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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

October 13, 2005


CSID EMAIL BULLETIN –October 13, 2005


>CSID Ramadan Iftaar Dinner and Panel Discussion – October 28
>EVENT: The Future of Democracy in the Muslim World
>EVENT: Dialogue vs Clash: Is Western Civilization in Danger?
>EVENT: New York Democracy Forum – 2005 Lecture Series
>INTERVIEW: Fighting for the Soul of Islam (by Radwan Masmoudi)>EVENT: Engaging Islamists: The Evolving Policy Debate
>REPORT: From Islamism to Muslim Democracy: The Challenges of Political Inclusion in Muslim Countries
>ARTICLE: A Prelude to Change: US Policy and Islamist Movements
>ARTICLE: Torture, the GOP, and the Religious RIght (by Jon Basil Utley)
>ARTICLE: US Muslims Donate for Asian Quake (AP)
> ARTICLE: Rice Visits Pakistan and Promises More Aid (AP)
> ARTICLE: Leaders in Iraq Agree to Change in Constitution (by Robert Worth)
>ARTICLE: The European Union: A Quiet but powerful force for reform
>ARTICLE: Running as religious Duty (interview with Esam El-Erian)
>NEW REPORT: Confronting Corruption in the Arab World
>NEW REPORT: Development Needs Democracy

CSID cordially invites you to a Ramadan Iftaar Dinner and Panel Discussion on Friday, October 28, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Afghan Restaurant, 2700 Jefferson Davis Highway, Alexandria, VA.  The small panel discussion will be on:

Ideas and Strategies for Democracy in the Arab/Muslim World: How Can CSID Help?

Invited speakers include : 

            Joe Montville (Moderator)
Anwar Ibrahim
Imad Shahin
Graham Fuller

Each speaker will speak for about 15 minutes, and then we will have about 45 minutes discussion and debate about how American Muslims can help in promoting freedom and democracy in the Arab/Muslim world.

Dinner Tickets are $40 per person and $60 per couple ($30 for students).  Tables for 10 are $800.  To purchase a ticket or reserve a table, call 202-942-2183 or send e-mail to:

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In collaboration with Americans for Informed Democracy (AID), CSID is pleased to inform you and invite you to the following public debates/Town Hall meetings on:


Featuring:  Dr. Radwan Masmoudi
President of the Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID)Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, October 12, 7:15 PM 9 PM.
Room 111 of Carroll Hall
Univ. of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Thursday, October 13, 7:15 PM 9 PM.
Sanford Lecture Room 05 – Duke University

Monday, October 17, 7:15 PM 9 PM
DeTamble Auditorium – Tribble Hall – Wake Forest University

Refreshments will be served.  Questions to be addressed include : What are the prospects for democracy in the Muslim world? What is the role of the U.S. in promoting democracy in the region? 

For further information, please contact Seth Green, Chair, Americans for Informed Democracy, Yale Law School, (202) 270 6268,

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Dialogue vs. Clash: Is Western Civilization in Danger?


Tony Blankley, Author, The West’s Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations?

Akbar Ahmed, Author, Islam Under Siege: Living Dangerously in a Post-9/11 World

Time: 10:00 AM – November 8, 2005
Event Type: NPC Newsmaker
Event Location: Murrow Room, National Press Club

Fueled by political correctness and multiculturalism, the threat to Western civilization by Islamic terrorists has been severely underestimated and ignored, argues Tony Blankley, Washington Times editorial page editor. Blankley proposes aggressive, specific solutions to combat the threat to Western civilization including ethnic profiling, securing borders and establishing national identification cards as keys to victory in the war on terror.

Ahmed argues that the 21st century will be the century of Islam — a time of war between Islam and other civilizations. To avoid a violent clash, he advocates dialogue and tolerance between the West and Islamic culture.

Tony Blankley is the editorial page editor of the Washington Times and a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. His opinions and analysis of political events have been featured on the front pages of the New York Times, USA Today and other major publications. A regular panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a popular radio and television pundit, Blankley has appeared on numerous programs, including CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews and Nightly News. For seven years Blankley served as press secretary to then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University in Washington, D.C. is “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam,” according to the BBC. Former High Commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain, he has advised Prince Charles and met with President George W. Bush on Islam. His numerous books, films and documentaries have won awards. His books have been translated into many languages, including Chinese and Indonesian. Ahmed is regularly interviewed on major TV networks and other TV programs. He is also a Senior Fellow at The Case Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Contact: Arshad Golam @301-466-0372 or by e-mail,

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New York Democracy Forum >> 2005 Lecture Series 

The New York Democracy Forum is an exciting new joint venture of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Foreign Policy Association (FPA). The  monthly lecture series are held at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, and during the fall at McGraw-Hill Auditorium.  The aim of the New York Democracy Forum is to bring key figures in the democracy movement, individuals who are leading the way in the advance of democratic values and institutions around the world, to New York audiences.

Larry Diamond – “Can the Whole World Become Democratic?”

Lecture: November 3, 2005

Larry Diamond is co-director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies, founding co-editor of the Journal of Democracy, and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He has written extensively on democracy in the developing world, especially in Africa and Asia. During 20012003, Diamond served as a consultant to the U.S. Agency for International Development, helping to devise a new strategy for U.S. foreign assistance giving more emphasis to democracy and good governance. From January to March 2004 he was a senior advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. Diamond is the author of Developing Democracy: Toward Consolidation (1999) and of numerous other works on democratic development. His latest book is Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq (2005).

Anwar Ibrahim – “The Future of Muslim Democracy”

Lecture: November 28, 2005

Anwar Ibrahim is currently a visiting professor at Georgetown University. Formerly the deputy prime minister of Malaysia and vice president of the United Malays National Organization, Ibrahim started in 1971 the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM), the first mass-based NGO in the country to raise social and political awareness and emphasize social justice and human rights. Together with the late Prof. Ismail al-Faruqi and Dr. Taha Jabir al-Awani, Ibrahim founded the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in 1981 and later set up the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences in Ashburn, Virginia. His criticism of corruption and abuse of power within the Malaysian government and his vocal demand for reform resulted in his arrest and imprisonment in September 1998. Ibrahim, who led a new democratic movement in Malaysia from his prison cell, was released in September 2004.

Fighting for the Soul of Islam

By Jamie Glazov
( – October 6, 2005)

Frontpage Interviews guest today is Radwan A. Masmoudi, the Founder and President of the Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID), a Washington-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting freedom, democracy, and good governance in the Arab/Muslim world.

FP: Mr. Masmoudi, welcome to Frontpage interview

Masmoudi: Thank you, Jamie. It is a pleasure to be with you.  

FP: So first things first, what are the main goals and objectives of the Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy?

Masmoudi: The main objectives of CSID are to contribute to the promotion of democracy, good governance, freedom, and human rights in the Arab and Muslim world. 

As American Muslims we have been monitoring the situation in the Muslim world, and especially the Arab world (which represents about 20% of the Muslim world) with great frustration and concern.  Despite enormous wealth, human capital and natural resources, Arab and Muslim countries rank at the bottom of the development scale.  Poverty and corruption are rising, and unemployment is very high (between 20 and 40% depending on the country). 

Furthermore, a majority of the 300 Million Arabs are under the age of 21, so these statistics are bound to get much worse in the next 5 to 10 years.  Millions of young Arabs and Muslims are growing with a sense of loss and despair, with no hope for a better future.  They are not allowed to criticize their government, and if they do want to become active or involved, they find that all avenues for peaceful activism are shut down.  This is an environment that can only encourage violence and extremism, and unless we can turn things around, will lead necessarily to further worsening of the situation.  This is a serious threat not only to the Arab and Muslim world, but also to the entire planet as Muslims represent 1.4 billion people on earth and are the majority in over 65 countries. 

In my opinion, democracy is the only solution to this disastrous situation as it will put people in charge of their own destiny, and give them the means and the tools to improve their conditions and live a dignified life, the way our creator has intended for us all to live.

FP: So what has your organization achieved so far?

