CSID: Eighth Annual Conference

CSID: Eighth Annual Conference

Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy

Eighth Annual Conference

The Rights of Women in Islam and Muslim Societies

Friday, April 27, 2007

Jack Morton Auditorium – George Washington University
805 21st Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20052

Conference Report

A detailed conference report and all the conference papers are now available ONLINE at:



CSID Conference Spotlights Muslim Women’s Rights

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2007, pages 47-48


THE CENTER for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) held its eighth annual conference, on “The Rights of Women in Islam and Muslim Societies,” at George Washington University in Washington, DC on April 27. Panelists came from as far away as Afghanistan to discuss one of the most pressing and controversial issues facing Muslim women today: their rights in Islam.

Divided into four sessions, the conference considered topics ranging from highly complex issues as “The Development of Islamic Feminism” to more specific regional-oriented issues as “Spiritual Capital of Politically Engaged Women in Kuwait” and “The Rights of Women in Afghanistan.”

Belquis Ahmadi, senior human rights adviser for the USAID Afghanistan Rule of Law Project, discussed the challenges facing Muslim Afghani women today, and the steps being taken to promote women’s rights. Ahmadi began her remarks by noting that despite the fall of the Taliban, “women’s problems from traditions and customs are still substantial,” in part because of “narrow and oppressive interpretations of shariah law.” In Afghanistan, she explained, shariah, or Islamic law, is used by the mullahs (Islamic clergy) as a way to prohibit women from actively engaging, in Afghani society, whether politically, socially or economically. Ahmadi described her role in the Afghanistan Rule of Law Project—along with that of 45 other board members, ranging from moderates to conservatives—as to “reform women’s rights through progressive interpretations of shariah law.”

The project has developed a questionnaire that targets three pressing issues in Afghani society today: marriage and the appropriate age for women to marry (some conservatives feel that 9 years old is suitable); a woman’s right to an education; and, finally, a woman’s right to participate in society. Ahmadi said she believes that “engaging those who are the source of the problem in Afghanistan” is imperative to affect change, and that therefore men must play “an active role by participating in the promotion of women’s rights.”

During the question-and-answer session, a member of the audience asked if the West, especially the U.S., has either hampered or facilitated any type of progress for women today in Afghanistan. Ahmadi, who throughout the panel session had refrained from being political, noted diplomatically that “women’s rights are human rights,” and that her organization is presently working with women “who are outside activists” who have the experience and resources to help “spread the knowledge and create regional strength” for Afghanistan.

Ahmadi concluded her presentation by emphasizing a common theme that, by the end of the day, proved to represent a consensus: that “change and development cannot be imposed.” In the case of Afghanis, and all women without basic human rights, Ahmadi stated, “we want to bring change to our lives.”

Information on this topic or any others covered during the conference is available at www.csidonline.org



By Mohamed Elshinnawi
Washington, DC
11 June 2007


Elshinnawi report – Download 1.35MB (mp3) audio clip

One of the Bush Administration”s stated priorities in the Middle East has been to promote the creation of stable, functioning democracies. President Bush has said he believes that the spread of democracy will lead to a more peaceful and prosperous world.

It was nearly four years ago that President Bush announced in a speech to the non-partisan National Endowment for Democracy, that the U.S. would no longer support undemocratic regimes as the price for stability in the oil-rich Middle East. His message sent political shock waves across the region. It fueled the hopes of many that the Middle East might at last witness a democratic transformation.

But at a recent forum convened by the same National Endowment for Democracy, a panel of experts warned that the U.S. drive for democracy in the Middle East is losing, not gaining ground.

Amr Hamzawy, blamed this backsliding on the difficult situation in Iraq and the strengthening of Islamist parties there, as well as the surprising victories of Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections, and the Muslim Brotherhood”s win in the Egyptian elections that followed.

But Hamzawy said continued U.S. support of autocratic Arab regimes is also working against America”s interests in the region. “It represents a threat to stability. Assuming that autocratic regimes will remain forever stable is wrong,” he says. “In fact that was the very logic, which the administration developed after September 11th — that you need greater freedoms to avoid terrorism and to insure stability in a constructive way. “

Hamzawy believes the U.S must use more of its political leverage to promote democratic change in the Middle East, even if that change leads to the election of regimes less friendly to the West. “Democracy promotion has always been one priority among a set of different priorities, sometimes contradictory priorities,” he said. “What was missing and remains missing is a hierarchy of priorities and tradeoffs.”

For example, Hamzawy said there is a trade off between promoting democracy and maintaining stability. “If you open up, you end up having at least a phase of instability.” Another tradeoff, he said, “is what to do with regard to U.S strategic interests if you end up having regimes which are not as friendly to U.S interests in the region as the current regimes.”

Some experts contend that the U.S push for democracy in the Middle East has been hurt by the fact that a militarily-occupied and strife-torn Iraq presents a very discouraging image of Arab democratization. But Radwan Masmoudi, the founder and President of the Washington-based Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, told the policy forum that Iraq merely demonstrates that the U.S. needs to apply a different kind of external pressure on the region”s regimes to move democratization forward.

“External pressure does work, it is an essential component for democracy and the proof is that in 2004 and 2005 it did work,” Masmoudi said. “It worked across the Arab world, across the Muslim world; there was progress.”

He admitted that progress was not uniform, and that each country is different but said, “even in Tunisia, which had a drought of democracy and liberty for 15 years, for the first time in 2004 and 2005 people were released from jail. There was talk about democracy; there was a lot of political opening.”

Masmoudi noted that autocratic regimes in the Middle East frequently warn that if democracy calls, Islamists will answer. He emphasized that in this part of the world, any democracy would have an Islamic flavor, and that the U.S should be prepared to engage with moderate Islamists to encourage them to honor the rules of democratic governance.

Shadi Hamid, a founding board member of the Project on Middle East Democracy, described some basic guidelines for how the U.S. can best promote democracy in the region. “The first thing is to state very clearly that we support the right of all groups — whether Islamists or secular — to participate in a free situation, and we accept the outcome even if Islamists come to power as long as it is through a democratic process,” Hamid said. He also told the policy forum that the U.S. should “engage with Islamist groups in a low-level dialogue, and we can increase that after there is a development of trust between the two parties. There are moderates within these Islamist parties who I think we have to empower and strengthen.”

Hamid stressed, however, that Islamists must also do more to reach out to western policy makers. They must clarify their positions on contentious issues of deep concern to U.S policy makers, such as whether they would support the Middle East peace process if they were to come to power.

Hamid acknowledged that the U.S. would rather encourage liberal groups than try to convert hard-line Islamists in the Middle East. So it is essential, he said, that the U.S. continue pressing Arab regimes to liberalize their political systems to allow freer news media and more room for civil society activism. Shadi Hamid said this liberalization would enable the idea of a pluralistic democracy to take hold at the grassroots level, where it can more easily win a sympathetic audience and, eventually, spread throughout the Arab world.



Governments Appear Quicker to Challenge U.S. Rebukes

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 10, 2007; A19

President Bush waxed eloquent about democracy in Prague”s majestic Czernin Palace last week, pledging to the assembled dissidents from 17 countries that the United States “will never excuse your oppressors” and, “We will always stand for your freedom.” It was the centerpiece speech of his European tour.

But the scorecard for the Bush administration, four years after it began promoting democracy as the key to the United States” long-term security, shows it striking out, according to analysts and activists who originally endorsed the president”s efforts. Democracy regression is visible from Hugo Chavez”s Venezuela, a country that was the first democracy in Latin America, to Vladimir Putin”s Russia, where the Soviet demise triggered political changes worldwide 15 years ago.

The Middle East, which first spurred the Bush democracy push, is witnessing the biggest setbacks. Lebanon, whose “Cedar Revolution” was heralded by the White House in 2005 as a model for orderly political change in the region, is the latest flash point. In 2007, the United States is sending planeloads of ammunition and war materiel to Beirut to prop up the troops of a beleaguered government.

The audience willing to listen has also dwindled. Among the participants at Prague”s International Conference on Democracy and Security were Reza Pahlavi, a son of Iran”s autocratic shah who was listed as an “opposition leader to the clerical regime of Iran,” and Farid Ghadry, often referred to as Syria”s Ahmed Chalabi. Many other invitees, including Richard N. Perle, were leading U.S. neoconservatives and Iraq war advocates.

“It was a very good speech, in fact, but Bush now lacks credibility,” said Amr Hamzawy of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Governments and opposition movements alike, no one is listening — governments because they were very quick to understand U.S. policy shifts devaluing democracy promotion, and opposition movements because the U.S. has done very little to act on its promises.”

The reaction in Cairo to Bush”s speech was telling. Bush barely nudged Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, saying the three took “brave stands” against extremists and “some steps” to expand liberty, “yet they have a great distance still to travel.”

Nevertheless, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit lashed out at Bush for “unacceptable interference” and expressed “astonishment and upset” over his rebuke. The parliament”s foreign relations committee also shot back, saying in a statement that Bush should have talked about Guantanamo Bay prisoners, “deprived of the simplest legal defense guaranteed by all human rights conventions.”

Egypt”s dissidents were upset, too. “I feel disappointed and betrayed by George Bush,” former political prisoner Saad Eddin Ibrahim told journalists in Prague. “He said that he is promoting democracy, but he has been manipulated by President Hosni Mubarak, who managed to frighten him with the threat of the Islamists.”

In a meeting with Bush after the speech, Ibrahim implored the president to tie hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid to Mubarak”s reforms and release of political prisoners, notably former presidential candidate Ayman Nour, Ibrahim said in an interview.

The momentum generated by Bush”s initial democracy push between 2003 and 2005 has fizzled in part because of the outcome of its own efforts — elections Washington urged in Egypt, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Qatar, Bahrain and Yemen, activists and analysts said.

The White House pushed harder than either Israel or the Palestinians for new Palestinian Authority elections last year, only to cut off aid and contact once the militant organization Hamas won, said Robert Malley, director of the International Crisis Group”s Middle East program. “The outcome has not been to disavow democracy,” he said, “but to undermine the democratically elected government.”

Without the aid, seven out of 10 Palestinian households now live in poverty, an increase of 26 percent over the past year, the International Labor Organization, a U.N. agency, reported last month.

Bush”s policy now appears “inconsistent, contradictory and self-serving,” said Rami Khouri, director of the American University of Beirut”s Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs.

In Iraq, Khouri said, the country”s vote in January 2005 produced the “much-ballyhooed purple ink-stained finger” but cannot be equated with credible democratic transformation.

“What we thought would provide democratic choices ended up as an expression of demographic preferences” that deepened the sectarian and ethnic divide, Malley added.

In his speech, Bush said the State Department is directing U.S. ambassadors in every “un-free” country to “seek out and meet” democracy and human rights activists. “People living in tyranny need to know they are not forgotten,” the president said.

But activists are increasingly wary of the Bush initiative and his representatives, they said. “At the beginning, American rhetoric on democracy was stirring and powerful,” Khouri said. “But that moment has been lost, and it will be very hard to regain.”



by Dylan Bowman on Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Qatar will create a centre to promote democracy across the Arab world, the wife of the state”s emir announced yesterday.

“The Arab Centre for Democracy will encourage the Arab region to adopt democratic culture,” Sheikha Mouza bint Nasser al Misnad told a democracy forum in Doha, without going into further detail.

Qatar has reportedly made an initial donation of $10 million towards the centre, which some have claimed will make it the biggest civil organisation in the Arab world in support of democracy.

The move would be a big step towards political reform for Qatar, which is run under an absolute monarchy whereby the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, is both head of state and head of government.

Qatar, which holds local elections in its ten municipalities, is seen to be moving towards a constitutional monarchy like that of Kuwait.

However, the state does not allow political parties, while expatriates – who make up approximately 75% of the population – are excluded from voting.

Qatar has not yet held national elections, but officials have said the state’s first parliamentary elections could happen this year.

The six GCC states, most of which operate under a form of constitutional monarchy or absolute monarchy, have shown at least some sign of greater political inclusion within their societies.

At the end of last year the UAE held its first elections, where half of the emirates’ Federal National Council (FNC) members were voted into office.

Only 7,000 men and women, around 1% of the UAE’s Emirati citizens, were allowed to vote, but the government has been keen to stress that this is just the beginning of a road towards a wider democratic process.



by SOPnewswire

The United States applauds the creation of the Arab Foundation for Democracy, established in Doha, Qatar, on May 29, 2007 by Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned, Consort of the Emir. With a focus and a mandate on promoting democracy and equal opportunity throughout the Middle East and North Africa, this Foundation responds to an important demand for democratic reform within the Arab world.

