“How did renewed autocracy in Egypt and civil war in Syria impact liberals differently? What lessons can be learned about the nature of liberalism in the greater Arab context from this comparative survey? This chapter seeks to answer these questions, first by following the reaction of liberals to the so-called Arab Spring, comparing a handful of intellectuals and academics in Egypt as well as Syria. The chapter goes on to focus on two of the most prominent liberals in each context, namely Gaber Asfour and Burhan Ghalioun. In each case, the role played by the armed forces vis-à-vis the public was critical to their rapid accession to power, and equally rapid fall….”
This is my interview with professor, former Egyptian parliamentarian and liberal intellectual Amr Hamzawy, hosted by the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston and the Other Side program on The Kube.
The Old Souk in 2007 (top) and 2013 (bottom) in Aleppo, Syria. (Guardian.com)
Religious Violence in the Middle East: Military Intervention, Salafi-Jihadism and the Dream of a Caliphate
By Emran El-Badawi, University of Houston, Houston, USA
The so-called “Islamic State” (IS, ISIS, ISIL), by virtue of its name, forcibly imposed upon the world a religious as well as political agenda. Notorious for its gruesome execution videos, and sophisticated use of media propaganda IS killed over 9 thousand civilians in 2014 alone, the majority of which were Muslims. Yet IS asserts itself as the sole authentic carrier of Islam—an otherwise diverse religious body of 1.6 billion people, boasting fourteen hundred years of history. Its political agenda is realized with every city, province and territory it conquers from the all but collapsed governments of Iraq and Syria. Its signature claim and most salient undertaking has been the return of the Islamic Caliphate, fusing classical Islamic tradition with modern political warfare. However, as a state it is unrecognized by all its neighbors in the Middle East; and as an embodiment of Islam, it has been completely rejected by Islamic clergy and the public faithful.
One should, therefore, ask the question, from where does IS obtain its legitimacy for its approximately 30 thousand plus fighters? How Islamic is the so-called “Islamic State?” Why does IS justify barbaric violence against Sunnis, Shi‘ites, Christians and Yazidis is in the name of Islam? The fact that such minorities and still other more ancient as well as obscure groups have called greater Iraq and Syria home for two millennia is a living testament to the inherent tolerance and pluralism of traditional forms of Islam. So what are the “root causes” for the sprouting of IS’s poisonous ideology and how can we eliminate them? The answers to such questions are complex and hotly debated, among academics and policymakers alike. In order for us to get a complete understanding of IS we first need to examine the social, political and economic struggles that lead to the rise and menacing grip of violent religious fundamentalism in the name of Islam. This examination will take us through the Wahabi ideology of oil rich Arab gulf states, to the Salafi school which rose in the political and socio-economic turmoil of Egypt and greater Syria, and the spread of Salafi-Jihadism as a direct result of US military intervention.
In my interview with Fox on July 23, 2014 I suggest that a successful short term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas means lifting the blockade on Gaza. I also think that the only decisive end to the violence and greater Israeli-Arab conflict is an equitable, democratic one state solution.
Deux grands hommes sont morts sur le continent africain pendant ce mois. Ils étaient Nelson Mandela – l’homme politique, combattant de la liberté et père de la nation sud-africaine – et Ahmed Fouad Negm – le poète révolutionnaire du peuple égyptien. Cette chanson de Médine est un hommage à leur courage, leur sacrifice et leur inspiration.
L’honnêteté, la sincérité, la simplicité, l’humilité, la générosité, l’absence de vanité, la capacité à servir les autres – qualités à la portée de toutes les âmes- sont les véritables fondations de notre vie spirituelle — Mandela
Tu peux élever tes palais sur nos champs avec notre labeur et le travail de nos mains, tu peux installer tes tripots près des usines et des prisons à la place des jardins, tu peux lâcher tes chiens dans les rues et refermer sur nous tes prisons, tu peux nous voler notre sommeil nous avons dormi trop longtemps, tu peux nous accabler de douleurs nous avons été au bout de la souffrance. A présent nous savons qui cause nos blessures, nous nous sommes reconnus et nous sommes rassemblés, ouvriers, paysans et étudiants ; notre heure a sonné et nous nous sommes engagés sur un chemin sans retour. La victoire est à la portée de nos mains, la victoire point à l’horizon de nos yeux — Negm