The Mideast and Abroad
- Published on Friday, 09 March 2012 12:45
On a cold November’s evening I went to a debate between four people well known in the Dutch academic scene. Strange as it may seem, only one of the four interested me.
Two had authored a book about the public controversy regarding Muslims and their place in Dutch society and another was one of my university professors who reminded me to complete an assignment I owed him. Then, there was the most famous expert on Islam in the Netherlands: Hans Jansen.
Jansen has become known as someone steeped in Semitic languages. It’s a fact that he likes to point this out to his critics. His views on Islam stem from his own translations of Quranic passages and what he calls “sharia manuals,” both of which have led him to criticise the way Muslims think and act.
- Published on Friday, 09 March 2012 12:41
Last month, Wadah Khanfar, erstwhile Director General of Al Jazeera and now President of the Sharq Forum, an independent think tank dedicated to developing long-term strategies for Mideast development and social justice, visited London.
Taking the audience through his first hand account of the 2011 Arab Spring, Khanfar reminisced that during a December 2010 office meeting, the coming year’s trends were discussed. No one, he says, had even remotely predicted the coming events. In fact, the team discussed whether Jamal Mubarak would eventually take over power from his father.
- Published on Friday, 27 January 2012 05:49
Usually the definition of “allies” means two territories, countries, or nations that are working together in order to further mutual interests. Pakistan and America have for decades been considered allies, as they fought to conclude the vaguely termed War Against Terror in Afghanistan.
The United States and China are officially allies, too-- economic allies, working in tandem to promote trade, good business practices, and further develop the economies of both regions. Pakistan and China are also allies; Pakistan was one of the first countries to have recognized China. Since then the two have maintained a long, stable history of mutual aid and cooperation. Until recently these various treaties seemed to work in their individual spheres, rarely overlapping and never under danger from or suffering from fear of their ally’s other alliances...until now.
- Published on Friday, 06 January 2012 02:17
Many Western pundits would like you to believe that the movement behind the Arab Spring consists of nothing more than a few angry young revolutionaries and an army of bearded Islamists. This is, of course, far from the truth.
Revolutionaries of all ages, and all walks of life, have risked their freedom and their lives to bring about change in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, and beyond. Yes, they are angry and many are supporters of Islamist policies, but their messages are diverse and their successes have been staggering.
The Arab Spring, as it has come to be known, has its symbols and its figureheads. Mohammed Boazizi was a Tunisian fruit seller whose self-immolation as a protest against corruption sparked the “Jasmine Revolution” and eventual overthrow of the Tunisian regime. Khalid Said was a young Egyptian beaten to death by police, becoming a rallying cry that led to the downfall of Hosni Mubarak. Hamza Ali Khateeb was the 13 year old Syrian boy who was tortured and killed by police simply for being present at an anti-Assad rally in Deraa. These names captured global attention. And while each was a spark, another force has fanned the flames of revolution throughout the region, a force largely ignored in the Western media: the Arab woman.
Largely assigned the role of being either a victim or a housewife in her native homeland, the international media has overlooked a radical change in the face of revolutionary politics in the Middle East. Names like Wedad Demerdash, Asmaa Mahfouz, Mona Seif, Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakel Karman, and Zainab al-Khawaja have been largely overshadowed by western mainstream media attention on body counts, beards, and bombs. They are mentioned solely in passing as something of interest, but often pushed into the background by media seeking the more sensational story of how Islam is “coming to get you.” They, however, are leaders among thousands of women who are part of the same struggle for political and economic equality that has so enflamed the region.
- Published on Thursday, 05 January 2012 00:00
Last week, Stephen Walt wrote a blog post criticizing Mathhew Kroenig's "Time to Attack Iran" article in this month’s edition of Foreign Affairs. Walt adeptly pokes more than a few holes in Kroenig's argument and shows that Kroenig's entire analytical approach is flawed.
That is, in making the case for going to war with Iran, Kroenig simultaneously provides the worst-case scenario when it comes to Iran's intentions and the price of US inaction, and best-case scenario when it comes to predicting how war with Iran would play out. Or as Walt puts it,
- Published on Wednesday, 04 January 2012 09:35
The West is mired in a financial crisis of its own making, a crisis that will take many years to escape and which offers only a bleak outlook. No one can fully predict when the economic crisis will end.
But a 2011 article titled Why the decline of the West is best for us - and them by Prof. R. Vaidya Nathan argues that the West is not only in financial and economic decline, it is also in cultural decline, even as emerging markets continue to rise and do well.
It seems true that the financial strength of the US and Europe has diminished in recent years with the advent of the financial crisis. And it does in fact seem that emerging nations have fared significantly better over the last couple of years, at least thus far. But let’s consider the tell-tale issue of foreign-direct investment (FDI) into emerging markets, which continues to play a big role in development of the countries.
- Published on Saturday, 31 December 2011 05:43
The “NexGen IT Boot Camp Master Class” took place in Cairo in June of 2011, and was a joint project of the U.S. Department of State’s Global Entrepreneurship Program (GEP), the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Egypt Competitiveness Project (ECP), the Government of Denmark, and the Egyptian Ministry of Communication and Information Technology.
The “Boot Camp” was a competition between Egyptian entrepreneurs, with one of the prizes being the opportunity to “gain critical business insight during a three-week-long internship at iContract (sic) headquarters” to take place in October of 2011. The founders of the mobile phone application Bey2ollak were the winners of this prize.
- Published on Tuesday, 27 December 2011 00:00
Last week, the Republican presidential hopefuls took part in the last debate before the 2012 Iowa caucuses. The Fox News-hosted event covered topics ranging from economic policy to Newt Gingrich's zany idea that Congress can subpoena "activist" judges.
The debate also featured a spirited discussion of America's foreign policy vis-a-vis Iran. For his part, Mitt Romney, who, let's face it, will almost certainly be the Republican nominee, quipped that Obama's foreign policy is "based on pretty please." Here, Romney was referencing the Obama administration's response to the downed US drone now allegedly in Iranian hands. Obama, in a short press conference, told reporters that “We've asked for it back. We'll see how the Iranians respond.”
- Published on Monday, 26 December 2011 00:00
An article in The Economist (print edition) on December 10th 2011 started as follows; “Russia’s elections are not intended to produce surprises, just as its streets are not meant to heave with protestors and its political leaders are not supposed to be publicly booed.”
The opening word of this sentence, ‘Russia’, could easily be interchanged with ‘Syria’ or ‘Egypt’ and the rest of the sentence would still be true. That is, until the advent of the Arab Spring.