The United States strongly supports reformers who are working to build a more democratic and prosperous region. The establishment of the Foundation exemplifies the expanding commitment to democracy in the Middle East and North Africa.



Majority in Arab world favor democracy: Poll

Web posted at: 5/28/2007 2:47:9
Source ::: The Peninsula

DOHA • A vast majority of people in the Arab and Islamic world favour democracy to dictatorial rule, a survey conducted by the world-renowned pollster, Gallop, in 10 Arab and Muslim countries show.

“The Gallop poll has found that between 85 and 95 per cent of the people in the Arab and Muslim states want democracy,” said Radwan Masmoudi, head of the Washington-based Centre for the Study of Islam and Democracy.

The Gallop poll was conducted last year and its findings were made public about six months ago, he said.

Masmoudi was addressing the 2nd Forum on Democracy and Political Reform in the Arab World which was opened at the Doha Sheraton here yesterday. The three-day forum ends tomorrow.

A vast majority of the people surveyed said that they thought democracy was the best form of political system. The survey was conducted in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Iran, Turkey and Indonesia, among other countries, according to Masmoudi.

A vast majority of the people interviewed during the poll said that they preferred Islamic Shariah to be the main source of the legal system in their respective countries. They, however, said that they did not favor religious leaders to play any role in framing the laws and the constitution.

The Gallop poll amply demonstrates that people in the Arab and Islamic world do not see any contradiction between Islam and democracy, Masmoudi noted.

The forum was also addressed by a former prime minister of Egypt, Dr Aziz Sidqi, among others. Sidqi said that lack of leadership in the Arab world also kept the countries industrially and economically backward.

Acknowledged as the father of industrial development in his home country, Sidqi said Sudan and Libya were good examples of how an Arab country can develop economically.

Sudan with its vast arable land is now in a position to export sugar due to huge and surplus production of sugarcane and Libya is leading the Arab and Islamic world in the export of livestock.

“Let”s begin with business and investment. Let”s concentrate on this at least,” he exhorted the Arab and Islamic world. Talking of Qatar, he said it is a small country but it had dominated the space by launching Al Jazeera TV channel.

Sidqi said that the Arab countries needed to unite in order to progress on the economic, political and social fronts. They should learn a lesson from the European Union (EU) and try and forge a unity of that kind and quality, he said.


Governments urged to respect human rights

Published: Wednesday, 30 May, 2007, 08:26 AM Doha Time

THE Second Forum on Democracy and Political Reforms in the Arab World has called on governments for justice and equality among citizens and respect for human rights.

The call came in the final declaration of the three-day conference, which ended at Doha Sheraton yesterday.

The final declaration was read out by Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah, chairman of the National Human rights Commission of Qatar.

The conference, which was attended by many leading figures from the Arab world, urged strengthening the foundations of democracy and to expand public participation in the political field.

The 13-point declaration stressed the need to enhance the role of civil societies in achieving sustainable development, making available a legal framework that was suitable for institutions to contribute to developing and social structures and institutions.

The conference emphasised the need to establish a legal framework to fight one-man rule and an independent judiciary system.

It acknowledged the right of civil organisations to monitor elections. It said special care must be given to children and youth, they being the foundation of communities, and to support the role of the woman and boost her position.

It appreciated her role in promoting a comprehensive development through an effective engagement in political, economic and cultural fields.

The conference asserted that democracy did not contradict religious tenets. It called for upholding the values of tolerance, moderation and to enhance the culture of dialogue and to give up hatred to spread the spirit of solidarity and co-existence among peoples and nations.

It called on Arab governments to follow a balance in distributing their resources among all states, regions, provinces and populations, being a major condition to enjoy economic and social rights and equality of opportunities.

The meeting called for dealing with globalisation in an attentive way to empower the civil society to promote the culture of democracy and human rights.

It sought local and regional debates and dialogues to exchange views and expertise relating to issues of democracy, respect human rights, combating corruption and seeking political reforms.

It urged developing legislation for the media matching international standards, and to eliminate restrictions that impede freedom of owning, managing and publishing newspapers, and curtailing the freedom of expression.

The declaration also called for adopting and acknowledging mechanisms of transparency and accountability, in an effort to fight corruption.

The closing session, attended by a number of dignitaries, was moderated by Prof Mohamed Abid al-Jabri of Morocco.


NGOs detail threats to civil society at Casablanca Meeting


Regimes across the Middle East spout the rhetoric of democracy and reform while stifling civil society, using the pretext of anti-terrorism to curtail independent political activity. This was the message emerging from contributions by democratic and civil society activists – including several NED grantees – to a recent discussion in Casablanca, Morocco.

The meeting was organized by the World Movement for Democracy to get comments from activists on a draft report co-authored by the WMD secretariat and the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law. The report identifies five categories of legal barriers – to entry, operational activity, speech and advocacy, international contact and resources – which constrain the activity of non-governmental organizations.

The report, Defending Civil Society, will address the disturbing increase and intensification of various regimes” efforts to frustrate the spread of democracy by impeding democracy assistance efforts internationally and constraining civil society domestically. It is envisaged that the report will be endorsed by an Eminent Persons Group which so far comprises His Holiness the Dalai Lama, former Czech President Vaclav Havel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, Egyptian dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim and former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Outlining the international context to the regional constraints, ICNL president Doug Rutzen noted the criminalization of dissent and extra-legal harassment of NGOs in many parts of the world. He applauded the participation of civil society in elaborating international principles governing state-civil society relations, including the right to associate and to receive international assistance, noting that such involvement would give such norms greater legitimacy than if they were simply promulgated from above.

While there is much variation between relatively liberal states like Morocco and repressive regimes like the Saudi monarchy, the political space for NGOs is shrinking across the region. As Arab NGOs have become more assertive, regimes have mastered the art of developing supposedly administrative but effectively punitive obstacles to NGOs, exploiting legal and regulatory frameworks to undermine civil society.

In the face of a harsh new State Security Act, the absence of an independent judiciary and “excessive force” against civil society groups, Bahrain”s NGOs are exercising “self-censorship”, said one leading Gulf activist. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights was closed in 2004, effectively exiled and its members beaten upon their return. The government is suppressing civil society groups while promoting the proliferation of government-organized NGOs or GONGOs purportedly working on democracy and human rights.

The region”s regimes have mastered the art of forming GONGOs, creating ersatz associations in order to stifle genuine ones, said a Maghreb academic. Governments deploy a perverted form of democratic discourse to enact decisions that have nothing to do with rule of law.

Saudi Arabia, arguably the region”s most repressive state, imposes severe barriers to entry. Without laws permitting independent associations, NGOs only exist on condition of royal patronage, stunting civil society. When Crown Prince Abdullah called for “self-reform and the promotion of political participation” in January 2003, some 104 Saudi citizens responded by presenting him with a document entitled “Vision for the Present and the Future of the Homeland”. The charter proposed gradual but far-reaching reforms including freedom of expression, association, and assembly.

But reformers have been frustrated by the glacial pace of change. A draft NGO law has been discussed in the Consultative Council (or Shura council) but in the absence of any system for registration, the security services enjoy excessive and arbitrary powers, a Saudi activist said. Politically, he argued, the scope for NGO operations is limited, with state interference and controls on funding. Culturally, there is little public awareness of the importance of civil society and most NGOs are introspective. Seminars and discussions take place in peoples” homes and there is little networking with other groups.

In Morocco, NGOs can obtain information on legal conditions and there is a good degree of openness, said a Moroccan activist. But democracy NGOs like the Association of Democratic Women of Morocco face more subtle and surreptitious challenges, as the government tries to tame NGOs through a process of incorporation and by, for example, requiring NGOs to perform social functions that should be the responsibility of government.

The political thrust and relevance of Tunisia”s civil society has been undermined by the disengagement of the country”s youth, the decline of trade union activity and the elitist approach of established NGOs, argued a Tunisian activist. The regime has consistently used anti-terrorism as a pretext for harassing democratic forces and weakening civil society.

The Tunisian League for Human Rights is a case study of how the authorities disable NGOs through harassment, interference in internal affairs, accusations of having a foreign agenda and impeding foreign funding. An amendment to the Association Law in 1998 was adopted with the sole purpose of targeting the league which was later denied a European Commission grant (as was the Tunisian Women”s Association for Research and Development) and forced to operate without formal registration which prohibits it from resorting to international funding sources.

Unions are traditionally Tunisia”s second best organized groups after the army, said a North African union activist. But they lack commitment and capacity, an issue being addressed by groups like the NED-affiliated Solidarity Center. NGOs have a negative image in the region, driven in part by the perception that some are corrupted by money and respond to donors” agendas with the result that project-driven funds eclipse democrats” grass-roots initiatives.

As in Morocco, NGOs in Yemen operate within a vibrant civil society but face the challenge of resisting state encroachment on NGOs” autonomy. There are over 3,000 associations but only 300 or so work on democracy and human rights and only half of them are actually effective, noted a Yemeni activist. Local and foreign human rights organizations operate without major impediment but NGOs must renew their license to operate each year, an exhausting effort which saps scarce resources.

In Iraq, civil society organizations suffer from a lack of credibility, said a Kurdish NGO representative. In the three years since the invasion, thousands of NGOs have emerged, but many are family-based and of dubious worth and legitimacy. The Iraqi Constitution requires that the state reinforce the role of civil society but there is no legal framework since the relevant article has not been implemented.

It would be misleading to claim the backlash against democracy was particularly intense in the region since there was such a democratic deficit in the first place. Regimes are certainly curtailing the limited liberties and political space that activists eked out in recent years. But democracy is always a labor of Sisyphus and Arab democrats” own efforts to protect and expand civil society will doubtless continue.


Pipes v. Gershman

Joshua Muravchik – 6.6.2007 – 2:53PM
My idea of uncomfortable is having one of my heroes attack another. That is how I felt when I read Daniel Pipes’s charge that Carl Gershman was among “government figures [who] wrong-headedly insist on consorting with the enemy.” Pipes is a prolific Middle East expert and indefatigable opponent of jihadism (as well as a longtime contributor to COMMENTARY) from whose writings I have profited greatly. Gershman is the president of the National Endowment for Democracy (and another valued contributor).

Pipes’s case against Gershman is that the NED supports the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) and that Gershman himself spoke at its 2004 annual conference.

For all my admiration of Pipes, I think his attack on Gershman is off-base. For starters, Gershman is not a “government figure.” The NED is funded by Congress, but it is privately incorporated, and Gershman is chosen by its board of mostly private citizens, not by any branch of the government. This is not a nit, because the NED’s effectiveness depends on this modest margin of separation from the government.

More importantly, I don’t buy Pipes’s take on the CSID or his criticism of Gershman for involvement with it. I myself am a member of CSID and spoke at its 2006 conference. In addition to speaking, I attended the entire weekend. I found it an interesting mix. It included Islamists or Islamist-sympathizers who called themselves democrats. It also included liberals whose democratic credentials were not in question.

Its keynote speaker was Laith Kubha of Gershman’s NED (the same man who was for a time spokesman for the Iraqi government). His speech was remarkable. Its main theme? How Iraqis, instead of focusing on what America did wrong in Iraq, should confront what they themselves did wrong. It was certainly not what one would expect to hear at a jihadist gathering, and it went over well. I share Pipes’s suspicion of Islamists who profess democracy. But I don’t expect genuine Muslim democrats to blackball Islamists who call themselves democrats. I expect them to argue with them. Which is exactly what was going on at the CSID conference. (Not to mention that the CSID puts the likes of me on its programs.)

Pipes has argued cogently that the solution to extremist Islam is moderate Islam. (I don’t like the term “moderate Islam,” but that is for another occasion.) The CSID looked to me precisely like an arena in which “moderates” were confronting Islamists. What sense does it make to anathematize that as “consorting with the enemy?”


Editor’s Note: CSID will respond to these baseless accusations and defamation in our next HTML Bulletin.

Is The American Enterprise Institute – AEI – Going Islamist?

Resident scholars collaborate with terror linked CSID

By Beila Rabinowitz and William Mayer

June 19, 2007 – San Francisco, CA – PipeLineNews.org – The American Enterprise Institute’s mission statement is “to defend the principles and improve the institutions of American freedom and democratic capitalism…foreign policies, political accountability, and open debate.”

