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    Council Member Tc2642's Avatar
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    Default The Middle East (general catch all)


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    Default The Arab World

    Not the "next small war", but a good brief article on the ever-changing political environment in the Mid-East and the problems of perception management...

    The Economist, 19 Oct 06:

    Resistance to the West, and rejection of Israel, are the pillars of a rapidly strengthening alliance in the world's most volatile region.
    ...So entrenched now is the idea of an American-led assault on Muslims that virtually any new development is immediately enlisted as further evidence. The fact that terror attacks on Westerners, carried out in the name of Islam, may have raised some hackles goes without mention. So does the fact that countries such as Syria, under the cloak of resistance to the West, continue to promote agendas in Lebanon and elsewhere that have nothing to do with anti-Americanism, but with cementing their own regional influence.

    Even high-minded Western initiatives now arouse suspicion. The effort to deploy a tougher peacekeeping force in Darfur, where some 200,000 people have been killed and perhaps 1m displaced by a government-assisted slaughter of Darfuris, is widely seen as a subterfuge. The head of the Egyptian lawyers' union, a group which might be expected to defend the rights of the weak, recently declared that the true target of UN peacekeepers was Egypt: Sudan was simply “the next stop after Iraq on the road to the heart of Cairo”.

    The manner of the ceasefire in Lebanon aroused scepticism, too. To many, the insertion of a UN peacekeeping force was aimed at recouping by diplomacy what Israel had lost by fighting. A recent poll found that 84% of Lebanese believe the war was “a premeditated attempt by the United States and Israel to impose a new regional order in the Middle East”. As for the international siege of the Palestinians until they renounce terrorism and accept the right of Israel to exist, the popular perception is that the West, having claimed to support democracy, is now punishing Palestinians for having elected Hamas in a fair vote...

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default USIP Arab Case Studies

    Case studies recently posted at the United States Institute of Peace:


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    CEIP, 25 May 07: Fighting on Two Fronts: Secular Parties in the Arab World
    Secular parties in the Arab world—a broad range of political organizations that vary in their political orientation from liberal positions to vaguely socialist programs—are facing a crisis. Caught between regimes that allow little legal space for free political activity on one side and popular Islamist movements that are clearly in the ascendancy throughout the Arab world on the other, they are struggling for influence and relevance, and in some cases even for survival.

    Results of recent elections across the region have exposed the weaknesses of secular parties and thus created a new sense of urgency among their leaders and members. They no longer hide—from themselves or others—the depth of the crisis they are facing, but they have no ready solutions. They know that they have stagnant or even dwindling constituencies, whereas the Islamists have growing and increasingly well-organized ones. And most admit that, at present, they do not have a strategy on how to regain the ground they have lost in countries such as Morocco and Egypt or to take advantage of new opportunities in countries such as Yemen and Kuwait. There is often a plaintive tone to the arguments set forth by secular parties in the Arab world. They feel victimized by authoritarian governments that thwart their activities. They feel disadvantaged by the competition of Islamist movements that use mosques for proselytizing and charitable institutions to build constituencies. They feel, in other words, caught in the middle and fighting on two fronts...

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    WINEP, Sep 07: Pushback or Progress? Arab Regimes Respond to Democracy's Challenge
    ....Arab regimes usually neutralized the democratic challenge by using a multilayered response that included repression, redefinition, and co-optation. In some cases—which deserve more attention than they have received to date—governments even made some domestic changes. Clearly, every country managed the issue in different ways.

    What is most significant, however, is not that the democratization project was largely a failed effort, but rather that the way regimes responded to this challenge is defining how Arab governance will work in the coming decades. Assessing whether Arab regimes will become weaker and more unstable because of this reaction, as well as how such efforts have affected the relative chances of competing forces in the future, is extremely important.

    Although the balance differs in each country, the main responses include reassertion of a traditional agenda, delegitimization of opponents, repression and harassment, pretense or co-optation, and, finally, actual reforms. Both liberal and Islamist oppositions have adjusted in this process, and the strategies of both are examined in this paper....
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 01-30-2011 at 06:06 PM. Reason: Fixed link.

