceremoniously disbanded.

 

Many Israelis even regard Al Jazeera as an important new force for change in the Arab world.  Gideon Ezra, former deputy head of the Israeli General Security Service, once remarked that he wished all Arab media were like Al-Jazeera.  Not all Arabs would agree.  Although many Westerners think Al Jazeera has a pro-Arab bias, many Arabs believe exactly the opposite.  It is widely held in the Arab world that Al Jazeera is financed and run by Mossad, MI5, or the CIA, so as to undermine Arab unity.  Just as Bahrain banned Al Jazeera from reporting from inside the country because of a perceived Zionist bias in 2002, Al Jazeeras bureaus in Arab countries have often been closed down, accused of besmirching the Palestinians or disseminating other kinds of imperialistic anti-Arab propaganda.

 

Al Jazeera Is Spreading Political Freedom

 

Wishful thinking.  Its true that Al Jazeera established the tradition of investigative reporting in the Arab world and rolled back the boundaries of debate within Arab families, breaking all kinds of taboos about what could be discussed on television.  Improving upon the sycophantic Arab news channels that existed prior to 1996, Al Jazeera better informs the Arab public about their leadership and provides Arabs with a forum through which they can more easily ask of their rulers, Why are we in this mess?

 

 

In fact, Al Jazeeras programs about Western politics have done more to inform Arabs about democracy than any nation or station.  After 9/11, Al Jazeeras Washington bureau started two weekly talk shows to illuminate American democracy for a foreign audience:  From Washington, in which the bureau chief interviewed U.S. politicians, including members of the Bush administration; and U.S. Presidential Race, which covered the U.S. elections in great depth, including most of the major primaries.

 

However, to assume satellite television will transform Arab societies into transparent, just, and equal democracies is to presume that the current state of affairs in the Arab world results from an information deficit, which is not true.  Except in the most authoritarian Arab countries, news has long been available to determined citizens via the BBC or Voice of America radio, and neither one of those remade the region.

 

Al Jazeera encourages free speech in the Middle East, but that is no substitute for real political reform.  Just because a woman in Saudi Arabia can now see a debate on TV, and can even contribute in real time, doesnt mean she can go out and vote in an election or join a political party.  Arab autocrats have come to realize that even if information on satellite TV cannot be packaged and manipulated the way it was with state-run media, Al Jazeera may not be as deadly a threat to their regimes as they first feared.  They can still ban Al Jazeera from opening a bureau, as has happened in Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, or evoke emergency laws to confiscate equipment or arrest journalists, as happens in Egypt. Arab press unions, like Arab opposition political parties, are still prevented from growing strong.

 

 Al Jazeera Is Biased

 

True, but no more so than Fox News or CNN.  Al Jazeera employs the same stringent editorial processes as the Western media, but it ends up with a different product . During the war in Iraq, Al Jazeeras tone was notably sympathetic to the Iraqis and hostile toward the Americans.  Similarly in Afghanistan, the Taliban was often presented as the noble underdog and America as the vengeful, colonial aggressor.  A general cynicism about Arab regimes allied to America is detectable, and though Al Jazeera has employees from many religions, including Jews, the network is clearly sympathetic toward the Palestinians.

 

This bias in no way invalidates the networks news.  Knowing it is scrutinized more rigorously than any other news channel in the world, Al Jazeera is fastidious in presenting all sides of a story.  Certainly compared to most other Arab news stations, Al Jazeera remains a model of professionalism and objectivity.  Journalists around the world treat Al Jazeera with the same respect they treat news from any other major international news network.  Al Jazeera has sharing agreements with CNN, ABC, NBC, FOX, BBC, Japans NHK, and Germanys ZDF, all of which regularly use Al Jazeeras footage and reports.

 

If Al Jazeera has a bias, it is a commercial one.  Despite the fact that it enjoys an estimated annual budget of around $100 million, subsidized largely by the gas-rich Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani of Qatar, Al Jazeera wants to win audience share and it wants to sell advertising.  The network has consistently lost money since its launch, which is unsurprising, as no Arab channel makes a profit.  The network targets a particular demographic (namely Arab men over the age of 25), and, like the mainstream cable networks or FM radios stations in the United States, it tries hard to pitch itself to viewers by luring them with dramatic trailers and lead-in segments.  They often feature montages of violence from the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, or Iraq, accompanied by pounding music.  Critics argue that such montages are deliberately inflammatory.  The network counters that it is not its job to sanitize images of war.  What is indisputable is that Al Jazeera has different standards of taste from Western networks when it comes to showing casualties.