So why are AEI resident scholars Joshua Muravchik and Christina Hoff Sommers working with the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy [CSID] a Saudi-funded think tank which has the goal of spreading Wahabbist totalitarianism and implementing Shari’a by exploiting the democratic process?

According to the CSID’s website:

“The Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID) is a non-profit organization, based in Washington DC, dedicated to studying Islamic and democratic political thought and merging them into a modern Islamic democratic discourse…we work to produce scholarship that clarifies to what extent such Western principles are halal (permissable) from an Islamic standpoint (i.e., based on the Quran, the sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhamad (saw), and other essential components of the Islamic tradition) in the hope that this will spread knowledge in the Muslim community and better equip it to deal with today”s challenges…” [source http://www.islam-democracy.org/about.asp]

The CSID is one arm of the International Institute for Islamic Thought [IIIT] an Islamist enterprise.

According to Dr. Daniel Pipes:

“Most of CSID”s Muslim personnel are radicals. I brought one such person in particular, Kamran Bokhari, to the attention of USIP”s leadership. Mr. Bokhari is a fellow at CSID; as such, he is someone CSID”s board of directors deems an expert “with high integrity and a good reputation.” As a fellow, Mr. Bokhari may participate in the election of CSID”s board of directors. He is, in short, integral to the CSID.

Mr. Bokhari also happens to have served for years as the North American spokesman for Al-Muhajiroun, perhaps the most extreme Islamist group operating in the West. For example, it celebrated the first anniversary of 9/11 with a conference titled,” Towering Day in History.” [source http://www.danielpipes.org/article/1659]

Other terror tied CSID members include board member Taher Jaber al-Alwani [named in a indictment as part of Operation Greenquest, the Treasury Department’s investigation into terror funding mechanisms]. Additionally, CSID’s founding member and former director Louay Safi was head of research at the IIIT when it was raided by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Safi is now the executive director of the Islamic Leadership Development Center of the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA] which was recently named as an unindicted co-conspirator by the U.S. government [along with the North American Islamic Trust [NAIT] CSID’s partnering organization] in the Holy Land Foundation Hamas funding prosecution.

Jamal Barzinji aka Barazanji was a CSID board member in 2003 and was an officer in the Safa network targeted by Operation Greenquest. In a bizarre twist, jailed soon to be deported Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader, professor Sami Al Arian refused to testify against the IIIT on the grounds his life would be endangered.

Former CSID webmaster Jani Syed aka Jani Hussain did his graduate work with Sami Al Arian complaining that his studies were “greatly interrupted” by his mentor’s arrest.

By collaborating with Islamist individuals and organizations AEI scholars Muravchik and Sommers are granting them legitimacy and allowing them to morally equate AEI’s classical liberalism with cultural jihad.

On April 27th Sommers was a scheduled speaker at the CSID’s eighth annual conference in the presence of people such as Alejandro J. Beutel from the Minaret of Freedom Institute, whose director, Imad Ad-Dean Ahmad spoke at a 2001 terror summit in Beirut where he was photographed with Abdulrahman Alamoudi, the former head of the American Muslim Council [AMC] who was jailed for 23 years of terrorism charges. Ad Dean Ahmad was a speaker at the 2004 and 2006 CSID conferences. Both Muravchik [and Gershman of the National Endowment for Democracy, NED] participated in the 2006 event. [http://www.minaret.org/beirutconference.htm]

The AMC and CSID have worked together on various projects such as a February 2001 letter to President Bush which explained that Israel was to blame for all the problems in the Middle East and that it was necessary for the United States to “improve relations” with Iran and Libya.

“American uncritical and unlimited support for Israel is hurting our interests in the Muslim World. In the 21st century, no people can be expected to live submissively under a military occupation that has lasted more than 30 years…A measure of rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran would not only help U.S. interests in the region, but also improve relations between the U.S. and the Muslim World.” [source http://www.islam-democracy.org/documents/pdf/LetterToPresident-Whole.pdf]

AEI scholar Joshua Muravchik’s membership in the CSID is intellectually and ethically indefensible. [source http://www.aei.org/scholars/scholarID.42,filter.all/scholar.asp]. Muravchik has not only belligerently defended his [and National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman’s] collaboration with the CSID, he has attacked Dr. Daniel Pipes for exposing the group’s radical Islamist agenda. The CSID is partially financed by NED and their office director Obaida Fares is doing an internship there.

In a disingenuous piece titled “Pipes vs.Gershman” Muravchik attacked Dr.Pipes for criticizing Carl Gershman, the head of the National Endowment for Democracy [a government funded grant-making organization] for speaking at a CSID function and preceded to explain what he saw as the redeeming social value of talking with Islamists.

“…I don’t buy Pipes’s take on the CSID or his criticism of Gershman for involvement with it. I myself am a member of CSID and spoke at its 2006 conference. In addition to speaking, I attended the entire weekend. I found it an interesting mix…” [source http://www.commentarymagazine.com/contentions/index.php/muravchik/503]

Whether Muravchik “buys Pipes’s take” on the CSID is irrelevant…the facts speak for themselves.

What Muravchik characterizes as an “interesting mix” entails the granting of legitimacy to radical Muslims which serves to place them on equal moral footing with supporters of Western democratic principles.

Muravchik concludes his piece by asking “What sense does it make to anathematize them [the CSID] as consorting with the enemy?”

The answer to Muravchik’s question appears obvious to everyone but him, it’s only prudent to “anathematize” the CSID because they are part of a Wahhabist enterprise.

The question that needs to be asked is why two resident scholars of the American Enterprise Institute would participate in Islamist conferences [populated with radicals such as Imad Ad Dean Ahmad, Kamran Bokhari and Louay Safi] and in the case of Murvachik, lamely attempt to justify his [and Gershman’s] presence there on the grounds that the CSID also invites “the likes of me.”

Scholars at the American Enterprise Institute think tank should at the very least, be expected to exercise due diligence before collaborating with institutions and organizations whose goals may be antithetical to its mandate. Rather then repudiate the CSID Muravchik criticized Dr. Daniel Pipes for exposing their radical Islamist agenda.

Instead of attacking the messenger for exposing the false moderation of the CSID, Joshua Muravchik and Christina Hoff Sommers should be called to account by AEI donors to explain why they are aiding and abetting the Islamist enemy while betraying the American and democratic values which the AEI claims to promote.

©1999-2007 Beila Rabinowitz, William Mayer, PipeLineNews.org LLC, all rights reserved.


Hebrew Center Lecture Promotes Extreme Views


The White House, the American Civil Liberties Union, that “idiot” the British Prime Minister, the United Nations, the FBI, CIA, State Department, New York Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio, CNN, and the Internal Revenue Service.

It”s not often you hear them – and a lot of other governments and organizations as well – lumped together as part of the same problem.

But they were on Wednesday night when self-made counterterrorism expert Steve Emerson addressed the Martha”s Vineyard Hebrew Center Summer Institute, as the first of their speakers for 2007.

All the above-mentioned parties were, to some degree or other, put forward as dupes of an international Islamic terrorist movement by Mr. Emerson. Titled Defending the Homeland, his talk might equally have been called The End of Hope.

Not everyone he mentioned came out of it badly. He enumerated some half-dozen Islamic leaders around the nation and the world whom he did not consider extremists. But then he said they had no constituencies. And he lauded the Fox News network as intellectually honest.

Given Betsy Sheer”s stated intent as the new chairman of the summer institute to bring more controversy to the speaker series, the first night could be counted as a success.

She introduced Mr. Emerson as being neither shy and retiring nor tactful, and he lived up to the billing. He was combative with questioners and unambiguous in his pronouncements.

He also had requested no press coverage.

Mr. Emerson is the executive director of the Investigative Project, a data gathering center on Islamic groups, and the author of several books and documentaries on the threat posed by Islamic extremism.

He said he first got into the business of counterterrorism on Christmas Day 1992, when he happened upon a meeting in downtown Oklahoma City of thousands of Islamic activists.

“What I stumbled into was something the FBI had not even realized was taking place,” he told the audience. “It was a radical Islamic conference, boasting representatives of every radical terrorist organization, from Hamas to Islamic Jihad to the precursor to al Qaeda.”

But he said he could not interest the FBI, or his employer at the time (CNN), or the Washington Post in his story.

Then after the first World Trade Center bombing, in February 1993, he accessed the telephone records of the conspirators in that attack and came to the realization that there was a web of links between apparently moderate Islamic organizations in America and elsewhere and extremist groups.

These groups, he said had “morphed into legitimacy . . . defining themselves as either charitable fronts or Islamic civil rights groups.

“The very groups I had watched as Hamas or al Qaeda had been able to reconstitute themselves in the heart of the United States as charitable, tax deductible arms or civil rights groups, treated to civil rights status by the media and other religious parties including Jewish and Christian institutions,” Mr. Emerson said.

“A great, great fraud was occurring.”

He offered a documentary to CNN, but they did not want it. He quit and took the idea to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, where he got seed money for Jihad in America, which aired in November 1994.

Later, he said, he was effectively blacklisted by National Public Radio and public television, which he called “two bastions of politically correct knowledge, probably the only two places where I approve of the use of nuclear weapons.”

He said they remained under the influence of radical Islamic groups. But they weren”t the only ones.

“The FBI is also part of the political [sic] correct problem,” he said. “The same as the Department of Homeland Security.”

Mr. Emerson reserved special venom for the American Civil Liberties Union.

“How is it possible,” he said, his voice rising and breaking, “How is it possible that the ACLU which sees itself as the protector of all American rights, comes out and protects the rights of people to destroy this country?”

Asked about British Prime Minister Gordon Brown”s categorization of those behind the recent bombing attempt there as criminals rather than terrorists, Mr. Emerson said that marked him as an idiot.

“That is the most insane thing to say because it takes away our ability to recognize and define who the enemy is. You need to define your enemy in order to discredit them. You need to actually acknowledge who they are in order to fight a war,” he said.

Even the White House had gone soft. He cited the Bush administration”s decision last month to send representation to the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference.

“The OIC is on record as saying Israel is null and void and . . . endorsing destruction of Israel,” he said.

“I don”t want to sit around the campfire singing Kumbaya and then discover in the morning that they want to slit our throats.”

Indeed, Mr. Emerson cited no Muslim organization he thought moderate. The Council on American Islamic Relations, he said “pretends to be moderate and has its hooks into many Jewish organizations. In fact it is anti-Semitic.”

Asked about the U.S. Institute for Peace and its support for the Islamic Renewal Movement – generally considered a power for moderations – he condemned both organizations.

And the Islamic society of Boston – which has previously, unsuccessfully sued Mr. Emerson – was condemned as a “hotbed of extremists,” created with the assistance of terrorists.

One audience member asked where are the voices of moderation in the Muslim world.

“Either they don”t exist or they”re afraid to appear,” he replied. “The surveys that have been taken of Muslim populations in the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy as well as in the Middle East, suggest they don”t exist.”

“Individual, however, Muslim leaders do exist that are genuine moderates. They don”t have constituencies.”

Hundreds of millions of Muslims, on the other hand, support extremist ideologies, he said.

“I believe the route to our salvation and to protection of the homeland and indeed the protection of Muslims is the empowerment of genuine moderate Muslims,” he said at one point. But later in his conclusion, he took a different tack.

“I bring to you the end of hope,” Mr. Emerson said. “Here I am, coming to you, saying there”s no hope until they change among themselves.”

Originally published in The Vineyard Gazette edition of Friday, July 13, 2007

Bush Still Doesn”t Get It

By Akbar Ahmed
Sunday, July 22, 2007; Page B01

Here”s a bit of modern-day heresy: President Bush actually has some rather sound instincts about the Muslim world. He has visited mosques more often than any of his predecessors, and he frequently talks of winning Muslim hearts and minds. So why are those hearts and minds so estranged today? What went wrong?

The problem is that Bush has relied on ill-informed advisers and out-of-touch experts. By substituting their false expertise for his own sensible intuitions, he has failed to understand the Muslim world — which means he has failed to understand the arena in which the first post-9/11 presidency will be judged. Instead of seriously explaining Muslim societies that are profoundly split in complex ways, Bush”s aides have offered a fatally flawed stereotype of Islam as monolithic and violent.