Masmoudi: This is a huge undertaking, and we must realize that we will not be able to succeed in only a few years.  In the past 6 years (CSID was founded in 1999 in Washington DC) CSID has worked very hard and diligently to educate people -here and abroad, Muslims and non-Muslims alike- on the critical questions related to the compatibility between Islam and democracy.  

In the United States, we hope to educate the public and the policymakers that it is in the US national interest to promote freedom and democracy in the Arab/Muslim world.  Our old policy of giving tacit (and sometimes not so tacit) support to dictators and oppressors in the Arab and Muslim world will only exasperate the situation and make the situation much worse.  

Our nation was built on the great moral principles of equality, justice, and freedom and our foreign policy must be in line and in conformity with these principles.  Our annual conference, we have had six so far, is held in Washington DC every year (usually in April) and brings together around 300 democracy scholars, activists, and practitioners from all the over the world.  All of these papers have been published online (both in English and in Arabic, and soon in other languages) to enlighten the public about these issues.  In the Muslim world, CSID has organized over 30 seminars, conferences, and workshops on democracy, tolerance, and good governance in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, Turkey, and Iran.  

We also organized two major international conferences in Nigeria and Sudan on “what is Shariah?” and how it can be modernized and updated, through the process of Ijtihad, to address the needs of the Muslims in the 21st century.  Very soon – God willing – CSID will be opening two regional offices, one in Morocco and one in Jordan, and launching a new Network of Democrats in the Arab world.  The purpose of this network will be to share knowledge, experience, and information as well as to provide training to young democracy activists so that their voice and their organizations become better able to reach and attract the masses.  Similarly, we are working on publishing a new textbook (in Arabic) that will be used to train over 2,000 people in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, and Jordan on democracy and how it works.

FP: So you believe Islam can be compatible with our notion of democracy? If so, why do we have no real democracies in the Islamic world?

Masmoudi: Yes, Islam is compatible with democracy and can be interpreted in a way that supports democratic values and principles.  Unfortunately, Islam (like all other religions) can also be interpreted in a way that it becomes compatible and supportive of oppression and tyranny. 

The problem that all of us as Muslims face is which interpretation of Islam will finally win; the old interpretations which may have been valid 6, 10, 14 centuries ago but may not be valid today, or a modern interpretation of the text that can be enlightened and progressive, and yet genuinely Islamic and authentic.  

I believe -and we are all working very hard to achieve this- that ultimately a modern, progressive, and tolerant interpretation of Islam will succeed, but this will not be easy because current regimes are not allowing Muslims (and the masses) to participate in this debate or to listen to different views and opinions.  There are many reasons why we have no real democracies in the Islamic world (although Turkey, Malaysia, and Indonesia are well on their way) and these reasons are political, economic, social, cultural, historic, as well as religious.  The problem is that many Muslims are not able to distinguish between Islam and the 14 century old history and culture of their societies.  They think that if something is traditional, it must be Islamic, while in reality many practices have nothing to do with Islam, and have simply been inherited or developed over the past 14 centuries.  Ijtihad, which is the process of using intellectual reasoning to interpret the text (i.e the Qur’an and the Hadith) based in the changing needs, priorities, and conditions of the Muslim communities has been stopped for the past 500 years, basically since the fall of Qordoba and Andalusia.  As a result, we are faced with outdated ideas and interpretations that have not kept up with the rapid changes that we are seeing in the world -all around us- today. 

FP: Can Islam be secular? For instance, modernity and democracy can only exist in society if women are given full rights, equality and all forms of self-determination, including sexual self-determination. If women cannot have such rights then they cannot truly be free and society cannot truly be free in the Western notion of freedom. Comment?

Masmoudi: I think so, but we must first explain what we mean by secular.  In France, secularism means that religion has no place in the public sphere and is only a private matter not to be seen or displayed in public.  This radical and extremist interpretation of secularism will never succeed in the Muslim world, because Islam – like Christianity and Judaism but even more so – seeks to guide not only the individual but also the community as a whole.  If on the other hand, secularism means that we have to separate the religious institutions and religious scholars from the political institutions of the state, then I think this is fully compatible with Islam and is in the best interest of all Muslim societies.  I believe an overwhelming majority of Muslims will support this idea because a religious or theocratic state can be very oppressive, and this is not what Muslims want or desire.  They want Islam and Muslim scholars to provide guidance to the people and to the state, but not to rule themselves because neither Islam nor democracy can be imposed on the people.  The experience of Iran clearly shows that when a clergy controls the government, human rights and basic freedoms are usually sacrificed since it becomes almost impossible to criticize or question them or their behavior. This also tends to hurt religion itself as people always detest anything that is imposed on them.   This is why the Qur’an clearly states that “there is no compulsion in religion”.  In Islam, the function of the State is to serve the people and not to represent God on earth.

FP: OK just a second, lets narrow in on this issue. Overall, as you stated earlier, you believe that Sharia can be modernized and updated. How exactly does one modernize stonings and amputations? Once you allow freedom and individualism and everything that must come with it (i.e. womens sexual self-determination) Sharia law must by necessity be totally negated, no?

Tell me how a modern Sharia would allow women to do whatever they chose to do with their lives, including in the sexual realm, and how Muslims under this modern Sharia could choose to reject Islam if they wanted to and hold public vociferous meetings about it (meetings that would include them saying aloud that they do not consider the Prophet a Prophet at all, etc.).

These are crucial rights in a true democracy. Without them, you will have repression on many realms. And you do realize that once you begin to explain that this isnt the Islamic way, that you then immediately are admitting that our definitions of democracy and freedom are totally different, no? 

Masmoudi: Shariah is about a lot more than just “stoning and punishments”.  First of all, Shariah in Arabic simply means “rule of law” and therefore we cannot be against it.  Many Muslim scholars have written about the “objectives of rule of law”  (Maqasid al-Shariah) and have explained that these objectives are the protection of life, property, mind, family honor, and religion.  Anything that helps to protect and safeguard these principle objectives is in accordance with Shariah, and anything that helps to destroy them or weaken them is against Shariah.  These punishments (stonings and amputations) were not invented by Islam.  They existed at the time (14 centuries ago) in many countries, cultures, and religions.  The majority of Islamic legal scholars are now of the legal opinion that these punishments can be changed to more modern and/or culturally acceptable forms of punishments for these crimes (theft, rape, adultery, murder, drugs, etc…).

Freedom and individualism do not mean that the society has to allow and tolerate everything and anything.  While we can discuss whether adultery should be a crime or not (remember it is still a crime in the US military!) the majority of Muslims do believe that adultery is a crime because it threatens the fabric of the family and therefore of society.  However, whether or not adultery is a crime, and what its punishment will be, should be discussed within the context of each country and each society.  Whether a certain Muslim society wants to punish or legalize adultery (or pornography, abortion, sex outside of marriage, etc…) should therefore be resolved democratically by majority rule.  All of these acts remain morally wrong and reprehensible in the eyes of Islam (and all other religions) but this does not necessarily mean that they have to be banned by law.  Democracy will allow Muslims to choose representatives and leaders who can solve these difficult issues in a humane, modern, and genuinely Islamic way.  Democracy will open the door for real Ijtihad and re-interpretation of the text based on the needs, conditions, and priorities of Muslim societies in the 21st century.

As for your last point about the right of a Muslim to change his or her religion, I believe Islam respects that right simply on the basis of the verse “there is no compulsion in religion”.  There are  also a number of other verses that mention that “whoever wants to believe should be free to believe and whoever wants to disbelieve should also be free to do so”.  Forcing people to believe in a religion or in God is counter-productive, stupid, and defeats the whole purpose of life and of religion.  It only leads to a society of hypocrites and this is what Islam is against.  Did you know, for example, that in the 2nd and 3rd century of Islam (i.e. 8th and 9th century after Jesus, peace be upon him), Muslim scholars were discussing the existence of God with non-believers within the compounds of Mosques!!  This is the true and real Islam that we are trying to revive today.

FP: Well my friend, if this is really the true and real Islam, then we are of course all behind you and support you in your noble, valiant and crucial effort.