 

Al Jazeera Is Censored

 

Not yet.  Al Jazeera occupies a peculiar space in the Arab media. It presents itself as a beacon of free speech and editorial independence in the region.  Yet, the chairman of the networks board of directors is Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al-Thani, the former Qatari deputy minister of information.  Theres no question that Al Jazeera remains heavily dependent on the emir.  And he has proved to be an unflinching sponsor.  When he came to power in 1995, the emir calculated that hosting a popular television network would help Qatar shore up Western support in the event that Iran, Iraq, or Saudi Arabia should decide to invade.  The gamble paid off, both for Al Jazeera and for the emir.

 

Despite its dependence on the state, Al Jazeera regularly criticizes Arab regimes, including Qatars.  For example, when a coup to depose the emir was foiled in February 1996 and the plotters put on trial, proceedings were televised live on Al Jazeeraa first in the Arab world.  Al Jazeeras viewers had a front-row seat when the defense counsel claimed that the defendants had been subjected to torture, and when a spokesman from Amnesty International who had been invited to attend the trial attacked the Qatari criminal justice system.  Talk shows on Al Jazeera have discussed whether it was right or wrong for Qatar to host an American air base.  At the height of the intifada and in the run-up to the war in Iraq, when Americas allies were being hounded in the Arab world, politicians, guests, and callers frequently attacked Qatar on Al Jazeera.

 

Yet there remains a deeply held belief from government ministries right down to the Arab street that the Qatari ruling family is the real power behind Al Jazeera.  The exact nature of the relationship remains opaque, but it is a testament to the vision of the emir that, so far at least, he has been tolerant.  Whether he will continue to keep his fingers off the channel remains to be seen.

 

Al Jazeera Wants to Compete with CNN and the BBC

 

Yes, and it plans to.  Although it wasnt part of the original launch plan back in November 1996, the networks incredible success during the past decade has prompted the emir to expand his goals for Al Jazeera. This fall, a sister English-language station, called Al Jazeera International, or AJI, will launch around the world.  It expects to reach 30 to 40 million households on its first day.  AJI is directly competing with BBC World and CNN International for the worlds English-speaking audience of 1 billion people.

 

Although it has hired a large number of Western journalists, it wont look much like CNN.  The networks coverage will follow the sun throughout the day, airing from Kuala Lumpur for 4 hours, Doha for 11 hours, London for 5, and Washington for the remaining 4.  Reporters and editors in each locale will present news from their regions perspective, and the entire world will watch the same satellite feed at the same time.  Were the first news channel based in the Mideast to bring news back to the West, says Nigel Parsons, managing director of AJI.  We want to set a different news agenda.  And CNN and the BBC are taking the new global competition seriously.  The BBC has unveiled plans for an Arabic-language television news service, slated for launch in early 2007, and both networks are busy reassessing how they cover news in the developing world.

 

Only Arabs Will Watch Al Jazeera International

 

Not so fast.  This venture is the biggest challenge yet for the network.  Whereas the launch of the Arabic Al Jazeera network meant competing with the likes of Egyptian, Lebanese, and Saudi television, Western networks are much meatier competition, and Al Jazeera will face them on their home turf.  In English.

 

For its part, AJI has said it will focus on developing-world issues and use more indigenous reporters and freelancers than other channels.  It is widely expected to win large market share in Asia, where the Al Jazeera brand already enjoys a favorable reputation and where many more people speak English than Arabic.  Pakistan has 160 million Muslims, and Indonesia, the worlds most populous Muslim country, has 215 million Muslims, many of whom will be interested in following events in the Arab world closely.

 

Of course, it wont be so easy to break into America. Even securing distribution for AJI has been tough:  As of press time, not one U.S. cable company had offered to carry the channel as part of a general news package.  Ironically, it is the worlds freest media market that poses the biggest challenge to Al Jazeera.

 

None of which changes the fact that Al Jazeera has permanently reshaped the landscape of world news to and, soon, from the Arab world.  In a region where the United States is engaged in a protracted war in one country and the West as a whole faces a nuclear impasse in another, it hardly makes sense to simply turn the dialand remain confined to an echo chamber of recycled opinion.  If Al Jazeera International hits the airwaves this fall, America would do well to tune in.

 

Hugh Miles is the author of Al Jazeera:  The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel that Is Challenging the West (New York: Grove Press, 2005).

 

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NEW BOOK: DCP and FRIDE publish book assessing global responses to democratic challenges:

 

Democratic Transitions Will Fail without Greater International Support

 

  • A new book examines how the international community has responded to recent threats to democracy in seven countries.

  • The study provides an in-depth analysis of how EU states, the United States and other international actors can better fulfil their commitments to support democracy.