These missteps have helped squander the potential goodwill of people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan — countries that pose major threats to U.S. security, and countries that once saw themselves as U.S. friends. (When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, I was the administrator in charge of south Waziristan, the lawless border region of Pakistan where Osama bin Laden is now said to be hiding, and I saw how appreciative Muslims were of U.S. support.) Today, rather than extending his hand to the people of Pakistan, Bush is marching in lockstep with the country”s fading dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is mockingly referred to as “Busharraf.”

Errors like this are tragic — and avoidable. Galvanized by the need to help Americans better comprehend the Muslim world, I traveled last year to the Middle East, South Asia and East Asia, accompanied by a group of American researchers. We conducted interviews; we met with presidents, prime ministers, sheiks and students; we visited mosques, madrassas and universities. During our travels, we found something far more subtle than the Bush administration”s caricature. Americans often hear of a faith neatly split between “moderates” and “extremists.” In fact, we discovered three broad categories of Muslim responses to the modern world: the mystics, the modernists and the literalists.

The mystics are the most tolerant and the least political, defined by a universalist worldview that embraces difference rather than resisting it. Muslims in this group look to sages such as the great Sufi poet Rumi for inspiration. “I go to a synagogue, church and a mosque, and I see the same spirit and the same altar,” Rumi once said. You”ll find today”s mystics in such places as Iran, Morocco and Turkey.

Then there”s the modernist position, one taken by Muslims who seek to adapt to Western modernity, synthesize it with their faith traditions and live in dialogue with it. Some of the most prominent Muslim thinkers in recent times have belonged to this school, such as Muhammad Abduh, the liberal Egyptian religious scholar who led a drive in the late 19th century to shake the dust off Islamic institutions and dogmas that he believed were lagging behind the times. Some of the most important Muslim politicians, such as Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the staunchly secularist founder of modern Turkey, have felt similar impatience with the faith”s old ways. You”ll still find plenty of modernists in Turkey today, as well as such countries as Jordan and Malaysia. In fact, a few decades ago it seemed that these forward-looking interpretations would become the dominant expression of Islam, and reform-minded Muslim countries seemed poised to join the community of nations.

For me, the quintessential modernist was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. The urbane, sophisticated Jinnah believed ardently in women”s rights and minority rights, and in 1947, he almost single-handedly created what was then the largest Muslim nation on Earth. For Pakistanis, he is George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson rolled into one. He founded a new country without compromising his principles or breaking the law, rejected hostage-takings, hijackings and assassinations, and he idolized Abraham Lincoln.

Jinnah is a far cry from our third category, the literalists. This group also arose in the 19th century, but it draws its ethos, attitudes and rhetoric from one central perception: that Islam is under attack. It sees Western ideas such as liberalism, women”s rights and democracy as threats, not opportunities. In response to the incursions into the Muslim world of the great Western empires, this group sought to draw firm boundaries around Islam and prevent it from being infected by alien influences. The literalist worldview has inspired a range of Muslim activists, from the Taliban to mainstream political parties such as South Asia”s Jamaat-i-Islami, which participate in elections while producing influential tracts on Islam. While this entire school”s theology is profoundly traditional, only a tiny minority of the group advocates terrorism. The vast majority of Muslim literalists simply want to live according to what they see as the best traditions of their faith.

But you”re more likely to see media images of bearded young men wearing skullcaps and yelling “God is great” and “Death to the Great Satan” than you are to see scholars at work. The angry activists are now on the ascendancy, according to our study. The reasons for their rise are complex: the incompetence and corruption of modernist Muslim leaders from Egypt to Pakistan to Southeast Asia; the widening gap between a crooked elite and the rest of the population; the absence of decent schools, economic opportunities and social welfare programs; and the failure of modernist leaders to douse burning regional conflicts such as Chechnya, Kashmir and Palestine.

The U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan poured gallons of fuel on a worldwide fire. Bush”s wars gave the literalists support for their claim that Islam is under siege; the crude Muslim-bashing of some of Bush”s supporters helps the literalists argue that Islam is also being attacked by the Western media, which many Muslims believe represents the thinking of the West”s citizenry.

In this context, parodies of the prophet Muhammad or the cloddish Republican talking point branding Muslims as “Islamofascists” helped convince wavering Muslims that their faith was truly a target. Remember Jerry Falwell”s post-9/11 abuse of the prophet, in which the late televangelist dismissed as a “terrorist” the man whom Muslims named as their foremost role model in our questionnaires? Such slurs helped boost Pakistani religious parties in the 2002 elections in Northwest Frontier Province, where the clerics had never before won more than a few seats. Overnight, the Taliban found a friendly base.

Americans who think that all Muslims hate the United States may be surprised to hear that many Muslims believe they have it precisely backward. Our questionnaires showed that Muslims worldwide viewed Islamophobia in the West as the No. 1 threat they faced. Many Muslims told us that the Western media depict them as terrorists or likens them to Nazis. Such widespread perceptions let literalist clerics argue that Islam must defend itself against a rapacious West — something the mystics and modernists were incapable of doing.

Today, all these factors have coalesced to convince ordinary Muslims — from Somalia to Indonesia — that Islam is indeed threatened and that the United States is leading the charge. As a Muslim, I grieve the fact that modernist leaders such as Jinnah have become irrelevant. And as someone living in the United States, I fear that the danger of another terrorist strike is as high as ever.

Our study did suggest ways to make progress. With a wiser strategy and a mighty reduction of hubris, the United States could still improve its relations with the Muslim world. Americans need to accept that the Muslim literalists are here to stay, that their position is deeply felt and that it deserves to be engaged with. U.S. policymakers need to keep an eye on the mystics and modernists, too; they are not the problem, but continued attacks on Islam will push many of them into supporting the literalists.

To change the tenor of Washington”s conversations with the Muslim world, symbolic gestures are important, such as Bush”s visits to American mosques. But we need substantive action, too. For one thing, U.S. diplomats should make an effort to come out from their embassy fortresses and meet with cultural and religious leaders. That simple step would do much to make friends for America.

Beyond that, Washington”s interaction with Muslim nations needs to be better thought out. We need to marginalize the violent fringe and build deeper ties with mainstream literalists who are suspicious of the West but shun violence. Take U.S. aid to Pakistan, which has added up to about $10 billon since 9/11. Much of this goes toward buying gunships and tanks, which ordinary Pakistanis say are used against them. In other words, U.S. aid is being used in ways that boost anti-Americanism — hardly a smart policy. Instead, the United States should stipulate that half of its aid go to building up Pakistan”s tattered educational structures, with a special focus on madrassas that eschew violence. Overnight, hearts and minds would begin to change; Muslims hold education especially dear, and if governments won”t provide it, parents will be tempted to go to whomever will.

Bush does not have much time left, but he can still avert disaster. Above all, we should start with dialogue. We might wind up with friendship.

[email protected] – Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun chairman of Islamic studies at American University and the author, most recently, of “Journey Into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization.”


Don”t give up on democracy

Greg Lebedev
June 28, 2007

America periodically flirts with the notion democracy is a homegrown product worthy of export, something like a holiday toy delivered in a box, assembled on site and roundly celebrated at its unveiling.

Of course, we learned long ago — and again in Iraq — that democracy does not spring fully formed from America”s mind. Rather, it best grows locally and slowly as it embraces and adapts and arranges the essential ingredients of a free society to fit the prevailing political, cultural and economic environment.

This very thing is occurring in one of the world”s most important yet fragile countries — Pakistan — which could become a major economy in this century.

And after a yearlong consultative process, with the support of a unique American nonprofit — the Center for International Private Enterprise or CIPE — the Pakistani government and private sector enacted landmark legislation that liberalized trade organization advocacy, strengthened anti-corruption measures, and, for the first time, permitted women to form their own business associations and have a real stake in Pakistan”s economic system.

For more than two decades, the National Endowment for Democracy, and its supporting organizations such as CIPE, have been doing exactly this kind of patient promotion of the values that have empowered our country since its founding. The National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute have done heroic work overseas helping others build the mechanisms of democratic political competition — parties, elections, debate and accountability to the public and the press.

Less well known but as significant are the NED”s two other pillars that promote free market competition and workers” rights — the underpinnings of the democratic systems we wish others to enjoy. For more than 20 years, CIPE has been quietly introducing free market ingredients to the developing world — as it did in Pakistan — and the Solidarity Center champions the labor agenda.

CIPE today works in some 60 countries, including Iraq, to develop programs to fight corruption, advance the role of women in business, promote legislative and regulatory reform, advocate transparent public and corporate governance and introduce market-oriented principles to entrepreneurs. These ingredients aren”t trendy or dramatic; they are, however, the real DNA of free market institutions without which stable, productive and democratic nations can”t be built.

Today, if we”re not careful, America”s willingness to share the ingredients of free market democracy could become the next casualty of the Iraq conflict. Since our foreign policy difficulties are usually conspicuous and our successes too often untold, Americans could come to believe the United States should play no part in developing free and democratic societies other than our own. Out of exasperation and war weariness, we might mistakenly abandon those little-seen but highly effective programs that have enjoyed the support of Democratic and Republican presidents and Congresses for more than a generation.

Leaving the field could be America”s biggest mistake to date. In the global neighborhood in which we live and work, isolationism should be unthinkable, yet it periodically emerges in the rhetorical guise of “family first.”

But, finally, Americans must remember our long-term national security interests have been and will be advanced only through our active participation in the development and growth of free market institutions around the world. Concern for our neighbors is concern for ourselves — and we must be wise enough to plant the right ingredients, patient enough to allow their germination, and generous enough to support their development so more than a handful of emerging democracies will survive and one day flourish.

Greg Lebedev is chairman of the Center for International Private Enterprise.


Surviving the Democracy Backlash

25 Years Later, Ronald Reagan”s Visionary Address Meets a Hard Historical Moment

By Carl Gershman
Friday, June 8, 2007; Page A19

Today marks the 25th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan”s “Westminster address,” in which he called upon the world”s democracies to launch “a global campaign for freedom” that he predicted would “leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history.” As presidential speeches go, this one has had unusual staying power, and not just because it foresaw the collapse of communism. It captured a moment of renewed democratic optimism after the Vietnam debacle and set in motion the institutionalization of democracy promotion as a core element of American foreign policy.

Democracy promotion remains a key U.S. priority; the opening sentence of the National Security Strategy adopted in 2006 declares that America”s policy is “to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” But the Bush administration has encountered enormous resistance in carrying this out.

The first obstacle is the circumstances in the Middle East, the geographic focus of the administration”s democracy agenda. This focus was understandable in the aftermath of Sept. 11. Moreover, President Bush was correct, in his address to the National Endowment for Democracy in 2003, to have officially repudiated the doctrine of “Arab exceptionalism,” according to which democracy could progress everywhere except in the Arab world. His courageous pronouncement actually had the effect of stirring ferment in the only major region bypassed by the third wave of democratization in the 1980s and “90s.

Still, conditions for advancing democracy in the Middle East are far from promising. Liberal reformers occupy a narrow political space between authoritarian regimes and Islamist opposition movements, both of which benefit from their mutual antagonism at the expense of the small democratic center. And the president”s call for “a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East” has been blunted by the continuing violence in Iraq and the deepening crisis with Iran. One cannot expect to see democratic breakthroughs in this troubled region in the near term.

The second obstacle is that the conditions for democratic progress globally are more challenging today than at any time in the last generation. If Reagan spoke at the moment the third wave was gathering momentum, Bush launched his own democracy campaign on the threshold of the “reverse wave,” the long-anticipated reaction against the period of rapid democratic expansion. We see this reaction on many fronts — the backlash against nongovernmental organizations and democracy assistance by governments seeking to preempt uprisings similar to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine; a new populism that feeds off widespread disenchantment with the performance of many new democracies; the belligerence of autocrats in Russia, Venezuela and Iran whose influence is enhanced by high oil prices; and the rise of China as a global power supporting many rogue and dictatorial regimes, and offering an authoritarian model of economic development.

We should not despair about the prospects for democracy, but it is necessary to take a long-term and realistic view. The third wave raised hopes, but it also fostered illusions about how democracy comes about and can be properly assisted. It encouraged the view that stable democracy can come quickly even to countries lacking significant democratic experience and that our own will and resources could be the decisive factor in bringing it about.

In addition, with the collapse of communism, democracy came to be seen as an uncontested norm of the new international order. With the element of contestation removed, democratization became an aspect of development policy, divorced from politics and largely taken over by professionalized bureaucracies, often tied to governments and multilateral agencies. As the field of democracy promotion expanded along these lines, programs and strategies became driven more by donors than by indigenous democratic forces. And as resistance to democracy grew, this approach also became increasingly irrelevant.