Some of the themes raised here are of course difficult and problematic, with no easy answers. The trouble is that while one can point to many tolerant verses in Islam, in contrast to each one exist the verses that serve as the foundation to the totalitarian and aggressive Islam we see in many parts of the world today.  Prophet Muhammads famous dictum, baddala deenahu, faqtuhulu If anyone changes his religion, kill him (Bukhari, vol. 9, bk. 84, no. 57) is one of the foundations to Islam’s problem with the freedom of conscience. How will the Muslim world negate this teaching, and many other teachings (i.e. the instruction to fight unbelievers, Quran 9:29 etc.) and yet remain true to its foundations and purpose?

In any case, we’ll have to have this debate in another forum my friend. We’ve been battling these issues and themes out in Frontpage’s pages for awhile now — and of course we welcome you to enter this dialogue at a future stage. Our purpose clearly isn’t to hash all of this out here today. 

Suffice it to say that, while it is a given that the struggle for the soul of Islam will be a difficult one, you and your organization are truly leading an admirable and crucial battle, and you are providing an essential possibility of hope. So we are behind you my friend and wish you success. 

So before we go, tell us, what can the US do to promote democracy in the Arab and Muslim world?

Masmoudi: The U.S. can do a lot to promote freedom and democracy in the Arab/ Muslim world.  For one thing, it can send a clear message to all rulers and leaders that if they want to be allies and friends of the U.S., they must be democratic and respect the will of the majority and the rights of the minorities.  Economic aid, trade, diplomatic ties, cultural and technological exchanges all have to be tied to how democratic a certain regime or country is.  If a certain leader or regime cannot prove that it represents the will of of the people (through genuinely free and fair elections, then those leaders ought to be considered (by the U.S. and the international community) as an illegitimate leader or head of State.  In addition to these “sticks”, which are meant to put pressure on dictators, the U.S. government can also provide “carrots ”, in the form of financial aid and support to governments and regimes that are transitioning toward democracy.  Once we have one or two successful and prosperous democracies in the Arab world, this will become a very good and attractive model for others to follow.  Thirdly, the U.S. can support civil society and non-governmental organizations (both local and regional) that are working to promote and defend democracy.  This should include reaching-out to both secularists and moderate Islamists, who renounce violence and advocate democracy, freedom, and equality for all citizens.

FP: Radwan Masmoudi, thank you for joining us today and we wish you the best.  

Masmoudi:  Thank you.  It was a pleasure to have this discussion with you.

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October 24, Engaging Islamists: The Evolving Policy Debate

 The Middle East Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Muslim World Initiative of the United States Institute of Peace present:  Engaging Islamists: The Evolving Policy Debate.

 Once considered taboo, official engagement of Islamists is now an important facet of US efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East.   Yet this development remains controversial. Proponents of engagement argue that no democracy promotion policy can succeed without including Islamist parties. Opponents respond that engagement could easily strengthen illiberal forces and even help legitimize groups that espouse or use violence. And event proponents of engagement differ as to how to integrate Islamists without compromising the spirit of democracy or the rules and procedures that sustain it.

 To explore this complex debate, our panel will feature four leading experts on the challenges of democratization in the Islamic World.   Please join us for what promises to be an exceptionally lively and revealing discussion.

 Chair: Haleh Esfandiari, Director, Middle East Program, Woodrow Wilson Center


Daniel Brumberg, Special Advisor, USIP; Associate Professor of Government, Georgetown University
Amr Hamzawy, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Abdeslam Maghraoui, Director, Muslim World Initiative, USIP
Commentator:  Mona Yacoubian, Special Advisor, USIP

Monday, October 24, 2005
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
6th Floor Auditorium
Woodrow Wilson Center

Please RSVP: or fax (202) 691-4184

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From Islamism to Muslim Democracy: The Challenges of Political Inclusion in Muslim Countries

The United States and European Union have been too afraid of Islamic militancy to push hard for reform in the Arab world, a recent forum on Muslim Democracy heard. Yet a transatlantic initiative to promote democratization in the region is a strategic imperative, democracy expert Larry Diamond told the conference, co-sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy and the Middle East Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Anwar Ibrahim, Former Deputy Prime Minister, Malaysia; Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Professor of Political Sociology, American University in Cairo, and Chairman of the Board, Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, Cairo, Egypt; Larry Diamond(Commentator), Senior Fellow, The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University; Vali Nasr (Commentator), Professor, Department of National Security Affairs, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California; Carl Gershman (Chair), President, National Endowment for Democracy.

Carl Gershman described the initial impetus for the discussion, an article by Vali Nasr entitled The Rise of Muslim Democracy, published in the Journal of Democracy in April 2005. He introduced the two featured speakers, Saad Eddin Ibrahim and Anwar Ibrahim, as men who had worked with Muslim Democrats in Egypt and Malaysia, respectively, and who had both served time in jail.

Saad Eddin Ibrahim described two types of Muslim activiststhe Islamists and the Muslim Democrats. Both groups are active in politics and use Islam to promote their respective agendas. However, whereas Islamists seek the imposition of religious law and even, sometimes, a restored caliphate, Muslim Democrats are pragmatists who blend religious motivations with popular policies.

Dr. Ibrahim spoke of his own experience in Egypts prisons, communicating with jailed members of Egypts Muslim Brotherhood and other activist groups. He described an evolution in the Muslim Brotherhood, some of which he saw emerge in the prison dialogue he had with imprisoned Muslim activists. 9/11 shook the imprisoned activists, he said: they felt partly responsible, believing that young people viewed them as role models who had used violence before they went to prison.

The successes of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey and its namesake in Morocco (PJD) enabled Dr. Ibrahim to interest the activists with whom he spoke in Muslim Democracy, he said. These examples of political parties showed other activists that Muslim Democrats could succeed.

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is by far the largest of the Muslim activist groups. Dr. Ibrahim talked about its evolution, and he suggested that this evolutionin part because of its gradual naturewas probably sincere. The Brotherhood renounced violence in 1971, and has stuck to that pledge for 34 years. Recently, members have been silent regarding the rule of sharia, and in 2004, they endorsed the idea of civil democracy and full rights for women, Christians, and Jews. Dr. Ibrahim advocated challenging the Brotherhood to moderate further: he suggested that the endorsement of civil democracy marked a turning point, and that members were on the cusp of becoming Muslim Democrats, but needed to be challenged to keep going. He advocated a Helsinki-style program by the West to encourage democratization.

Anwar Ibrahim talked about the trend towards Muslim Democracy that is occurring beyond the Arab world. He suggested that in Southeast Asia, there is less distinction between Islamism and Muslim Democracyit is not perceived as a contradiction to be pro-Islam and pro-democracy or in favor of womens rights in Southeast Asia. Islamists in Malaysia and Indonesia are not Taliban-style fundamentalists, but moderates, he noted.

Crucially, however, Mr. Ibrahim insisted that the key to democracy in Muslim countries is not elections, but institutions and the rule of law. He spoke of the importance of core values of democracyspecifically, a free and independent media, an independent judiciary, free and fair elections, and a healthy civil society. In Malaysia and Indonesia, these components were enshrined in the constitution, although ruling parties violated them. The West often supported such excesses by ruling parties, believing their acceptance necessary in order to fight the Cold War; Western scholars even provided intellectual support for authoritarianism.

Mr. Ibrahim insisted, however, that such core democratic values are fundamental to building Muslim Democracy. As an example, he gave the Muslim Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party: in Pakistan, where democratic traditions are weak, the JI became a militant Islamist party, while in India, with a functioning and strong democracy, the same JI party is committed to the core principles and working within a civil, democratic political system. In particular, Mr. Ibrahim suggested that repression begets extremism, citing the Muslim rebels in Thailand and the resurgence of Pakistans JI after General Musharrafs coup.

Vali Nasr cited two critical questions that supporters of democracy need to answer. How does one bring about democracy in Muslim countries? How does one stop the Islamist from winning the elections? In Turkey, Malaysia, and other countries Dr. Nasr has studied, Islamists failed in elections. Yet, it is not clear whether these cases are exceptions, or if the Arab world is different.

Dr. Nasr suggested that the security environment created by the Global War on Terrorism is legitimizing autocracy again. Friendly autocrats, like General Musharraf, have been allowed to consolidate powerand, indeed, have become more populardue to security fears. Oil revenues provide autocrats with funds and give them the freedom to refuse foreign investment.