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    Arab Insights, Fall 2007: Missing in Action: The Democracy Agenda in the Middle East
    Over the last several decades, the United States government has claimed to have significantly changed its policies toward the Middle East. After decades of supporting repressive and undemocratic Middle Eastern regimes during the Cold War, President George W. Bush announced that the United States would begin a policy of democracy promotion in the Middle East. However, that democratic agenda has been unevenly applied and even reversed when democratic elections produce governments that did not favor U.S. policies. Supporting elections in Egypt and the Palestinian Territories until the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas were democratically favored, the U.S. government appears to show only conditional support for Middle East democracies. In its occupation of Iraq, the U.S. has made an even greater blunder: under the guise of “spreading freedom,” it has actually increased chaos and insecurity throughout the Middle East.

    Arab perceptions of America have been greatly harmed by the ways in which the U.S. government has attempted to spread democracy in Iraq and beyond. The negative perceptions of the United States fostered by Cold War policy could have been alleviated by peaceful promotion of democracy in the Middle East; instead, however, the forceful methods and double standards of democracy building have further damaged the U.S. image in the Arab world.....

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Default House of Commons--"Global Security: The Middle East"

    House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Global Security: The Middle East.
    Eighth Report of Session 2006–07
    Report, together with formal minutes, oral and written evidence
    Published on 13 August 2007 by authority of the House of Commons
    Hat Tip: Prof./Col. Richard Augustus Norton

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    Default 1946 - Islam: A Threat to World Stability

    The thread title is taken from an article in Intelligence Review - 14 February 1946 - and as with that article, it is a bit misleading in regard to the substantive content of the piece. Although certain of the terms used clearly date the writing, it is clear not a helluva lot has changed from the basic premise back in 46:
    The Present Estimate

    If the Moslem states were strong and stable, their behavior would be more predictable. They are, however, weak and torn by internal stresses; furthermore, their peoples are insufficiently educated to appraise propaganda or to understand the motives of those who promise a new Heaven and a new Earth.

    Because of the strategic position of the Moslem world and the restlessness of its peoples, the Moslem states constitute a potential threat to world peace. There cannot be permanent world stability, when one-seventh of the world's population exists under the economic and political conditions that are imposed upon the Moslems.

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    1946, about the time the great oil boom was getting ready to start and untold hundreds of billions of dollars have been generated in oil revenues in the subsequent 61 years since that Intel report. I don't see much improvement in the quality of life for the average muslim on the planet despite the staggering wealth. In looking at social evolution in relationship to economic growth we here see steady expansion since 1946. In that year, Black veterans in many places couldn't sit down to eat in a cafe with fellow White veterans. Many Blacks couldn't vote. There were many jobs women simply didn't even apply for, let alone do. Lobotomies were a method of treatment for the mentally ill. The handicapped were pretty much excluded from employment. Kids with special needs never had their abilities developed. People that seriously mistreated animals for the most part were never prosecuted. Drunk drivers were often laughed at. Smoking was considered glamorous. I see little correspondence in social evolution in the Islamic world despite the presence of wealth to enable said evolution.

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    Default 2008 poll of Arab World

    2008 Annual Arab Public Opinion Poll Survey of the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland (with Zogby International) Professor Shibley Telhami, Principal Investigator.

    Survey conducted March 2008 in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the UAE

    Some key findings:

    Iraq: Only 6% of Arabs polled believe that the American surge has worked. A plurality (35% ) do not believe reports that violence has in fact declined. Over 61% believe that if the US were to withdraw from Iraq, Iraqis will find a way to bridge their differences, and only 15% believe the civil war would expand. 81% of Arabs polled (outside Iraq) believe that the Iraqis are worse off than they were before the Iraq war.

    Iran: In contrast with the fears of many Arab governments, the Arab public does not appear to see Iran as a major threat. Most believe that Iran has the right to its nuclear program and do not support international pressure to force it to curtail its program. A plurality of Arabs (44%) believes that if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, the outcome would be more positive for the region than negative.

    The Arab Israeli conflict: There is an increase in the expressed importance of the Palestinian issue, with 86% of the public identifying it as being at least among the top three issues to them. A majority of Arabs continues to support the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, but an increasing majority is pessimistic about its prospects. If the prospects of a two state solution collapse, 50% believe it would lead to a state of intense conflict for years to come, while only 9% believe it would lead to a one-state solution, and only 7% believe that the Palestinians would eventually surrender.

    Palestinian Divisions: In the conflict between Hamas and Fatah, only 8% sympathize with Fatah most, while 18% sympathize with Hamas, and 38% sympathize with both to some extent. In so far as they see Palestinians as somewhat responsible for the state of affairs in Gaza, 15% blame Hamas’s government most, 23% blame the government appointed by President Mahmoud Abbas, and 39% blame both equally.