It is time to return to a few simple truths, the first being that assisting democracy is an inherently political enterprise, and a deeply contested one at that. A successful approach will be multifaceted, but it should have three core features: (1) organizations for providing aid that can flexibly adapt to local conditions and connect in a discreet but transparent way with indigenous democratic forces; (2) political and diplomatic solidarity with those on the front lines of struggle; and (3) the patience to persevere over the long haul.

Future opportunities for democratic breakthroughs will present themselves, and we will need to be ready to take advantage of them. As Reagan said at Westminster, “democracy is not a fragile flower” but “needs cultivating.” Even in the face of current challenges, providing effective help to people who are fighting for democracy on many fronts should be something we can readily do.

The writer is president of the National Endowment for Democracy.


Islam & democracy: Can the two coexist without killing each other?

Randy Wyrick, [email protected]
June 22, 2007

If it bleeds, it leads, say media people all over the globe. It’s an easy story. Carnage is photogenic and you can count the bodies, enabling reporters to keep score when they’re covering conflicts between al-Qaida homicide bombers and those trying to keep fledgling democracies flying. The same tiresome principles apply to covering U.S. presidential politics.

Below that radar, Saudi Arabia is holding its first municipal elections. King Fahd is promising to “broaden popular participation in the political process.”

It’s raising eyebrows in the conservative kingdom and elsewhere across the Arab world. King Fahd is said to be a fan of constitutional monarchies and sees these municipal elections as a baby step in that direction.

So, can Islam and democracy play nicely together?

At the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington, D.C., they spend lots of time thinking about things like this. They see a fit.

Not everyone does. Middle East watchers say those who oppose democracy in the Middle East and other Islamic nations see it as an extension of the U.S. and other Western nations. They hate those nations and insist democracy would make them a U.S. satellite.

Scholars at the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy say that for some in the Islamic world, democracy means imperialism. If the discussion can be steered clear of the U.S. and the baggage it brings, democracy makes perfect sense. For small groups like the Taliban, it never will. For them, there must be a single ruler and an extreme few are willing to blow up themselves and others to make their point. That sort of noise can make civil discourse difficult. And forcing someone at gunpoint to be democratic seems to be an oxymoron.

Who gets to play?

In the U.S., our Constitution digs a wide mote between religion and the affairs of state. Breeching that mote is difficult if not impossible. It’s not so clear cut in Islamic nations, and many in the West are taken aback when groups like Hamas are pushed into power when people are finally free to vote their consciences.

But a quick look over our own shoulders finds democracy in the U.S. isn’t so squeaky clean, either. Not so long ago, state legislatures were kicking out elected representatives because they were communists.

OK, so we’re not perfect, but we have hundreds of years of practice at fighting for freedom and not against it. The same basic belief systems creates no inherent conflict that makes “Islamic democracy” an oxymoron, says Radwan Masmoudi, president of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy.

“People have realized that the lack of freedom, lack of democracy, lack of good governance in the Muslim world is one of the main reasons for the rise in extremism, rise in violence, rise in anger and frustration,” Masmoudi says on the organization’s Web site.

You hear it over and over: Islam is compatible with democracy.

Several pillars of Islam seem to embrace democracy: All believers are equal; final decision-making rests with the community. Democracies can be messy affairs and tend to grow from the seeds of a free press, human rights and the freedom to associate with whomever one pleases. But Islam embraces all these ideals, some scholars say.

L. Ali Khan says that democracy’s opponents are wrong-headed when they insist that democracy can only work in the Christian West.

But while democracies were growing in Europe and America, on the heels of the Protestant Reformation, the Islamic Middle East watched the movement go by.

And while Christians often disagree with each other and their governments, that disagreement does not manifest itself with one of them walking into Sunday morning service at First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, and blowing up themselves and dozens of others.

It’s a Western conundrum: You want to understand, but it’s sometimes beyond our mindset.

Democracy, by its very nature, limits the sovereignty of man, a fundamental Muslim tenet, writes M. A. Muqtedar Khan, a professor at Michigan’s Adrian College. Its principles of limited government, public accountability, checks and balances, separation of powers and transparency in governance does succeed in limiting man’s sovereignty, Kahn writes.

“The Muslim world, plagued by despots, dictators and self-regarding monarchs, badly needs the limitation of man’s sovereignty,” he writes.

Islam’s pillars are democracy’s

Half of the self-proclaimed Islamic states also claim to be democracies. Kahn says there is nothing in Islam and in Muslim practices that is fundamentally opposed to democracy — justice, freedom, fairness, equality or tolerance.

“In the minds of the nearly 1 billion Muslims who practice some form of democracy there is no dispute between Islam and democracy,” he says.

The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy’s Masmoudi says building democratic institutions and traditions in the Muslim world will take time, patience, hard work, and perseverance — just like it did everywhere else. He said people want a government guided by Islam’s higher moral values and principles and not necessarily by religious laws implemented 1,400 years ago.

“Men and women everywhere want the same thing: to be free of fear and persecution, to be respected, and to be given the same opportunities for success as everyone else,” he says.


Muslim Networks

By Jon B. Alterman – 6/20/07

Sitting in Washington, it is easy to lose touch with the world. Comfortable with understandings and contacts nurtured over decades, one can get taken by surprise. September 11 was an instance of one such surprise; most Middle East and security experts knew about al-Qaeda, but few thought the organization could be such a deadly foe. Another surprise was the depth of difficulties that the United States encountered as it pushed for democracy in the Middle East—an effort that, in retrospect, relied far more on U.S. hopes and good intentions than a clear understanding of how Arab governments actually work

The issues are not ones of willful ignorance or malicious intent. They are simply a product of the fact that exceedingly few U.S. officials, experts, and academics had any contact with radicals, and many had a tremendous amount of contact with secular, liberal elites who bemoaned their countries’ authoritarian systems. Americans valued most what they knew personally, and in that way, the United States was a prisoner of its sources

Those same blind spots are keeping many Americans from even knowing about one of the most important phenomena in the Muslim world today. A growing number of networks reach across national boundaries and spread ideas, attitudes, and allegiances among Muslim communities. These networks link Muslims to one another with an intimacy and an intensity that could scarcely be conceived a decade ago, yet few non-Muslim Americans perceive these networks at all. These transnational organizations—ranging from the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world to the Muhammadiya in Indonesia to the various ancient Sufi orders that can be found within and between many Muslim-majority countries—encompass hundreds of millions of the world’s Muslims in different ways, linking them to one another and having a profound effect on how they see themselves, their neighbors, their countries, and their world

In a way, Islam was the original network, and its notion of an umma, or global community of Muslims with a shared fate and a shared common responsibility, dates back to the times of the Prophet Muhammad. Yet even for many older networks, their modes of recruitment, communication, and information distribution are state of the art. They effectively use the Internet and satellite television, and link both to databases and personal contact networks that would make U.S. political campaigns envious. Regardless of the ways in which they cloak themselves in tradition and heritage, many of these networks are among the most modern organizations in the world—they are adaptive, dynamic and highly opportunistic, and their religious tinge gives them legitimacy and builds on a common identity

To begin to gain an understanding of these networks, CSIS held a small conference last month that encompassed regional programs reaching from Africa to Southeast Asia. Bringing together experts on (and in many cases, from) Muslim-majority countries, the scholars found profound similarities in many of the groups they studied. The grievances in country after country were the same: a sense that the West disrespects Islam, that injustice is rampant, and that many of the governments with large Muslim populations are both illegitimate and ineffective. The narratives of many of these groups are similar, too: that they have suffered from a historical injustice, retribution is in order, moral purification is necessary, and that the West is mostly hypocritical when it comes to Muslims and the regimes that rule them

While many of these groups are non-violent, in recent years they have exhibited a general tendency away from tolerance toward chauvinism, sectarianism, and an acceptance of violence. Some participants in the CSIS conference saw the alarming rise of new strains of Islam that were simultaneously cosmopolitan and exclusivist, representing a radical departure from Islam’s traditionally fluid and pluralistic tradition

One of the most striking phenomena occurring now is the way in which the growing web of networks creates a competition for authority between a diverse array of potential actors. On the religious front alone, the competition spans official government clerics such as religious affairs ministers and muftis, independent clerics such as the Egyptian-born and Qatari-based Yusuf Qaradawi, and non-clerical authorities with global reach such as Amr Khaled of Egypt and Europe’s Tariq Ramadan. They all speak in the name of Islam to Muslim audiences. More importantly, they all speak at the same time, giving their followers—and potential followers—a range of possible views on matters of the day. The competition for authority seems to be converging on a common point, which is a common aspiration to bring modernity together with faith and equity. Can it be any coincidence that many Muslim opposition parties from Morocco to Turkey and beyond share the same name: “Justice and Development”? Their name both highlights the failings of the current government to provide either, and the shared aspirations of their people

Although we still only have a dim inkling of many of these movements, the implications are clear. First, that politics are in a state of flux in many of these countries, and religiously-leaning groups have robust networks and seem destined to come out on top of liberal secular parties. Publics consider liberal secularists not only old-fashioned and corrupt, but also to have failed. They have few young adherents, and few young leaders

Second, the Western strategy of coercing radicals and wooing moderates has not worked. If we are to judge by the last five years, one of its principal consequences has been to fuel radicalism and discredit moderates. Radicals have more robust networks than many of the moderates, and the Western actors have often considered centrist religious networks—which they often see as both conservative and hostile—as either irrelevant or beyond the pale

Finally, the Bush Administration’s five-year focus on freedom and democratization has both failed to win friends and failed to promote desired change. Rarely listening to the voices coming out of these networks, the United States is both off-message and out of step. People do not need to be told they want better lives; they know that already. The true hunger is not so much for freedom, but for justice. To the minds of many, U.S. behavior has demonstrated a pointed indifference to their aspirations. To tap into these growing networks, the United States needs to adjust not just its words, but also its deeds.


Mighty Mauritania

Elections in Mauritania give hope for democratic success

Date published: 6/15/2007

WHERE IS MAURITANIA, and why should you care? The answers are: (a) a country of more than 3 million in northwest Africa, and (b) because it represents a beam of democratic light in a world largely cloaked in despotic darkness.

Though an officially Islamic state, Mauritania now has a recent election and a presidential inauguration under its belt. Even better, the election was a happy circumstance, brought on not by foreign invasion or bloody war, but peacefully, supported by the masses and the military. Indeed, it took a non-violent coup in 2005 to set the stage for self-government.

The lesson of Mauritania for justifiably skittish, Iraq-weary Americans: Democracy and Islam are not antithetical. For those who look at mayhem in Iraq and solemnly intone that “Arab cultures aren”t cut out for democracy,” Mauritania”s example serves as a rebuke. Between its freely elected Arab president and the millions of Iraqis who risked death to vote in post-Saddam elections, there clearly is hope for democracy within Islam–though it”s frail and threatened. In Iraq, democratic passions won”t last if President Bush”s “surge,” so far ineffective, and the Baghdad regime can”t slow the chaos.

Of course, democracy per se hardly guarantees sweetness and light: Consider the election of Hamas in Palestine. But Mauritania represents a promising step in the right direction; over time, democracy is a self-correcting mechanism that tends to sustain reason and moderation over authoritarianism and fanaticism.

Still, democracy faces hurdles in the Arab world. The reactions of most Arab states to a free election in Mauritania? Stone-cold silence. Most state-dominated Arab media failed to report the historic inauguration, and not one Arab head of state was in attendance.

As an independent Egyptian journalist put it: “This is the first time that an Arab head of state has committed, under oath, to defend democracy for the length of his term, and to not manipulate the constitution to prolong his period in power. This is also the first time in 50 years that the Arab world has seen a civilian head of state come to power through a peaceful transition, true elections, and debates between candidates.” Remarkable–but not what rulers in Riyadh or Damascus want their people to see.

The flower of popular will does not easily take root, particularly in lands more accustomed to the prickly cacti of rule by fiat. But Mauritania shows it can happen. As one longtime expert in Arab and African culture told us: “People everywhere–even in difficult places like Mauritania and Iraq–have grasped the concept that some form of representative government is preferable to military dictatorship.”

As goes Mauritania, so goes the Arab world? Let”s hope against hope that that”s true.