However, Dr. Nasr suggested that pragmatism is a critical limiting factor on Islamism. In the countries he studied, repeated elections have had a moderating effect. As long as certain red lines kept Islamist parties and nationalist autocrats from breaking the rules (by controlling the judiciary or cheating on elections, for example), competition for votes lead all parties to the center. When parties entered the democratic process where these red lines were enforced, they moved towards the center: Islamist parties became Muslim Democrats, and secular parties picked up Islamic overtones.

Furthermore, Dr. Nasr argued that Westerners should not expect a grand bargain with the Islamists, in which the Islamists agree to become moderates overnight. Such an expectation is highly unreasonable. The shift toward embracing democratic principles will be gradual, encouraged by the political process.

Larry Diamond outlined a number of overarching points he saw emerge in the discussion. He noted that the first step in any democratization process should be inclusion. Such inclusion need not begin at the national level, but bringing all parties into the process offers an incentive for moderation. Furthermore, democracy should not be expected to progress at the same pace in every region or country. Regional factors play a significant rolethe rise of Muslim Democrats in Morocco, for example, will not bring them to power in Saudi Arabia overnight. Still, real movements toward democracy should be welcomed and encouraged, be they incremental or monumental.

Stability and democracy are linked, Dr. Diamond noted. All parties must accept the core principles of democracygroups that promote violence should be denied inclusion. Extremist groups might moderate, but they should not be counted upon to do so: they should be evaluated by what they say to their supporters, as well as by what they tell the West. That said, Dr. Diamond suggested that even insincere tactical shifts toward democracy might be internalized over time and become sincere, and thus should be also welcomed.

Combating fraud and abuse of power is also critical, Dr. Diamond said. In Turkey, the military has enforced democratic red lines. Instead, such enforcement should be undertaken by civil institutions. He suggested that Morocco is well-positioned to make a transition to Muslim Democracythe PJD seems to be a restrained, responsible Muslim party and the monarchy is in a position to strengthen the rule of law and enforce the red lines that would maintain democracy.

Finally, Dr. Diamond chided the United States and the European Union for being too afraid of Islamization to push hard for democratization. He called for a transatlantic initiative to further democratization 

A full webcast of the event is available here:

Source: DEMOCRACY DIGEST,  The Bulletin of the Transatlantic Democracy Network,

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A Prelude to Change: US Policy and Islamist Movements

by Waheed Abdel Mageed

Dr. Waheed Abdel Mageed is a writer and researcher, specializing in political and social issues, as well as international relations. He received his PhD in Political Science from Cairo University in 1993. He is Assistant Director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, in Cairo. 

The United States’ increased concern with the Arab World in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks has not inherently implied a clear and defined US policy towards the Gulf region. US policy is, nonetheless, in the midst of an evident shift, whereby the goal is no longer stability, but change. The Arab region is seen as having been widely plagued by stagnation and reform has been sparse and difficult, resulting in a myriad of problems, many of which are acute. One such challenge is connected with the pervasiveness of Islamist movements. As a response to this trend, Washington aims to politically reform states suffering from varying degrees of stagnation.

The short-term and direct aim of the war in Iraq targeted the regime of Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile, the broader, long-term objective is to introduce change in the region. American planners and policymakers, particularly empowered neoconservatives, contend that political and intellectual stagnation have turned the region into a hotbed for extremism and terrorismthe main sources of threat to the United States.

Insofar as the entire region is viewed as jeopardizing US security, Washington deems it insufficient to simply replace regimes that sponsor disagreeable policies and are regarded as enemies. Friendly regimes have been equally invited to inaugurate change by instituting reform policies outlined by the Bush administration.

Such reforms are, however, only likely to lead to the expansion of the political periphery across countries where Islamist movements tend to be the strongest and most prominent contenders among opposition forces. Consequently, while Washington insists on political reforms being implemented in even friendly Arab states, it begs the question as to what its stance precisely is towards these less-than-desirable movements. Do the demanded reforms encompass the integration of Islamist movements within the newly envisioned political systems? Are they to be provided with constitutional and legal sureties that will afford them equal opportunities available to other political parties? In theory, Washington may permit such a scenario. In practice, the matter may prove more problematic. What position, for example, could Washington be expected to take in the event that Islamists won a democratic election by a landslide, or at least did favorably enough to grant the party platform leverageor even play a rolein the formation of a government?

Such questions are new for two overlapping reasonsfirstly, US policy has traditionally been unconcerned with reforming Arab political systems because, and secondly, regional stability was assigned priority. As Islamist movements aim to establish a reversion to antiquity across the Arab world, the US has turned a blind eye towards their suppression. The only case in which the United States expressed reservations over suppressing Islamism was in late 1990 amid the conclusion of Algeria’s first parliamentary elections. Even then, its evident objection was muddled and tepid. Accordingly, this shift represents the US administration’s first true test in formulating a clear-cut and well defined policy towards Islamist movements in the Arab world.

Policies that demand and occasionally exercise pressure for the sake of regional reform cannot fully materialize without first addressing the reservations over Islamist’s role within the framework of such reform. Forgoing deliberation on such considerations will effectively stymie reforms and as a result, US policies will be seen to be lacking in luster and reverence, while shrouded in ambiguity and wide open to criticism.

In late February 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave the impression that Washington deems reform to be a top priorityregardless of its outcome. She furthermore contended that the United States harbors negligent fear over Islamists assuming power if democratically elected. Dubious statements as such by senior Bush administration officials have prompted observers and politicians to construe the onset of a new and more distinct US policy. What is more, this appears to be a popular trend throughout all of the West, as EU foreign ministers have also pondered the possibility of opening a dialogue with Middle Eastern opposition groups, including Islamists, in the hopes of fostering the region’s shift towards democracy.

Those that celebrated this proposal paid no mind to the fact that it first arose in an informal meeting in Luxembourg in mid-March of 2004. Likewise, those that offered praise for US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s declaration likely failed to take into consideration the context in which it was madeas an answer to a question at a press conferencenot in the form of an official statement.

The fact is, there is nothing in either official American, nor European, rhetoric that suggests Arab Islamist movements will or should be treated as full partners in the political process and their accession to power enabled by means of democratic elections. If anything, Rice’s statements implied a new tone, not a new position. This tone mimics one that has been echoing at varying decibels throughout Washington’s authoritative ranks ever since the first Bush administration. It is the same platform that envisages the possibility of interacting with Islamist currents that eschew violence and wholly subscribe to democratic principles, whether with regards to the rotation of power or inclusion of women. Among the most ardent supporters of this strategy is former CIA analyst Graham Fuller, who expressed his views in a famous article published 2002 by Foreign Affairs, wherein he declared his support for dialogue with moderate Islamists across the Arab world.

A more thorough analysis of this approach, drawing upon more comprehensive and reliant sources than a media interview or short article, sheds light on the requirements that should be met by Islamist movements as a precondition before talks. The well regarded research, “Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies,” published last year by the RAND Corporation, explores this option.

In this study, the trepidation over Islamist’ accession to power is palpable. Their accession to power is characterized as a risk that stands to sacrifice democracy and freedom. Nevertheless, those who prepared the study anticipate this risk will be gradually removed if Islamists can be trained to interact with democratic institutions in a rational manner. This, however, cannot come to fruition if Islamists are not integrated into the political process. Notably, the study made reference to the banned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as a case applicable to this approach.

While there is an American trend that in some degree accepts the notion of integrating Islamists in Arab states’ democratic process, their ascent to power ahead of the adoption of a democratic culture is still cause for anxiety. At the same time, there is no apparent alternative to this incorporation for the sake of availing the opportunity for democratic values to take root through actual practice.

Islamists that are not considered cause for concern by US circles represent what is coined ‘civil democratic Islam’ or ‘liberal Islam’, along the lines of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party. Thus far, however, there are no such Islamist movements in the Arab world, despite the presence of individuals and small factions that have liberal intellectual, rather than political, objectives.