  • Experts call for greater resources, coordination and political will from EU and US and more leadership from newer democracies in Africa, Latin America and Asia. 

 

 

Brussels (Belgium), 20 June 2006 A new report released today by the Fundaci‚àö‚â•n para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Di‚àö¬∞logo Exterior (FRIDE) and the Democracy Coalition Project (DCP) finds that democratic movements around the world are faltering and calls on the international community of democracies to coordinate common strategies to support them.  The joint publication, Strategies for Democratic Change: Assessing the Global Response, edited by Ted Piccone, Executive Director of the Democracy Coalition Project, and Richard Youngs, Co-director and Coordinator of the Democratisation programme at FRIDE, was presented at a policy forum to European Union policy experts in Brussels.

 

The book examines what the international community has done recently to advance democratic transition and consolidation in seven specific countries around the world – Burma, Togo, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe – and how it could do better. Strategies for Democratic Change is a timely contribution to the ongoing debate on democracy promotion, in a context in which recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan and the colour revolutions have brought this issue to the top of the international agenda. While the growing concern over democracy assistance is leading to a backlash from certain authoritarian regimes determined to block external resources for domestic groups pressuring for democratic change, it is important to underline the role external actors can play in fostering open democratic societies.

 

The books overarching aim is to assesssix years after the Warsaw Declaration creating the Community of Democracies and in the wake of more recent democracy commitments from individual governments and regional bodies such as the European Union, the African Union and the Organisation of American States -how far the democratic community has fulfilled its own promise to accord the goal of democratic change greater priority. What strategies of democracy promotion have been favoured? How different have been the approaches adopted by the various members of the Community of Democracies? Are there clear cases of democratic states acting in a manner inimical to democracy? In which circumstances has the international community found it easiest to influence democratic development, and in which has it most struggled to gain traction?

 

We found that, while in nearly every case there are positive signs of international support for democratic reformers, much greater political will and coordination among democratic governments is necessary to make a difference, said co-editor Ted Piccone. The study found that some rulers, like Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and the military junta in Burma, have successfully evaded external efforts to foster conditions for peaceful political change, while in other cases like Turkey and Ukraine the international influence has played a significant role.

 

Our book suggests some key lessons for EU policy, in particular that Europe could be doing more to react to opportunities for democratic reform where these appear, as well as offering better targeted support in the often difficult period after democratic breakthroughs, remarked co-editor Richard Youngs.

 

To download a full version of the book, you can visit

www.demcoalition.org

www.fride.org

 

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Atlas Essay Contest: Freedom in the West and in the Muslim World

 

The Atlas Economic Research Foundation is proud to announce a special international essay contest, Finding Common Ground: The Challenge of Freedom in the West and in the Muslim World. The contest will be launched in about a dozen countries in the Middle East and Canada, targeting students and other young people who are interested in the question of freedom and its prospects in these regions. By exploring this theme, the contest aims to increase the dialogue between the West and the Muslim World, and create a greater understanding that, despite religious and cultural differences, all human beings are entitled to dignity, respect, and political and economic liberties. The first place winner will receive a $2,000 prize.

 

Application Deadline: September 15, 2006

Please contact atlasessay@atlasUSA.org with questions.

Click here to read the essay submission guidelines:  http://www.atlasusa.org/reports/2006%20Atlas%20Essay%20Contest.Rules.doc

 

 

Atlas Accepting Nominations for the Freda Utley Prize

 

Atlas is accepting applications for the 2006 Freda Utley Prize for Advancing Liberty to reward the efforts of think tanks in difficult parts of the world that are most effective in spreading the ideas of freedom (limited government, the rule of law, free enterprise, the dignity of the individual, etc.). This annual $10,000 Prize rewards the think tank that demonstrates excellence in reaching a broad audience or having a substantial impact on opinion-makers, so that concepts relating to freedom become better understood.

 

Think tanks may compete for the Prize by submitting an application about a specific project that has been completed, or a demonstrated body of ongoing work. Please note that the Prize will not be given to new or proposed projects that do not have an existing track record.

 

Application Deadline: August 31, 2006

 

For more information on how to apply click here:

http://www.atlasusa.org/programs/fredautley_2005.php

 

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DISCLAIMER: 

The articles in this bulletin do NOT necessarily reflect the opinions of CSID, or its board of directors.  They are included in the CSID bulletin to encourage and facilitate diversity of opinions, discussions, and debates about democracy in the Arab/Muslim world, and how best to strengthen and promote it.

 

 

For questions or comments about the information in this bulletin, contact
Sami Bawalsa at sami@islam-democracy.org.

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Copyright 2006 Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID).
All Rights Reserved.

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