Egyptian arrests may be linked to political crackdown

By Michael Slackman
Published: June 15, 2007

CAIRO: Heavily armed police officers woke the Said family at 2 a.m. with pounding on the front door. The parents dressed quickly as their two children drifted between sleep and fear. The police seized books, documents and computer equipment. They blindfolded the father, Abdellatif Muhammad Said, 40, and took him away.

The raid occurred about two weeks ago in a tidy two-bedroom apartment that also served as an office for a family business that promoted an unconventional view of Islam over the Internet. The Saids and their relatives concluded that they had run afoul of the state-sanctioned vision of faith.

That may well be true. But in the weeks since Said disappeared into the netherworld of Egyptian jails, it has also begun to appear that his case may have as much to do with efforts to challenge the ruling party”s monopoly on power as it does with holding a view of Islam that many Muslims consider heretical. The arrest appears part of a zero-tolerance policy toward anybody who challenges the status quo, political analysts said.

In recent days, hundreds of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the popular outlawed political movement, have been arrested. A request was denied to free from prison the one-time presidential candidate and political dissident Ayman Nour. A prominent member of Parliament who helped form a new political party was forced out in connection with a years-old financial case. The state-controlled press has virulently attacked Egyptians who attended a conference in Doha, Qatar, to discuss democracy.

Independent organizations said elections held Monday to select members of the upper house of Parliament were manipulated to ensure that the ruling party won a majority of the seats – a charge the government denies.

“They don”t want any divergence, they don”t want any noise,” said Muhammad Sayyid Said, deputy director of the government-financed Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. “They don”t want anyone to talk. They don”t want anyone to disagree.”

Government officials declined to respond to requests for information about the arrests or the recent series of events described by analysts as a political crackdown.

Ezzat Darag, a member of the ruling National Democratic Party in Parliament, defended the government”s actions. “The general atmosphere is freedom, freedom, freedom,” he said. “You can”t open up all the way. There has to be a ceiling of respect.”

A prominent religious scholar at the Islamic Research Institute at Al Azhar University also defended the arrests on religious and political grounds.

“They didn”t arrest them because of their ideas alone,” said the scholar, Abdel Moety Bayoumy. “These ideas constitute a movement that has political goals and can cause sedition. Politics always starts with an idea, and sedition starts with ideas.”

The nexus between democracy, religion and Abdellatif Muhammad Said is his cousin Amr Tharwat. Like Said, Tharwat contends that Islamic law should be based solely on the Koran, not the sayings and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, known as the Hadiths. The men support a secular government, though their rejection of the Hadiths is considered radical within the faith.

Tharwat attended the democracy conference in Doha. He worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, headed by Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who is the most renowned democracy advocate in Egypt. Tharwat was arrested on the same night as Said.

“Their goal was to disrupt, derail and intimidate,” Ibrahim said of the arrests. “The government”s obsession is now to create conformity with its ideas.”

Tharwat was supposed to oversee Ibn Khaldun”s poll-monitoring operation Monday, for the election of 88 members of the upper house of Parliament. The ruling party, which won 69 of the 71 seats that were decided without a runoff, said the election was fair and open.

Some voters, though, said that it appeared that ballot boxes were already full when the polling places opened in the morning. The government denied the charge, but Ibrahim said some of his monitors had confirmed the accusation.

The Interior Ministry did not respond to questions about Tharwat”s arrest. But another critical link is Ibrahim.

Once imprisoned by the state in connection with his work to promote democracy, he is again a focus of state ire because he attended the Doha conference and because he met, briefly, with President George W. Bush during the American”s visit this month to Prague. The Egyptian press labeled him an agent of the United States and Israel for those actions. Ibrahim”s essays have appeared on Said”s Web site.

President Hosni Mubarak is furious with Ibrahim, so much so that officials suggested that he leave the country for a time to allow the president to cool off, said Ibrahim and other people familiar with the president”s thinking who spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting.


Egyptian Voters Impeded In Opposition Strongholds

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, June 12, 2007; Page A18

AWSEEM, Egypt — Egyptian security forces barred voters from entering polling centers in opposition areas Monday during the first national elections since the U.S.-backed government of President Hosni Mubarak pushed through constitutional changes that analysts say were intended to keep the Muslim Brotherhood from power.

In Awseem, a dusty town north of Cairo that is a Brotherhood stronghold, security officers lined up behind chest-high plastic riot shields to block all entrances to a locked polling place. Officers clenching automatic rifles alongside a row of police wagons effectively sealed off another voting site.

Residents in other towns around Egypt on Monday complained of police turning them from the polls and occasionally beating them. One person was killed in election-related violence, the Associated Press reported.

In areas loyal to Mubarak”s National Democratic Party, voters surged into polling sites. In Bortos, also north of Cairo, a girl of 15 said she cast a ballot for the NDP, and children who appeared much younger than the voting age of 18 waved fingers stained with the pink ink used to mark ballots and boasted that they had voted.

“See him?” a young man shouted from the window of a bus as he and others rode away from the polling site. He reached out to slap a poster, taped to the bus, of the governing party”s candidate in Bortos. “This NDP guy is going to win, either way!” the man shouted.

A national referendum in March approved constitutional amendments, championed by Mubarak, that gave limited legislative authority to parliament”s upper house, which was previously an advisory body. Other changes enshrined legal prohibitions against religiously based political parties, removed requirements that judges supervise voting in elections, made it easier for the president to dissolve parliament and allowed the suspension of constitutional civil liberties in cases the government deems involve terrorism.

Human rights groups said those changes and Monday”s shutdown of opposition polling sites were aimed at the Brotherhood, a politically active Islamic group officially banned in Egypt since 1954. In 2005 parliamentary elections, Brotherhood candidates running as independents became the single largest opposition bloc.

Monday”s vote, a first round of balloting for 88 of the upper house”s 264 seats, served as the first test of the new measures. Nineteen Brotherhood candidates made Monday”s ballot; nearly as many were disqualified through the constitutional changes and other means.

“Together with the constitutional amendments that outlawed any kind of political activity informed by religion, it really looks like the government is determined to shut them out of the political process entirely,” Elijah Zarwan of Human Rights Watch said of the Brotherhood.

The presence of security cordons outside the polling places in Awseem, an hour”s drive from Cairo, discouraged thousands of residents from voting, said Abdul Basses Himida of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.

Some polling officials simply instructed voters to go away, residents said.

“They told me, “Oh, there”s no election today. Try tomorrow,” ” said Adel Achmed Khamil, who went to polling places here throughout the day to try to cast a vote for a candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“They told me there was no electricity,” Khamil said. Finally, “They told me, “No, we”re not letting anyone in today,” and closed the door with chains.”

Officials turned away Himida, who was registered to vote in Awseem, from the polling center, telling him no voting was taking place there. The polling center was blocked by security forces.

Mohammed Shahed stood in the door of his grocery store on a brick-faced alley lined with Brotherhood posters that were all but obliterated by thick dousings of red paint.

Shahed had always voted before, even when security forces tried to turn him back, he said. “Since they lifted judicial supervision” with the March constitutional changes, “I decided it”s no use. I know that unless there are judicial officials there, there are no elections in fact.”

Turnouts in Egypt generally are low, in part owing to Egyptians” doubts that their votes matter.

Egypt”s government and others in the Middle East fear that movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood will win power through the ballot box by appealing to voters who want more religiously observant governments and who resent the reigns of entrenched leaders.

Mubarak”s government has arrested about 800 Brotherhood members in recent months. Many were arrested since campaigning began for the upper house, known as the Shura Council. Brotherhood leaders have insisted on retaining the slogan “Islam is the solution.” Under the new constitutional changes, security forces have arrested some Brotherhood members as they erected banners or tried to register.

Brotherhood members charge that the ruling party”s use of an Islamic crescent as one of its party symbols, as well as references in the constitution to Islam, also violates the new constitutional changes.

Rights organizations and many ordinary Egyptians have accused President Bush of backing away from calls made by past U.S. administrations for democratic reforms here. Egypt is one of the United States” main allies in the Middle East.

Bush spoke out on behalf of Egyptian dissidents at a speech in Prague last week, saying he regretted that one former Egyptian government official now in jail in Egypt could not attend the function. He listed Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as countries that “have a great distance still to travel” in making democratic reforms.

“America has let us down,” said Salah Noman Mubarak, a 54-year-old plant technician in Alexandria, who along with all other Brotherhood candidates was kept from the ballot in that city. “I have always respected the United States, but the United States since the time of Roosevelt has let us down,” the candidate said. “Especially these days.””


Egypt vote shows unease with democracy

Flawed polls Monday and coming votes in the Middle East are seen by critics as creating only the appearance of reform.

By Dan Murphy | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

from the June 12, 2007 edition – http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0612/p06s02-wome.html
Cairo – Mohammed Kamal promised Monday”s elections would be different.

Mr. Kamal, leader of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), described new election rules as a “leap forward in … the increase in political participation in Egypt,” at a rare meeting with foreign journalists a few weeks ago.

“We have a test coming up with the Shura Council elections. … There is unprecedented freedom of expression in Egypt now,” he said.

But, instead, the vote for the consultative upper house of parliament proved to be much like previous polls – marked by intimidation and abuse.

Monday”s election was marred by the beating of an opposition parliamentarian by the police, limited access to polls, and the arrest of nearly 800 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt”s powerful political opposition group. The arrests have occurred over the past week, with at least 75 Brotherhood members were arrested Monday.

“It”s as expected – a fiasco,” says Madgi Abdu, a Brotherhood member.

“There”s a massive police presence at the polling station, none of us have been allowed anywhere near the station, including the candidate”s family, and they”re bussing in NDP supporters,”” he says.

At least three other polling places were confirmed to have blocked Brotherhood supporters from entering. The Islamist group alleged on its website that already full ballot boxes were delivered to some stations, and that others where their candidates were running were shut completely, though this could not be independently confirmed.

Egypt, a close US ally, has promised in recent years – in part due to American pressure – to open up its political system, and officials such as Kamal say it has done just that with a series of constitutional amendments that have changed the country”s electoral laws.

But to critics, from the Brotherhood to secular leaning activists in the Kifaya movement, the changes have amounted to the fine tuning of a deeply authoritarian system designed to put a more democratic face on a process that still ensures that no one but the NDP holds the reigns of power here.

It”s a process happening not just in Egypt but in Arab neighbors and US allies like Morocco and Jordan, which also have elections coming up. All of these countries have strict limits on Islamist political parties, which tend to be the most popular opposition groups.

The US has also toned down its democracy rhetoric lately out of concern that free elections will empower Islamists that are hostile to the US and replace friendly, if undemocratic, regimes.

The Shura Council itself is a body without law-making powers, though the parliamentary immunity and prestige it affords winners makes it an attractive post to many businessmen. Most Egyptians assume their votes do not count and independent observers said they expect turnout of about 10 percent of the electorate.

In one instance of election day violence, a supporter of an independent candidate was killed by NDP backers in Husseiniya, in Egypt”s teeming Nile delta. Such non-Brootherhood independent candidates typically join the NDP bloc if elected.

Egypt”s new electoral rules have been crafted to prevent the use of Islamic symbols and slogans, which effectively disqualified the Brotherhood, whose campaign banners usually carry the words: “Islam is the solution.” Though the group is illegal, its members managed to get on 19 out of 88 ballots as independents.

Though the NDP is a largely secular party, Egypt”s constitution is partly based on sharia, or Islamic law. Its party symbol seen on the ballot – important because so many Egyptians are illiterate – is an Islamic crescent moon.

A member of the Brotherhood”s central office in Cairo said he would be shocked if any of their candidates won since, he alleged, most of their supporters had been blocked from the polls.

The group sent shock waves through Egypt”s controlled political establishment when it won 88 seats in parliamentary elections last year that were marred by allegations of vote rigging and intimidation, but nevertheless was Egypt”s most free election for decades.

Analysts say it appears the government is trying to starve the movement – which eschewed violence 40 years ago in favor of a slow and steady approach to win power at the ballot box – of political oxygen, and giving it the choice of either fading away or turning to violence, which would enable the government to wipe out the group.

“The regime is doing all this because it is incapable of honest political competition with opposition forces,”” said Mohammed Habib, the Brotherhood”s No. 2 official. “The aim is to marginalize the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt”s political life and to prevent us from moving forward towards peaceful reforms and change through legal and constitutional means.”