This suggests that United States policy will remain cautious over its stance towards Islamist movements in the Arab world. At least tentatively, borne of its demand for reform, the US will continue to oscillate between supporting Islamists’ integration in the democratic process and its fear of Islamists ascending to power by means of a hollowed process, prior to the acquisition of a democratic culture. The US position therefore appears poised to test the limits. Its end goal will likely may oblige the strategic exercise of pressure upon select regimes. The US administration may thereby exploit Islamist movements to coerce regimes that previously sponsored misgivings over serious reforms leading to Islamists’ empowerment.

Within this context, it is likely that US policy will be dominated by extreme caution and a certain degree of ambiguity toward Islamist movements for some time to come. Washington, for example, displayed little concern for the wide-scale detentions within the ranks of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood last May. President Bush made reference to Egypt only once out of more than a dozen cases in which he personally addressed the necessity of regional reform.

On May 23, former US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher expressed the administration’s concern over the arrest of members of this group just prior to the referendum on constitutional amendment. He furthermore stated that despite the American government’s qualms over the Muslim Brotherhood, it nonetheless supports the guarantee of freedom of _expression. This response was fleeting and nearly altogether dismissive in light of the hundreds of arrests of Brotherhood membersincluding second in command, Arwad Muhammad Izzat Al-Boushi, and the prominent leader, Isam Al-Aryan.

This treatment in no way compared to the United States’ outrage over the arrest of Ayman Noor, chairman of Egypt’s Al-Ghad party, last January. Washington and European Parliament responded by exerting direct pressure upon the Egyptian administration, resulting in Noor’s release less than two months after his incarceration.

As for the hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood detainees, Washington’s concern has yet to exceed one mere passing statement on Egyptian reform. In the meantime, this statement serves to signal the start of a new and ongoing development in United States foreign policy.

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Torture, the GOP, and the Religious Right

by Jon Basil Utley

When 46 Republican senators vote against the torture of prisoners (total vote 90-9) and President Bush threatens his first veto in five years in order to thwart them, many Americans must wonder about the political and philosophical divide.

Top-ranking generals supported by former Secretary of State Colin Powell sent a letter of support for the McCain-Warner initiative with its 10 co-sponsors. It warned of the consequences for American soldiers in future wars and the very negative effect for America in the war on terror. McCain was a former POW in Vietnam and Warner is one of the strongest hawks in the Senate. One notes also that only one congressman has a son in combat and McCain, Warner, and Senator Hagel, another supporter of the bill, are reportedly the only combat veterans in the entire Senate. Republicans in the House were prevented from voting on the issue by their leadership.

As has often been the case with this war, we find the answer among neoconservatives and the Religious Right, the hard-core alliance for war. Neoconservative leaders, almost all without military or business experience, nor with children in combat, have been the “brains,” such as they are, behind the attack and subsequent occupation fiasco. Also, some of the conservative establishment, such as the Washington Times and National Review, offer many writers who endorse torture, and the adored Rush Limbaugh made light of the issue.

However, it is the Religious Right (RR) that is less understood. After Abu Ghraib and other revelations of torture and murder, the main spokesmen and institutions of the RR were notably silent; indeed some, Senator Inhofe for example, defended it and, along with several other fundamentalists, cast the only votes against the torture amendment. General Boykin’s name also resurfaced. Searching the Internet, one finds silence on the issue of torture from such leading political RR groups such as the Family Research Council, Concerned Women of America, the Christian Coalition, and the American Family Association.

Part of the religious aspect is the simple Armageddon Lobby view, as paraphrased by Tom DeLay, that the Iraq war is “the gateway to the apocalypse.” But more profound reasons for this support are analyzed in a brilliant new book by Anatol Lieven, America Right or Wrong. He quotes historian C. Vann Woodward to explain the Religious Right’s outlook:

“The true American mission is a moral crusade on a worldwide scale. Such people are likely to concede no validity whatever and grant no hearing to the opposing point of view, and to appeal to a higher law to justify bloody and revolting means in the name of a noble end. For what end could be nobler, they ask, than the liberation of man. The irony of the moralistic approach, when exploited by nationalism, is that the high motive to end injustice and immorality actually results in making war more amoral and horrible than ever and in shattering the foundation of the political and moral order upon which peace has to be built.”

No wonder religious wars are some of the most brutal and bloody in history. Similarly, in an earlier day, Senator Jesse Helms told members of the UN Security Council “states, above all the United States, that are democratic, and act in the cause of liberty, possess unlimited authority, subject to no external control, to carry out military interventions.”

Lieven (and others [.pdf]) compare this view to that of Rousseau and the French Jacobins, who argued that all other European royalist governments were illegitimate:

“If on the one hand the French armies did bring genuine progress to many parts of Europe, they also stirred up a ferocious resistance leading to wars which ravaged Europe for a generation. These conflicts not only led in the end to the crushing defeat of France, they weakened her so badly that she never recovered her preeminence.”

Lieven also argues that these views and policies have

“potentially catastrophic results for the struggle against Islamist terrorism. More widely, this messianic attitude leads to a curious but historically very familiar mixture of rampant idealism and complete absence of charity, in the wider biblical sense.”

He warns, “This belief in American innocence, of ‘original sinlessness,’ is both very old and very powerful. [It] contributes greatly to America’s crowning sin of Pride the first deadly sin and, in medieval theology, the one from which all other sins originally stem.”

Ironically, others see these events as (eventually) having a very negative effect on religious influence in Washington. Christopher Hitchens argues,

“George Bush may subjectively be a Christian, but he and the U.S. armed forces have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled.”

The idea that America is “good” and therefore need not show a decent respect to the opinions of mankind runs very deep among those now ruling Washington. Yet the Senate vote against Bush and the religious extremists is a sign that not all is lost in our great nation. We may yet pull back from the brink of endless wars. In fact, the September issue of Foreign Affairs’ lead article analyzes polls showing that most Americans do not favor religious war and are very concerned about relations with other nations, in particular that we have become seen as enemies of the whole Muslim world. Almost two-thirds of Americans believe that Washington should be emphasizing diplomacy more than military action.

Jon Basil Utley is the Robert A. Taft Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. A former correspondent for Knight/Ridder in South America, Utley has written for the Harvard Business Review on foreign nationalism and Insight Magazine on preparation for terrorist threats. He is director of Americans Against World Empire.

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U.S. Muslims Donate Aid for Asian Quake

By REBECCA SANTANA –  The Associated Press

Monday, October 10, 2005; 4:41 AM

TRENTON, N.J. — Kosar Kazmi planned to journey to Pakistan after getting devastating news from a brother _ many of their relatives had been killed in the earthquake.

Kazmi said his mother, a brother, the brother’s wife and two kids, and an aunt and her two sons all were killed when the tremor hit.

“I’m trying to help my family that’s still there,” said Kazmi, 32, of New Milford, who was to fly on Sunday. “Most of them are injured. They’re on the ground outside.”

Aid group Islamic Relief USA raised about $130,000 from those attending Ramadan services after the earthquake struck Saturday. The 7.6-magnitude quake near the Pakistan-India border killed at least 20,000 people and the death toll was expected to rise.

“Ramadan is the month of mercy and encourages Muslims to give to the poor,” said Mohamed Abulmagd, general manager of the group’s U.S. office in Burbank. “Now, with this crisis, I expect they will give more for this cause.”

The group put out a call to the Muslim community for $10 million worldwide, he said. It hopes to raise about $2 million from communities in the United States. Earthquake victims need tents, blankets and medical supplies, Abulmagd said.

In New Jersey, the Dar Ul Islah mosque in Teaneck took up a collection during Saturday night’s Ramadan services. In metropolitan Detroit, home to thousands of Muslims, the quake was a topic of discussions at mosques.

“Certainly, we will hold fundraisers. We always do that when there is a tragedy,” said Mahdi Ali, an immigrant from Yemen and a member of the board of the American Moslem Society mosque in Dearborn.

Many mosques also were trying to determine if any members had been affected. Members of the Islamic Center of Claremont in Pomona, Calif., were “shocked and distressed” at the death toll, said Radwan Hafuda, vice president of the center.