    The Lebanese Crisis: Only 9% express sympathy with the majority governing coalition in the current internal crisis in Lebanon, while 30% sympathize with the opposition led by Hizbollah, 24% sympathize with neither side, and 19% sympathize with both to some extent.

    Popular Leaders: Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, increased his popularity as the most admired leader in the Arab world (26%) There was also an increase in the popularity of President Bashar Assad of Syria. Also striking, however, was the emerging popularity of modernizing Sunni Arab leaders, particularly Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum of Dubai, when respondents identify the two leaders they admire most.

    Attitudes toward the US: 83% of the public has an unfavorable view of the US and 70% express no confidence in the US. Still, Arabs continue to rank the US among the top countries with freedom and democracy for their own people. 32% believe that, from the point of view of advancing peace in the Middle East, American policy will remain the same, no matter who wins the US elections. 18% believe that Barack Obama has the best chance of advancing peace, 13% believe Hillary Clinton has the best chance, while 4% identify John McCain as having the best chance for advancing peace.

    Global Outlook: France continues to be the most popular country, China continues to make a good showing, and views of Pakistan have declined.

    Media: Al-Jazeera continues to command the largest share of the Arabic news market, with 53% of Arabs polled identifying it as their first choice for news, with practically no change from last year. Egyptian Television and Al-Arabiya have made some gains over last year. To a plurality of respondents, the quality OF both Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera has improved over previous years, with only a small minority perceiving a decline.
    Full version here (.pdf) and here (.ppt).

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Default Vali Nasr: The Shia Revival

    Article by Vali Nasr summarizing his book in the latest MR, arguing that the American invasion of Iraq and the subsequent election of a Shia-dominated religious government has empowered Shiism throughout the Middle East.

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    FIIA, 1 Feb 08: Sectarian Identities or Geopolitics? The Regional Shia-Sunni Divide in the Middle East
    The purpose of this study is to enhance understanding of the new geopolitical situation currently unfolding in Middle Eastern politics that has emerged since the onset of the United States-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The paper focuses on the notions of the Sunni-Shia divide and the Rise of the Shia.

    In this study it is argued that the present dynamics of the regional-level Sunni-Shia divide are reinforced and catalysed by both geopolitical considerations and the national security interests of states. History and identity alone are not sufficient to explain the logics of the divide at the regional level. The study seeks to explain how and why geo- and power politics reinforce the present-day sectarian divide in the Middle East. It also suggests that the divide has the potential to become an era defining feature of the post-Saddam Middle East in the way pan-Arabism and pan-Islam have defined the past decades of the region.

    The study takes as its point of departure the division of Middle Eastern politics into two levels of analysis: the domestic level and the regional level. Different kinds of geopolitical readjustments and power balancing take place at the two levels, on which different fault lines can be identified. The analysis in this study is concentrated on the regional level, where the sectarian dynamic or rhetoric is not yet as apparent as at the domestic level (in some states), where sectarian struggles have brought two states, namely Iraq and Lebanon, almost to breaking point....
    Complete 62 page paper at the link.

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    Parameters, Spring '08: The Mythical Shia Crescent
    Sometime in late 2006, America awoke to the realization that, by deposing Saddam Hussein and toppling his Ba’athist regime, it had inadvertently removed a major obstacle to Iranian dominance in the Middle East. Assessments of the associated events reached hyperbolic levels. Dire warnings of a growing Iranian hegemony began to surface. Sunni leaders such as Jordan’s King Abdullah II began to warn the West of an emerging “Shia Crescent,” led by Iran and encompassing Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. The idea caught fire in American media and became the dominant narrative in discourse on Middle East policy.

    But how realistic is this amalgamation? Is a Shia Crescent really emerging that is capable of challenging more than a millennium of Sunni domination in the Islamic world? Will Iran lead it? On the surface, the idea appears plausible. Yet, a more in-depth examination of the prospective members of this geopolitical realignment raises numerous questions. This intellectual shorthand may be blinding the United States to opportunities that could yield tangible progress on several strategic fronts in the Middle East, while providing a new ally in the global war on terrorism.....
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 04-16-2008 at 08:08 PM.

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    ISN, 15 Oct 08: Conceptualizing the Sunni-Shi'i Encounter in the Modern Period

    This study examines the issues of religious authority and legitimacy in Islam. The author compares and contrasts traditions of jurisprudence and juridical authority in Sunni and Shia Islam. The author considers the major related points of discussion among Islamic religious scholars, especially on the issue of interpretation. The study also considers the Islamic Revolution in Iran, its impact on Islamic ideology and the revitalization of the study of Islam.