And it”s not just the Brotherhood. Ayman Nour, a secular politician who ran against President Hosni Mubarak last year, remains in jail on what he and his supporters say are trumped up forgery charges.

Kamal, who has a PhD in political science from Johns Hopkins University and worked as a congressional aid in Washington, said the new rules are designed to safeguard the secular character of the Egypt, and that the Muslim Brotherhood would be allowed to form a political party as long as it abandoned its Islamic slogans.

“The Islamists have to play by the rules of the liberal and democratic game,” he said.

“They are talking with both sides of their mouths – some elements of the Muslim Brotherhood benefit from the position they”re in now. They don”t have to be transparent about their finances or practice internal democracy, yet they continue to complain that they are the victims,” he said.

At a press conference, General Tarek al-Attia, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said the police were strongly warned against partisanship and said their large presence at most polling places was designed to protect voters and prevent violent incidents.

Nevertheless, political scientist Dia Rashwan, an expert on Islamist movements at the Al Ahram Center for Strategic and International Studies in Cairo, said in a commentary for the independent Egypt Today newspaper that the new electoral rules, which have removed direct judicial supervision of polls, instead placing the supervisory role in a government-appointed body, were designed to limit political competition.

“The logic is clear and will be seen at midnight tonight when the results will show a total NDP victory and the failure of the “unpopular” opposition forces such as the Muslim Brotherhood,” he wrote.


Press release
June 21, 2007

Statement in Support of Dr. Saadeddine Ibrahim

The participants in the workshop on “Strategies for Civil Society” organized by Al-Kawakibi Center for Democratic Transitions in Amman (17-19 June, 2007), in cooperation with the Arab Institute for Human Rights, the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights, No Peace without Justice, and the Council for a Community of Democracies, applaud and celebrate the awarding of the Zaytouna Silver Award for Excellence in Democratic Action to Dr. Saadeddine Ibrahim, and express their concern toward the recent escalation in the recent public campaign against Dr. Ibrahim in the Egyptian official media. We denounce this campaign which harms the image of Egypt more than it harms the image of a well-known defender of human rights and democracy in Egypt and throughout the Arab world.

We also reject the efforts of some members of the ruling party who have submitted a request to the general prosecutor in Egypt demanding that Dr. Ibrahim be tried for false charges, for which he was tried before and jailed between 2000 and 2003, before he was acquitted by the High Court of Cessation from all charges. We strongly believe that this will harm Egypt and the Egyptian authorities in case this sad tragedy is repeated again, a tragedy which had already damaged Egypt ’s reputation and done serious harm to Dr. Ibrahim’s health. Dr. Ibrahim expresses his opinions peacefully inside and outside Egypt , and the Egyptian authorities should debate or engage him with similarly peaceful means.

We hope that President Hosni Mubarak will resolve this matter in its early stages and will do his best to make Egypt , a country we love and are proud of, a model for political reforms, democracy, and freedom of expression.


Parting the Veil

Shadi Hamid
Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Summer 2007

Now is no time to give up on supporting democracy in the Middle East. But to do so, the United States must embrace Islamist moderates.

America’s post-September 11 project to promote democracy in the Middle East has proven a spectacular failure. Today, Arab autocrats are as emboldened as ever. Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, and others are backsliding on reform. Opposition forces are being crushed. Three of the most democratic polities in the region, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories, are being torn apart by violence and sectarian conflict.

Not long ago, it seemed an entirely different outcome was in the offing. As recently as late 2005, observers were hailing the “Arab spring,” an “autumn for autocrats,” and other seasonal formulations. They had cause for such optimism. On January 31, 2005, the world stood in collective awe as Iraqis braved terrorist threats to cast their ballots for the first time. That February, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced multi-candidate presidential elections, another first. And that same month, after former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was killed, Lebanon erupted in grief and then anger as nearly one million Lebanese took to the streets of their war-torn capital, demanding self-determination. Not long afterward, 50,000 Bahrainis–one-eighth of the country’s population–rallied for constitutional reform. The opposition was finally coming alive.

But when the Arab spring really did come, the American response provided ample evidence that while Arabs were ready for democracy, the United States most certainly was not. Looking back, the failure of the Bush Administration’s efforts should not have been so surprising. Since the early 1990s, U.S. policymakers have had two dueling and ultimately incompatible objectives in the Middle East: promoting Arab democracy on one hand, and curbing the power and appeal of Islamist groups on the other. In his second inaugural address, President George W. Bush declared that in supporting Arab democracy, our “vital interests and our deepest beliefs” were now one. The reality was more complicated. When Islamist groups throughout the region began making impressive gains at the ballot box, particularly in Egypt and in the Palestinian territories, the Bush Administration stumbled. With Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza high on the agenda and a deteriorating situation in Iraq, American priorities began to shift. Friendly dictators once again became an invaluable resource for an administration that found itself increasingly embattled both at home and abroad.

The reason for this divergence in policy revolves around a critical question: What should the United States do when Islamists come to power through free elections? In a region where Islamist parties represent the only viable opposition to secular dictatorships, this is the crux of the matter. In the Middle Eastern context, the question of democracy and the question of political Islam are inseparable. Without a well-defined policy of engagement toward political Islam, the United States will fall victim to the same pitfalls of the past. In many ways, it already has.

The Islamist Dilemma

The “Islamist dilemma” is nothing new. It is the same dilemma that has plagued policymakers since the Algerian debacle of the early 1990s. On December 26, 1991, in that country’s first free legislative elections, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) won 47 percent of the vote and was poised to capture a commanding parliamentary majority. The staunchly secular military, claiming to save democracy from itself, intervened, canceling the elections and provoking a brutal civil war that would rage for more than a decade.

After the election results were annulled, the State Department said that it “viewed with concern the interruption of the electoral process” and expressed “hope [that] a way can be found to resume progress.” But the United States stopped well short of outright criticism, saying instead that the military intervention did not actually violate the Algerian constitution. The George H.W. Bush Administration’s indifference to what was a blatant breach of the democratic process seemed a far cry from the lofty rhetoric of a “new world order.” As one State Department official later remarked, “By not saying or doing anything, the Bush Administration supported the Algerian government by default.” Even in hindsight, James Baker, who had been secretary of state at the time, was unrepentant: “Generally speaking, when you support democracy, you take what democracy gives you – If it gives you a radical Islamic fundamentalist, you’re supposed to live with it. We didn’t live with it in Algeria because we felt that the radical
fundamentalists’ views were so adverse to what we believe in and what we support, and to what we understood the national interests of the United States to be.”

Such realpolitik was not supposed to have a place in the current Bush Administration. In his second inaugural address, the president declared, “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.” Egypt, the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, was to be the centerpiece of the new “forward strategy for freedom.” And for a time, the strategy seemed to bring results. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice canceled a March 2005 trip to Cairo to protest the imprisonment of Ayman Nour, a leading liberal figure and head of the Ghad Party. Responding in part to U.S. pressure, President Mubarak announced that Egypt would hold multi-candidate presidential elections for the first time. Emboldened by the changing atmosphere, opposition groups began to assert themselves. In late March, the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest and most influential opposition group, launched a series of
protests calling for greater freedoms and constitutional reform. When the inevitable clash came, thousands of Muslim Brothers were arrested in one of the most extensive government crackdowns on the group in decades.

After the mass arrests, the Bush Administration refused to criticize the Egyptian regime, expressing instead “disagreement with many of the things the Muslim Brotherhood stands for.” The Administration was trapped, torn between unsavory autocrats and unsavory Islamists and not willing to push conclusively in either direction. As a result, it was unable to take the next logical step: formulating a coherent policy toward political Islam. Soon after Bush’s landmark inaugural address, many in the Arab world were growing confused by the mixed messages. Nor did it help that, in May, First Lady Laura Bush made a spring trip to Egypt, a week before a national referendum on proposed election reforms, which most major parties had decided to boycott. In Cairo, Mrs. Bush, with the Egyptian president’s wife, Suzanne, at her side, called Mubarak’s reforms “bold” and “wise.” Sensing the lost momentum, Rice was sent to Egypt in June to give a major policy speech at the American University in Cairo. In what seemed a thinly veiled reference to the need to integrate Islamists in the political process, Rice stressed that “the fear of free choices can no longer justify the denial of liberty.” Yet in the question-and-answer session, she said that the United States would not engage with the Muslim Brotherhood. Rice then met briefly with members of the Egyptian opposition, most of whom turned out to be “reformists” with close ties to the ruling National Democratic Party.

But the electoral rise of the Islamists would continue. In Egypt’s 2005 parliamentary elections, the Brotherhood won 40 percent of the vote and ended up with an unprecedented 88 seats–a more than fivefold increase from its previous total of 17. The first round of the election was conducted in a relatively open atmosphere; however, during the second and third rounds, the ruling party resorted to brute force. Thugs hired by the regime attacked voters, kidnapped election monitors, and blocked entrances to polling stations. 10 people were killed and hundreds injured. More than 1,000 Brotherhood members and supporters were arrested. While the violence was being broadcast on satellite stations throughout the world, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack insisted, “We have not received, at this point, any indication that the Egyptian Government isn’t interested in having peaceful, free and fair elections.”

The Palestinian territories were the other main point of focus for the Bush Administration, and here again, the United States stumbled. Rice had put her support behind holding legislative elections, but the results were not what the administration had hoped for: Hamas, a State Department—designated terrorist organization, won the elections. If one event marked the final, tragic demise of the freedom agenda, it was this. The shocking outcome illustrated the paradoxes of a strategy that was high on rhetoric but hollow on implementation. By all accounts, the elections were clean, free, and fair. This was democracy, but it was also a democracy in which our enemies had been elected to power.

Accepting an Islamist Future

The fear of Islamist ascendancy, while understandable, is based on a series of fallacies. American Prospect writer Spencer Ackerman, for example, argues that “the United States is insane to promote democratic elections in which the victors proclaim eschatological hostility to it.” Ackerman and others fall under the illusion that Islamists are a monolith of irrational fanatics. But it is worth remembering that the two Middle Eastern countries which are Islamist-led–Turkey and Iraq–are close American allies. It is of course true that Islamist groups use fevered anti-American rhetoric, but so too does every other political grouping in today’s Middle East, even Western darlings such as Kifaya and Ayman Nour’s Ghad Party, both part of the Egyptian opposition movement. Nevertheless, despite their strong opposition to U.S. policy, most mainstream Islamists go out of their way to explain that they have no gripe with America as such. Even their dislike of the U.S. government has its limits. The Brotherhood’s leader, General Guide Mahdi Akef, usually known for his inflammatory anti-Western comments, admitted to me in an August 2006 interview that the Bush Administration’s pressure on the Mubarak regime had had a positive effect on Egyptian reform.

There is also the oft-repeated claim that free elections will lead to a scenario where Islamists would come to power and then end democracy as we know it (“one person, one vote, one time”). However, this is a purely speculative claim; such a scenario has never actually happened. But some might counter that it could happen in the future. Islamist leaders are well aware of the Western fear that their commitment to democracy is not whole-hearted and, in response, point out that they have peacefully played by the rules of the democratic game since at least the 1980s. They recognize that if they did come to power through democratic means and then refused to let go of power, it would cast a permanent shadow on the integrity of Islamic movements throughout the world. Islamist parties would no longer be trusted in the eyes of their own people and their secular opponents would have yet more justification to ruthlessly suppress them. As Khairat al-Shater, the Brotherhood’s deputy general guide, wrote in a 2005 Guardian op-ed, “The domination of political life by a single political party or group, whether the ruling party, the Muslim Brotherhood or any other, is not desirable: the only result of such a monopoly is the alienation of the majority of the people.”

Commitment to democracy aside, most Western analysts and policymakers agree that an entrance into politics must be made conditional on non-violence. But with the exception of Hamas and Hezbollah (which were founded explicitly as militant organizations), the vast majority of mass-based Islamist groups in the Middle East have already renounced violence. Groups such as Jordan’s Islamic Action Front (IAF), Morocco’s Justice and Development Party (PJD), Tunisia’s Al-Nahda, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood are not armed, nor do they have military wings.