“Right now, we’re observing the news with sorrow and we’re checking with our community members to see if anyone or his family has been impacted,” Hafuda said.

In New York, Amjad Iqbal, 30, of Brooklyn, was struggling with whether to return to Pakistan. He nearly lost his cousin, who was in a college building damaged by the quake. The 19-year-old woman survived her injuries but remained in shock. He was going to send money to help his family and other victims.

“We want to go back, but if we go back, what do I do?” said Iqbal, who runs the Pakistan Tea House in Manhattan.

At the Islamic Center of Livermore, Calif., members met Sunday afternoon to discuss relief efforts, said Waseem Sufi, a volunteer at the center about 47 miles southeast of San Francisco.

The center has 75 families, about 20 of them from Pakistan. Some of the options being considered by the center include assisting the Red Cross or Islamic charities, raising money or even providing blankets to earthquake victims.

“We need to determine what’s needed so we can do the right thing rather than trying to do everything,” Sufi said. “It’s sad, and we will try to help in whatever way we can.”

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Rice Visits Pakistan and Promises More Aid


Published: October 12, 2005

 ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednsday promised long-term U.S. help for Pakistan after an earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people.

Returning from a trip through Central Asia and Afghanistan, Rice met with Pakistani leaders in the capital but did not tour the devastated Kashmir region.

 ”The United States has, as many parts of the world have, been through natural disasters,” she said. ”This is one of epic proportions. I want the people of Pakistan to know that our thoughts are with you … We will be with you not just today but tomorrow.”

 Rice spoke after discussing U.S. relief contributions with Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri.

 Rice predicted more U.S. earthquake aid for Pakistan beyond an initial $50 million but gave no specific figures or timeline. Tens of thousands were believed killed in Saturday’s quake, with millions left homeless after entire communities were flattened in the region touching Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

 Before leaving the airport, Rice met with some Afghanistan-based U.S. troops who are ferrying wounded from the earthquake zone to medical treatment in Islamabad. She posed with crew members of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter that had just landed with 65 injured earthquake victims.

 With additional helicopters arriving Wednesday, the United States will have 12 helicopters as well as heavy military transport planes in Pakistan for the recovery effort. The United States is also contributing medical equipment and other supplies.

 Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said an additional 21 helicopters and other equipment is at the ready.

 Earlier in Kabul, Afghanistan, Rice praised political progress in the country four years after a U.S.-led invasion toppled the repressive Taliban regime. She brushed off rocket attacks near the U.S. Embassy in downtown Kabul that occurred overnight just hours before her arrival.

“It happens from time to time, so it doesn’t change our plans,” Rice said of the attacks, which wounded two people.

 After she spoke, Afghan officials said militants killed six police and five medical workers in separate attacks in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday.

 Afghanistan has seen more war then peace in recent decades, and much of the country is still in ruins. It also has installed a new and relatively stable democratic government and saw more than 6 million vote in largely smooth elections last month.

 At the same time, rampant drug trafficking and rising insurgent violence imperils some of the democratic gains of U.S. ally, President Hamid Karzai.

 ”Violence is going to continue, but this is a place that has come a very long way,” Rice told reporters traveling with her from Kyrgyzstan.

 At a news conference with Karzai, Rice said U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan ”as long as they are needed and in whatever numbers they are needed” and added that the United States learned a lesson from allowing Afghanistan to become a haven for terrorists before Sept. 11, 2001.

 ”We cannot simply defend ourselves,” she said. ”We have to be on the offense.”

 Karzai acknowledged the continued problem of insurgent violence in his country, but said it will not block progress toward democracy.

 What could determine success or failure in the long term is Afghanistan’s response to drug trafficking on its soil, Karzai said.

 “That will determine Afghanistan’s future as a state that stands on its own feet, a state that has the respect of the international community. … or as a state that will collapse and fail and fall back into the hands of terrorism,” he said.

 Neither Rice nor Karzai directly addressed whether they had privately discussed allegations that Karzai’s own government includes drug traffickers.

 Rice met Karzai and others in Kabul before flying to Islamabad.

 Her route into Kabul from the airport took her past newly repaired buildings but also through a slalom course or heavy barricades, razor wire and gun towers that revealed the daily threat of bombings and rocket attacks.

 About 1,400 people have been killed in Afghanistan since March in a campaign of violence that authorities blame on a resurgent Taliban.

 On Monday, the U.S. military announced its 201st fatality in and around Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces invaded in late 2001 to oust the Taliban for harboring al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. This year has been the deadliest yet for the 21,000-strong, U.S.-led coalition force, with 85 soldiers killed.

 Before meeting with Afghan officials, Rice said NATO and the United States will review military plans in light of Afghanistan’s political development, ”but they’ll be reviewed with an eye to what remains to be done.”

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Leaders in Iraq Agree to Change in Constitution


Published: October 12, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 11 – Iraqi political leaders said they had agreed to an important last-minute change in the draft constitution on Tuesday evening in exchange for a promise by some prominent Sunni Arab leaders to give public support to the document in the nationwide referendum on Saturday.

 The change would create a panel in the next parliament with the power to propose broad new revisions to the constitution. In effect, the change could give the Sunnis – who were largely shut out of the constitution-writing process – a new chance to help redraft the document after elections in December.

 The agreement was a major victory for American officials, who had spent weeks urging Iraq’s Shiite and Kurdish leaders to make changes that could soften Sunni opposition to the charter and forge a broader consensus. The Americans had voiced fears that if the constitution passed over strong Sunni opposition, more would turn toward violence.

 The breakthrough came as insurgents continued their intensified campaign to create chaos, carrying out at least a dozen attacks across Iraq that left at least 42 people dead and dozens wounded. The biggest attack, a bombing in Tal Afar, killed at least 27.

 The constitutional change would need to be approved by the National Assembly, which will convene on Wednesday for that purpose. That is likely to be a formality, as the lawmakers generally follow their party leaders.

 “This will give a new chance to the people who were not present in the writing of the constitution,” said Alaa Makky, a senior member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, Iraq’s best-known Sunni political group, which had until now been urging its members to vote against the document. “We think this may be the beginning of a new era, and we think it is a great success.”

 The Iraqi Islamic Party was the only Sunni Arab group involved in the talks, which also included the leaders of Iraq’s Shiite and Kurdish political alliances and the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad. Mr. Makky said the party had acted in coordination with another major Sunni group, the Conference of the People of Iraq, which also agreed to change its stance and support the constitution.

 It was too early to tell whether a public endorsement of the constitution by those two groups would translate into a much broader acceptance among Sunni Arabs. With only three full days left before the referendum, it will be difficult for Sunni groups to convey a new message to their supporters, especially after Thursday, when security measures restricting travel will be imposed.

But even a last-minute endorsement by prominent Sunni Arabs could alter the politics surrounding the constitution. The new support is likely to undercut the widespread notion that the constitution was being forced on an almost uniformly hostile Sunni Arab population.

“I think it is an important change, to be honest,” said Saleh Mutlak, a Sunni Arab member of the constitutional committee who had strongly opposed the draft and who expressed some resentment at not having been included in the final negotiations.

The change would also give Sunni Arabs, who largely boycotted elections in January, a significant new motive for participating in politics. The more parliament seats they win in the December elections, the better chance they would have of changing the constitutional provisions they oppose, like allowing for the creation of semiautonomous regions within Iraq.

The constitutional panel would have four months after its creation to propose changes to the document, Mr. Makky said. Those proposed changes would then be voted on by the full assembly, which would have to approve them by a two-thirds majority. The changes would then have to be approved in another popular referendum.

It was unclear on Tuesday how the panel would be selected and how many members it would have. Those details were expected to be worked out in the next few days.

Along with the new constitutional panel, the Iraqi leaders agreed to some smaller changes to the charter, several lawmakers said. At least two of them represented concessions to Sunni demands. One is a moderation of the so-called de-Baathfication process to root out former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party from public office, and the other is a clause providing firmer guarantees of Iraq’s unity.

It was not clear what led to the breakthrough in the talks, but some Shiite lawmakers seemed supportive of the agreement. “Anything that brings our views closer and relieves this polarization will be helpful,” said Ali Dabagh, a member of the Shiite alliance that holds a majority of seats in the National Assembly.