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    NPR, 20 Nov 08: Speaking of Faith: The Sunni-Shia Divide and the Future of Islam
    We seek fresh insight into the history and the human and religious dynamics of Islam's Sunni-Shia divide. Our guest says that it is not so different from dynamics in periods of Western Christian history. But he says that by bringing the majority Shia to power in Iraq, the U.S. has changed the religions dynamics of the Middle East......

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    Default Arab Insight

    First issue of a new pub from the World Security Institute: Arab Insight

    Unfortunately, individual articles are not linked, so you have to download the entire 112 page pdf:
    U.S. Foreign Policy and Islamists

    Is “Brotherhood” with America Possible?
    Khalil al-Anani, Egypt

    Alone at the Ballot Box: American Rejection of Islamists
    Atef Abou Saif, Palestinian Territory

    Trial and Error: Washington and Iraq’s Shiite
    Ibrahim al-Baydani, Iraq

    The Cold Embrace: U.S. & Islamists in North Africa
    Mohamed el-Ghali, Morocco

    Islam Outside the Mosque

    Islamic Roots of Good Governance
    Mazen Hashem, Syria

    Islam and Human Rights: Revisiting the Debate
    Jumana Shehata, Egypt

    A Response to Western Views of Islamist Movements
    Radwan Ziadh, Syria

    Separation of Islam & Political Islam: The Case of Morocco
    Hossam Tamam, Egypt

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    Council Member Nat Wilcox's Avatar
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    Default Sharia vs. Islamic Law vs. fiqh

    Thanks for posting this. I am getting into it.

    I'm having some difficulty understanding the difference between these three terms:

    Sharia

    Islamic Law

    Fiqh

    I have a feeling, based on different things I have read, that there is a great deal of confusion concerning these three terms. Different sources (both Arab and English) seem to use them in different ways.

    One of the three seems to correspond closely to what we in Anglophone countries would call "common law," but I have seen each of these three terms described in a way that resembles common law. One of the authors in Jedburgh's post describes fiqh as Islamic Jurisprudence which is then defined by the author as "an aggregation of individual opinions and juristic interpretations, which differ not only from one country to another, but which also change with the passage of time." That author then says that Islamic Law is based on fiqh. That sounds a lot like our idea of common law; but is that somehow a wrong metaphor?

    One of them almost certainly has more to do with abstract principles, like "constitutional" parts of law. Is this Sharia? Or is Sharia an older version of Islamic Law?

    Is there someone amongst us who has the sophistication to help me out on this?
    Last edited by Nat Wilcox; 07-30-2007 at 04:09 PM.

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    Council Member Nat Wilcox's Avatar
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    Default One answer to my question...

    I have an Arab friend who is an expert on Islamic banking and finance (which is intimately connected to Islamic legal thinking), so I asked him to help me out with the question I just asked. Here is his answer. Please note that it is one answer (he says "I have argued" which is a sure sign he means that his answer is his considered opinion and that there is some controversy here...fyi).

    Hello Nat:

    I have argued that practical Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) has in fact been common-law like. The reason for lack of transparency, however, is that the rhetoric of Islamic law sounds as if it is an immediate interpretation of a canon law (Shari`a). To add to confusion, most Arab countries have secular civil codes, adapted from French and Swiss codes, and that has shaped their understanding of Islamic law as well.

    Let me see if I can make the terms clear to you:

    * Shari`a is the Arabic equivalent of the Jewish Halakha, an all encompassing code for life. It includes things such as honor, etc., which far exceed "law" in the narrow sense.

    * Authors are often careless re the distinction between Shari`a and Fiqh. The formal legal definition of Shari`a refers to revealed, immutable Law (capital L), as present in the Canon consisting of the Qur'an and Prophet Tradition. Fiqh literally means "understanding", i.e. the application of the Law to a specific instance, which requires going through multiple stages: (1) understanding the issue, (2) legal framing of the question, (3) application of the Legal (capital L) principle to the specific event.

    * It is very common for people to usurp Divine authority, as it were, by using the term Shari`a for matters that are really issues of fiqh. Legal scholars distinguish between the two by saying that Shari`a is immutable, but that fiqh, exercised through the two channels of qada' (court rulings) and fatwa (scholarly opinion), varies by time, place and circumstance. When you call your preferred policy an application of Shari`a, it sounds more authoritative, and makes it more difficult for others to argue against your position.