 Forum: The Transition in Iraq

In the biggest attack by insurgents on Tuesday, in the Saray district of Tal Afar, local hospital officials said that in addition to the 27 killed, 36 had been wounded. All the victims were civilians, the officials said.

Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the terrorist group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, took responsibility for the attack in an Internet statement, saying it was aimed at the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army officers.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, gunmen ambushed a convoy of police officers who are charged with protecting polling places in the city, killing three officers and one civilian, said Gen. Torhan Joseph, Kirkuk’s police chief. Six civilians were also wounded. Separately, four police officers were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near their patrol south of the city, General Joseph said.

In Baghdad, a suicide bomber drove a bomb-laden car into a joint American-Iraqi patrol, killing four Iraqi soldiers, Interior Ministry officials said. Seven soldiers and civilians were wounded in the attack, which took place in Amariya, a district that has fallen increasingly under the control of insurgents, like much of western Baghdad.

Gunmen staged at least half a dozen other attacks in the capital, killing a total of six civilians and one police officer, Interior Ministry officials said. In southern Baghdad, a car bomb detonated near a passing police patrol, wounding three officers and a civilian, the officials said.

American military officials announced that two soldiers had been killed Monday in the volatile western city of Ramadi when a roadside bomb exploded on their patrol.

Iraq’s public integrity commission announced that arrest warrants had been issued for Hazem Shaalan, the former defense minister, and 22 other officials who served in the Defense Ministry. Mr. Shaalan, who served under interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, was charged with public corruption in connection with the disappearance of more than $1 billion from the ministry’s accounts, said Ali al-Shabot, a spokesman for Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, the public integrity commissioner.

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The European Union: A quiet but powerful force for reform

Editorial – Daily Star, October 06, 2005

BEIRUT – While much has been said about Washington’s loud and ambitious projects to reshape the Arab world – including the Iraq war and the Broader Middle East Initiative – it is worth noting that the region is quietly being transformed by another powerful global force: the European Union. Through the process of engagement and patient dialogue, the EU has had a measurable impact on the region and will hopefully continue to be a positive force for political reform in the Middle East.

Yesterday, the European Commission announced plans to help revitalize the Palestinian economy in the wake of Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Although the union is already the biggest donor to the Palestinians, the EC recommended that EU states earmark an additional $240 million to $360 million to help build a viable Palestinian state. What’s more important is that the money is not a free handout: The EU has identified a number of criteria that need to be fulfilled to justify further EU involvement. These include strengthening government accountability, restructuring the institutions of the Palestinian Authority, reforming the judiciary and developing a strategy to consolidate the rule of law.

We have already seen the benefit of European involvement in the region through its direct interaction with Turkey. Through the framework of negotiations ahead of EU entry talks, the Europeans have prodded the Turks into implementing a number of wide-ranging reforms. Since the start of those negotiations, Turkey has abolished the death penalty, scrapped state security courts, reformed the penal code and allowed Kurdish to be spoken in schools. We can expect even greater progress on the reform front now that Turkey has started EU accession talks.

Apart from the framework of membership negotiations, the EU has also used its partnerships with various regional countries to advance the pace of political reform. The European Neighborhood Policy, which builds on the economic reform initiatives launched in the Barcelona Process, offers privileged relations with the aim of encouraging neighboring states’ commitment to the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights. Incentives such as aid and economic integration have been used to encourage progress on political reforms in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Syria.

Europe’s subtle but significant efforts to promote reform in the region demonstrate that the EU is a powerful reformist force in the Middle East. While the European approach to promoting reform has been understated and less aggressive than that of the United States, it has proven to be equally – if not more – effective. America’s efforts to promote reform are often greeted with skepticism or even hostility, while the EU, which has long been engaged in the region, has a greater degree of credibility.

The Europeans recognize the importance of being promoting political reform in the Middle East and Europe’s gestures toward the region now need to be reciprocated. Those states which are involved in EU efforts to encourage political reform would do well to heed the advice and recommendations of a friendly neighbor.

This editorial was produced by the Daily Star. Visit the website at

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Running as religious duty

By Amira Howeidy

Note:  CSID re-publishes this interview with Esam al-Erian, who is now languishing in jail… and we urge the Egyptian government to release him.

 Essam El-Erian, 47, is possibly the most prominent representative of the new generation of Brotherhood leaders, viewed as dynamic, pragmatic and more open to new ideas and interaction with other political and ideological trends. He is responsible for analysing and responding to press reports, prepares Brotherhood statements and acts as a bridge between the group’s old guard and the younger cadre.  A member of the 1984 and 1987 parliaments and assistant secretary -general of the Doctors Syndicate, El-Erian was a key player when the group briefly flourished politically in the 1980s.

Similarly, he witnessed first-hand the government’s clampdown against the group. Arrested along with 27 members of the Brotherhood in 1995, he was referred six months later to a military court which sentenced him to five years imprisonment with hard labour for belonging to an illegal group that works for suspending the constitution. The sentence coincided with then upcoming parliamentary elections which El-Erian, along with other active Brotherhood members, was planning to contest. It was the first time that members of the outlawed group had been put on military trial since 1965.

During his imprisonment, El-Erian, who had graduated from medical school and obtained an MS in Clinical Pathology and a degree in law, enrolled in Al-Azhar’s Faculty of Islamic Shari’a and Law and the Faculty of Arts’ History Department.  El-Erian was released last January and immediately resumed his activities in the Doctors Syndicate and the Muslim Brotherhood..

Given the nationwide arrests of Brotherhood members on the eve of the elections, and the remote chance they have of winning, how seriously does the group take the elections? Or is your participation more to promote a political message?

There is more than one reason for us to take the elections seriously. The Brotherhood’s vision of political activity is not narrow. This vision derives from the Brotherhood’s ideology and belief in Islam as an all-embracing religion. And politics are an integral part of Islam.

If running for election is rewarding for some politicians, even if it’s only for prestige, the prospects for the Brotherhood are the opposite. All they get out of nominating themselves is trouble. Yet they insist on playing their political role that has an Islamic perspective. At the same time, they are acting for the country’s political good.

Moreover, the Brotherhood has a comprehensive view of Islamic action. This is why their role in the political arena, be it participation in the various activities or direct and close contact with the public, is felt. And people always want to be represented by those who truly represent them, and they cannot find anybody better than the Brothers.

In many cases, some Brotherhood members are prodded into nominating themselves because the people want them to. If they don’t run for election, it would amount to a betrayal of the trust of the people.

Compared to those who contested the 1995 elections — before the Al-Wassat group walked out of the Brotherhood and before you and others were deprived of your political rights — the candidates for this year’s elections seem to be a second best. People, for example like yourself, would ideally run for election, but can’t.

But there are other roles to play.

What role are you playing now?

I can’t tell you [he laughs]. Or I’ll be arrested once again! Let us be honest. The nature of the political, particularly Islamic, movements is that they are productive, imbued continuously with new blood.

And if some political parties or groups lack the vigour necessary to raise new generations, the Islamic movement, particularly the Brotherhood, do not suffer from this shortcoming. And if you had attended the recent funeral of the Brotherhood’s secretary-general, Ibrahim Sharaf, you would have seen all generations, from age 11 to 80 and 90. They were all there.

Does the Brotherhood have a list of Brotherhood candidates running independently?

No. We don’t even try to keep lists because we have no intention of releasing a list. We, as the Muslim Brotherhood, allow candidates to run independently. Releasing a list would contradict this concept.

But a list was released by the Brotherhood in Alexandria, including the name of a Copt who later said he will not contest the elections, causing you embarrassment.

The problem of elections in Egypt is that they don’t draw the interest or attention of the public. People are dejected because the previous four parliaments were unconstitutional. So any minor event gets exaggerated attention, more than it deserves.

I mean nominating a woman is not unprecedented. In the 1987 [alliance between the Brotherhood and Labour and Liberal parties] there were women.

But they weren’t from the Brotherhood.

But the principle was well-established. The women in the Islamic movement have reached a high degree of maturity that enables them to contest elections. Yet I insist that the principle is an established one.

This also applies to Copts. The only Copt who made it to the 1987 parliament ran on the alliance’s ticket under the slogan “Islam is the solution.” What happened this time is an implementation of this principle but in a different form…

What was published by newspapers is that the Brotherhood is willing to support a Christian candidate provided that he has good qualities, such as a nationalist position, honesty, straightforwardness and a clear position on Muslims and their legal rights.

An offer was made: ‘If you nominate yourself, we’ll support you.’ He said, ‘I’ll study this’ or ‘I’m not thinking of this right now.’ So it was merely an offer that was welcomed. Then he said that he will not contest the elections. Now what’s embarrassing about that?

But the information released by the Alexandria Brotherhood placed his name on their list of candidates.

No, his name was not on the list. What was announced was that the Brotherhood intends to support any Christian candidate with such and such qualifications…

This was a positive step and should have been welcomed by everyone. But we were surprised to see all this hype and debate in various circles, especially the press which viewed it as a game or manoeuvre.

If indeed it was a manoeuvre, the Brotherhood would not have nominated [the Coptic figure] Gamal Asaad Abdel-Malak. His name topped the [tripartite alliance’s] ticket in the constituency of the Supreme Guide [then Hamed Abul-Nasr]. Moreover, the Supreme Guide personally supported him and issued a statement to that effect. So where is the manoeuvre?

You are an illegal group, and yet you can’t see why these measures are taken against you? Isn’t the Brotherhood responsible for what happens to it?

Of course it’s a mystery for all who wonder how we managed to have 37 MPs in the 1987 parliament despite our illegal status. So who should be asked this question? The government. Who makes the law in this country? The government.

Now how can a major political force whose presence is felt in society not have a legal status? This is a mystery. And it’s known to all and sundry that it is literally impossible to exclude this force from public or political domains. Even if it is placed behind bars, as Gamal Abdel-Nasser did, it will still exist.

So the question that the government must answer is why won’t it legally recognise the Brotherhood?

When was the last time the Muslim Brotherhood sought legality?

This is a case that has been in the courts for the past 25 years. And it will continue to be there for years to come because it has nothing to do with the Brotherhood. I mean who doesn’t want legal status?

Why hasn’t the Brotherhood applied to become a political party?

If there is absolutely no political will [on the government’s part] whatsoever, can someone who is politically active operate in a country without knowing its political rules?

Now the Political Parties Committee is a government body and the government’s top officials have repeatedly stated that the Brotherhood can’t operate but its members can be politically active independently.

Yet, you insist on contesting the elections?

Yes, as individuals, independently.

So you prefer this rather strange situation, de facto but illegal existence? And are you actually waiting for the courts to rule on your 25-year-old case?

The licensed political parties are getting dissolved and those who applied for licences were turned down once and twice. All the doors were shut in their faces. So, where is the environment and will for political action?

Some observers argue that the reason the government turned against the Brotherhood in the early ’90s was because your group was too mild in condemning the violence unleashed by armed Islamist groups at the time.

The Brotherhood issued statements condemning the violence from the first day it erupted. What more were we supposed to do? And before the condemnation, the Brotherhood was never involved in any act of violence. And when Brotherhood members were put on trial, they were never accused of using violence. All we were accused of was being politically active.

Secondly, our position on violence was very clear. We said that we’re against all forms of violence and any incorrect application of the Islamic religion. Yet we also said that violence shouldn’t be fought by security measures alone. And this is what was taken against us.   So, am I supposed to condemn violence and not express my opinion on how it should be ended?

On the other hand, violence at that time was not limited to Egypt, but existed elsewhere in the region, which raises question marks on who was funding it. Then suddenly it stopped in almost all the countries where it was once rampant. So it seems that the objective was to tarnish the image of Islam deliberately… I also believe that the violence was intended to bring our peaceful political activities to a halt.

But it was argued that the Brotherhood could have acted differently…

No, there was no other choice for the Brotherhood. Were we supposed to take up arms and fight those who unleashed the violence? And would the government allow such a thing to happen?

In your opinion, were the 1987 elections fair?

No. In my constituency, at least four of the candidates on our ticket won, but only one actually made it to parliament. We deserved at least 120 seats in the 1987 elections, we actually won that many, but were given only 60 seats.

But this is what happens in elections in Egypt, ever since 1924. All of them, with the exception of one, were marred by fraud.

Despite your charge that the 1987 elections weren’t fair, it was only in those elections and the elections of 1984 that the Brotherhood won seats in parliament.

Just because I made it to parliament doesn’t mean that I’m supposed to say the elections were fair. The rigging in the 1987 elections was flagrant. And the reason we made it was the use of the slate system. Winning had to do with the percentage of votes a slate gets.

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NEW REPORT:  Confronting Corruption in the Arab World

Arab civil society and democratic activists who have long complained that corruption severely hinders social and democratic development in the region now have a new tool for promoting transparency. “Confronting Corruption,” a 300-page resource book from Transparency International, was recently launched in Beirut.

“Corruption is spreading in the Arab region because the political and administrative authorities are not subject to clear laws and do not undergo accountability in addition to the ignorance or fear of the citizen,” said Kamal Mesbahi, TI’s representative in Morocco. Free copies are available at the office of the Lebanese Transparency Association (call 01/ 293045) or the report can be downloaded here.

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NEW REPORT:  Development Needs Democracy

The Canadian government should base its foreign aid provision on an explicit recognition that Western democracy provides the best models for developing countries, argues a new report from the Institute for Research on Public Policy. The study of Canada’s Overseas Democracy Assistance, “Hard Choices, Good Causes,” suggests compelling reasons for insisting on democratic criteria for foreign aid, including the “strong empirical record of democratic countries not engaging in military conflict with one another” and evidence that democratic values improve governance.   

The criteria for choosing development partners should include reference to countries’ democratic potential rather than their poverty levels since problems such as civil conflict and corruption also impede development. “Rampant corruption and poor governance in authoritarian regimes frustrated Canadian aid efforts in the 1970s and 1980s, spurring an interest in improving governance and citizens’ control over public policy,” argues Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom, the report’s author.

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Freedom House

Program Officer, Middle East Programs — Washington, DC

Freedom House seeks a Program Officer for its Middle East programs. Tasks include : backstopping overseas projects, promoting and reporting on Freedom House’s Middle East projects, responding to RFAs, interacting with RIGHTS Consortium members, and assisting the Senior Program Manager in research, program design and implementation. The appropriate candidate should have experience with international human rights and rule of law issues; USAID funding sources and program management; strong research and writing skills; ability to read, write and speak English. Ability to read, write, and speak Arabic required; ability to speak, read, and write French desired. Experience with North Africa and the Middle East is a must. Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience required; post-graduate degree preferred. Position is based in Washington, DC. Projects are located in new democracies and developing countries. Please submit resume, cover letter, and salary history to: Megan Schmidt, Human Resources Manager Please note that this position is contingent upon funding.

Westminster Foundation

Team Leader – Middle East & North Africa

Salary: up to c.38,000 (56,000/US$67,000). Location: Central London.

This exciting new post is being created to lead the development and implementation of WFD’s program in the Middle East and North Africa. The WFD board recently approved a policy framework for the region focusing mainly on parliamentary reform as a response to increasing opportunities to contribute to political reform across the Arab world. The Team Leader will be responsible for designing, managing and evaluating political development programs in the region, analyzing project proposals and taking the lead on policy advice relating to WFD’s priority countries and programs. The successful candidate will bring a detailed knowledge of political reform issues in the MENA region, as well as a sound understanding of the UK political system. Demonstrable experience in program management in a related field and the credibility and confidence to act as an ambassador for WFD in the region will be vital. Fluency in Arabic, French and English is essential. If you are looking for a new challenge in a fast growing field then please go here for full details and information on how to apply. For additional information about this post please contact Smita Rai on +(0)20 7953 1190. Closing date: Friday 28 October 2005. First interviews will take place in the week commencing 14 November 2005.

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For questions or comments about the information in this bulletin, contact
Zahir Janmohamed at

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Copyright 2005 Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID).
All Rights Reserved.

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