    * People who use the term "Islamic law" often mean Shari`a, rather than fiqh. Unfortunately, Shari`a is consistent with many different interpretations, and there has not been a coherent codification of Islamic fiqh since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. That is why British courts twice dismissed provisions of applying Shari`a in contracts, since they concluded that different scholars will interpret Shari`a provisions differently for the cases before them, and "Islamic law" did not qualify as the law of a sovereign nation and therefore could not be applied based on the Rome convention.

    I like the writings of Wael Hallaq, but they are a bit involved.

    The book that best compares Islamic law to Anglo-American common law, as you requested, would be Lawrence Rosen's The Justice of Islam, Oxford, 2000.

    A good text for western audience is Bernard Weiss's The Spirit of Islamic Law, U. Georgia Press, 1998.

    I hope that this helps.
    I'm afraid that this more or less confirms what I thought from my own reading. Different writers use these terms in varying ways, so we're stuck with paying attention to context and not expecting too much consistency of usage across authors.

    Also, it sounds like we should be a little suspicious of claims that something is a matter of Shari`a, as my pal suggests that such claims are frequently little more than a rhetorical device.

  19. #19
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Nat Wilcox View Post
    I have an Arab friend who is an expert on Islamic banking and finance (which is intimately connected to Islamic legal thinking), so I asked him to help me out with the question I just asked. Here is his answer. Please note that it is one answer (he says "I have argued" which is a sure sign he means that his answer is his considered opinion and that there is some controversy here...fyi).

    I'm afraid that this more or less confirms what I thought from my own reading. Different writers use these terms in varying ways, so we're stuck with paying attention to context and not expecting too much consistency of usage across authors.

    Also, it sounds like we should be a little suspicious of claims that something is a matter of Shari`a, as my pal suggests that such claims are frequently little more than a rhetorical device.

    Nat

    The differences in what many wrongly characterize as a rigid religion are what have driven the creation and the conflict between the various and many schools of Islamic thought. There is no simple answer for the question you posed to your friend or us here. It was a good question, one impossible to answer terms or any fashion combining both brevity and accuracy.

    Best

    Tom

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    Default The transformation of the Arab World

    The Arab Spring makes for headline, not understanding and the linked article provides a review. We have a number of threads on the theme in the Middle East forum, each set in a national context, but none for a general discussion.

    I've heard the author Olivier Roy speak @ Oxford University and was impressed, so thanks to Twitter a pointer to this long academic article:http://www.journalofdemocracy.org/si...s/Roy-23-3.pdf

    It opens with:
    The “Arab Spring” at first had nothing about it that was specifically “Arab” or “Muslim.” The demonstrators were calling for dignity, elections, democracy, good governance, and human rights. Unlike any Arab revolutionary movements of the past sixty years, they were concerned with individual citizenship and not with some holistic entity such as “the people,” the Muslim umma, or the Arab nation. The demonstrators referred to no Middle Eastern geopolitical conflicts, burned no U.S. or Israeli flags, offered no chants in favor of the main (that is to say, Islamist) opposition parties, and expressed no wish for the establishment of an Islamic state or the implementation of shari‘a
    He is rather optimistic and some would disagree that AQ in Iraq has been defeated. On AQ:
    Al-Qaeda, in short, is yesterday’s news, part and parcel of the old anti-imperialist political culture that the Arab Middle East is now leaving behind.
    Lots of examples are given of how the 'Arab Spring' has twisted to adjust to local conditions and popular, sometimes democratic demands upon Islamism.

    He ends with:
    Instead of the secularization of society, we might do better to speak of the “autonomization” of politics from religion and of religion from politics, due to the diversification of the religious field and the inability to reconstruct religion as a political ideology. When religion is everywhere, it is nowhere. That was the underlying meaning that I took away from what Egyptian parliament speaker and Muslim Brother Saad al-Katatni said to a Salafist deputy who wanted to perform the Muslim prayer call while the house was in session: “We are all Muslims; if you want to pray there is a mosque in parliament, but parliament is not a mosque.”

    The paradox of re-Islamization is that it leads to political secularization and opens the door to debate about what Islam means. This could lead to the reopening of theological debate, but that would be a consequence and not a cause of the democratization of Muslim societies.
    davidbfpo

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