In the Egyptian context in particular, critics point out that jihadists have often started out as members of the Brotherhood, only to move on to more violent pursuits. But it is precisely because the Brotherhood is committed to gradual rather than revolutionary change that more militant cadres have left to join groups like al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya and Islamic Jihad. In fact, many jihadists consider the Muslim Brothers kafirs (disbelievers) because of their participation in elections and accommodation with the secular nation-state. As Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s second-in-command, said, “What is truly regrettable is the [Brotherhood’s] rallying of thousands of duped Muslim youth in voter queues before ballot boxes instead of lining them up to fight in the cause of Allah. They have substituted Allah’s bidding with the conditions and regimes of the infidels.”

None of this is to say that Islamist groups are ideal allies in the struggle against autocracy, or that they are paragons of liberalism. Their views on women’s rights, social policy, and the implementation of sharia law leave much to be desired, while their understanding of international affairs and globalization tends to be simplistic and prone to demagogic flourishes. But one does not need to like Islamist parties or what they stand for to support their right to stand in free elections. That said, Islamists have made impressive strides over the years, focusing less on empty religious sloganeering and more on the importance of democratic reform. As early as 1994 and 1995, the Muslim Brotherhood released a series of documents clarifying its position on issues of concern. In the statement “Shura and Party Pluralism in Muslim Society,” the Brotherhood publicly affirms its belief in popular sovereignty, calls for a “balance of powers,” and disavows all forms of political violence. Its “Statement on Democracy” addresses the status of non-Muslim minorities: “Our position regarding our Christian brothers in Egypt and the Arab world is explicit, established and known: they have the same rights and duties as we do. Whoever believes or acts otherwise is forsaken by us.” More recently, the Brotherhood released its 2004 reform initiative, in which it reiterates in its most clear language to date its commitment to alternation of power, separation of powers, the unrestricted right to form political parties, and freedom of personal belief and opinion.

Jordan’s Islamic Action Front has taken similar steps; the group’s 2003 electoral program, in particular, provided considerable evidence that it was moving toward an acceptance of the foundational aspects of democratic life. Where there was only one mention of the word “democracy” in its 1993 electoral program (and none in 1989), in 2003 it appeared five times. Moreover, two decidedly Western formulations were used for the first time, tadowul al-sulta (alternation of power) and al sha’ab masdar-al-sultat (the people are the source of authority). Where there was once a fevered debate in Islamist circles about the legitimacy of democracy versus the Koranic concept of shura (consultation), this is no longer the case; democracy has won. In this respect, Islamist parties may be comparable to socialist and Christian Democratic parties in Europe and Latin America, which entered the political process with extra-democratic impulses that were in time tempered by the logic of open political competition.

In any case, Islamists are here to stay. The United States can no longer delude itself into thinking that it can build non-existent liberal-secular parties from scratch and somehow lead them to electoral victory. Arab liberals are in disarray and in no position to seriously contest elections, much less win them. Only Islamists have the mobilizing capacity and grassroots support to pressure Middle Eastern regimes to democratize. Thus, in not engaging groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, the United States cuts itself off from large constituencies whose participation is vital to the process of political change. Instead of assuming that Islamist groups are obstacles to democracy, we should instead ask how they can help it come about.

Learning to Live with Political Islam

An effective approach to Islamism should consist of five components. First, it would mean stating as a matter of policy that the United States is not opposed to dealing with non-violent Islamist parties and has no problem with Islamists coming to power through free elections, under the condition that they have explicitly committed themselves to democracy and peaceful political participation (Hamas and Hezbollah would not fall under this rubric because they have not renounced violence).

Second, a new policy should entail establishing a U.S.-Islamist “dialogue” to explore areas of tension and misunderstanding. Due to sensitivities with existing regimes, this would require flexibility on the part of the United States, using intermediaries and back channels. Nevertheless, a structured, focused engagement would force Islamists to more clearly explain their positions on contentious issues. As trust develops, there could be a more frank discussion about how moderate Islamists can help us, and vice versa. In the context of the dialogue, policymakers would seek to extract several “concessions” from rising Islamist parties. For example, Islamists in strategically vital countries would have to pledge that they would not suspend or cancel their countries’ peace treaties with Israel should they come to power. In return, the United States would exert pressure on Arab regimes to accept Islamist groups as full, equal participants in the political process (a risky move on America’s part, given that regimes like the Jordanian monarchy and the Mubarak government are unlikely to approve of U.S. rapprochement with Islamist opposition groups).

Third, the United States should seek to influence internal struggles within Islamist groups in key countries. This means recognizing that there are serious internal divisions between “reformists” and “conservatives.” Unfortunately, because of increased polarization after last summer’s Israel-Hezbollah war, the ideologues grow stronger; today, for example, “hawks” and “Hamasists” dominate Jordan’s IAF, something which was not the case three years ago. Policymakers must find ways to draw the balance of power toward those relative moderates who are more predisposed toward rapprochement with America and coexistence with Israel. The de-polarization of the region can be achieved by, among other steps, apologizing for the Iraq war, emphasizing the war on terror’s non-military aspects, and recommitting to hands-on diplomacy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These measures would create a reservoir of goodwill and give reform-minded Islamists political cover to move to the center and take positions that may be unpopular with their more conservative supporters.

Fourth, the United States should facilitate cross-ideological cooperation between Islamists and secularists. The more Islamists face real competition, the better. Ideally, Islamist groups would come to power as part of larger coalitions with secular and liberal parties. With this in mind, the United States should make a concerted effort to promote Islamist participation in the context of an official framework–for example a national charter–which would encourage the participation of secular parties. A charter would clearly outline the rules of the game and guarantee freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and equal rights for women and minorities regardless of which party came to power. There is a precedent for such an approach. In 1995, the United States supported the Sant’Egidio talks in Rome in which Algerian parties from across the ideological spectrum agreed on a national platform as the basis of a new political process.

Finally, it is critical to begin building bridges with the next generation of Islamists. This can be done by using educational and cultural exchanges as a mechanism for establishing meaningful linkages between American researchers, policymakers, and businesspeople and their Islamist counterparts. The goal would be to identify Islamist leaders of tomorrow and provide them with a balanced view of American culture and politics.

While these changes are unlikely in the short run to be popular domestically, they are necessary. Islamists will come to power whether we like it or not; in Iraq, Turkey, and the Palestinian territories, they already have, It is better to have links–and leverage–with these groups before they come to power, not afterwards. This leverage will increase our ability to hold Islamists to their democratic commitments, and will be critical in ensuring that vital American interests are protected when “friendly” dictators are finally pushed out of power. Autocracy is not permanent. It will, sooner or later, give way to an uncertain “something else.” The question is whether the United States will position itself on the right side of the coming transformation.

Risks and Benefits

Given current realities, a willingness to engage with moderate Islamist parties is the necessary prerequisite for reviving American support of democracy in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the question remains: Is promoting democracy really worth it when there are so many risks? It is. Not only is supporting Arab democracy the only way for progressives to realign their policies with their longstanding belief that America has a moral responsibility to promote human rights and democracy abroad, it is also a wise strategy for countering the poisonous political environment that has given rise to so many of the region’s intractable problems. Democracy would give Arabs a newfound sense of political agency, provide an alternative to the prevailing culture of victimization, grant liberals more political space to communicate their ideas, and focus Arab attention on internal development rather than external problems. Perhaps most importantly, democracy promotion is the only way to effectively combat religious extremism and terrorism. On the most basic level, when people lack peaceful, democratic channels to express their political grievances, they are more likely to resort to violent methods. In an important 2003 study, Princeton University’s Alan Krueger and Czech scholar Jitka Maleckova analyzed a vast amount of data on terrorist attacks and concluded, “The only variable that was consistently associated with the number of terrorists was the Freedom House index of political rights and civil liberties. Countries with more freedom were less likely to be the birthplace of international terrorists.”

This is not to say that the United States should go back to the unrealistic idealism of the Bush Administration. Bush’s soaring rhetoric–with no talk of potential tradeoffs–raised expectations too high. Democracy is most certainly not a panacea: It would be a mistake to exaggerate the extent to which Arab democracy will resolve the region’s laundry list of problems. Democracy is a long-term solution. In the short run, Islamist-led democracies are likely to cause a variety of frustrations for the United States. Newly empowered Islamist groups, after being elected, will find themselves under pressure from their conservative base. This may push them to enact measures that Americans will not be comfortable with, such as limits on alcohol consumption, changes in personal status laws, and restrictions on “offensive” speech.

Beyond these domestic issues, the biggest consideration is how the rise of Islamist parties will affect Israel. This is an important concern, particularly as Israelis find themselves increasingly threatened by a hostile regional atmosphere in general and Iran’s nuclear ambitions in particular. Even on this charged issue, Islamists have begun to adapt to reality. For example, in their 2004 reform initiative, the Muslim Brotherhood affirms its “respect of international laws and treaties,” which indicates a potential willingness to accept Camp David. Last year, Abdel Menem abul Futouh, a leading Brotherhood moderate and member of the group’s guidance bureau, told me he is willing to accept a two-state solution, with “full sovereignty for a Palestinian state and full sovereignty for an Israeli state.” Israel, of course, cannot afford the luxury of being so sanguine about Islamist designs. The United States and the international community can mitigate the risks of Islamist overreach by providing clear incentives for Islamist moderation on this and other issues. A potential model for this type of “enmeshing” is Turkey’s ruling AKP, an Islamist party which has enacted a series of far-reaching democratic reforms in order to meet requirements to enter the European Union–and which enjoys a working relationship (and military ties) with Israel.

That said, actions invite unintended consequences. Where Arab regimes privilege order, democratic transitions invariably bring some degree of disorder. But the alternative to democracy is more dictatorship. Maintaining Arab strongmen in the name of so-called stability was precisely the strategy that made the Middle East into the powder keg of violence and fanaticism that it is today. As September 11 taught us, the pathologies of the Arab world, if ignored, can easily spill onto our own soil.

Shadi Hamid is director of research at the Project on Middle East Democracy and an associate of the Truman National Security Project.


America”s Bad Deal With Musharraf, Going Down in Flames

By Ahmed Rashid
Sunday, June 17, 2007; Page B01

LAHORE, Pakistan Pakistan is on the brink of disaster, and the Bush administration is continuing to back the man who dragged it there. As President Pervez Musharraf fights off the most serious challenge to his eight-year dictatorship, the United States is supporting him to the hilt. The message to the Pakistani public is clear: To the Bush White House, the war on terrorism tops everything, and that includes democracy.

The crisis began on March 9, when Musharraf suspended Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the chief justice of the supreme court, who bravely threatened Musharraf”s plans to consolidate his power. That triggered street protests demanding Musharraf”s resignation, which were met by a government-led crackdown on lawyers, the opposition and the media. Thousands of lawyers nationwide, looking like penguins in their courtroom black suits and white shirts, braved police batons and the heat to lead marches. They were joined by women”s groups, journalists and the opposition. For the first time in two decades, Pakistan”s civil society has taken to the streets.

The roots of the crisis go back to the blind bargain Washington made after 9/11 with the regime that had heretofore been the Taliban”s main patron: ignoring Musharraf”s despotism in return for his promises to crack down on al-Qaeda and cut the Taliban loose. Today, despite $10 billion in U.S. aid to Pakistan since 2001, that bargain is in tatters; the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda”s senior leadership has set up another haven inside Pakistan”s chaotic border regions.

The problem is exacerbated by a dramatic drop-off in U.S. expertise on Pakistan. Retired American officials say that, for the first time in U.S. history, nobody with serious Pakistan experience is working in the South Asia bureau of the State Department, on State”s policy planning staff, on the National Security Council staff or even in Vice President Cheney”s office. Anne W. Patterson, the new U.S. ambassador to Islamabad, is an expert on Latin American “drugs and thugs”; Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, is a former department spokesman who served three tours in Hong Kong and China but never was posted in South Asia. “They know nothing of Pakistan,” a former senior U.S. diplomat said.

Current and past U.S. officials tell me that Pakistan policy is essentially being run from Cheney”s office. The vice president, they say, is close to Musharraf and refuses to brook any U.S. criticism of him. This all fits; in recent months, I”m told, Pakistani opposition politicians visiting Washington have been ushered in to meet Cheney”s aides, rather than taken to the State Department.

No one in Foggy Bottom seems willing to question Cheney”s decisions. Boucher, for one, has largely limited his remarks on the crisis to expressions of support for Musharraf. Current and retired U.S. diplomats tell me that throughout the previous year, Boucher refused to let the State Department even consider alternative policies if Musharraf were threatened with being ousted, even though 2007 is an election year in Pakistan. Last winter, Boucher reportedly limited the scope of a U.S. government seminar on Pakistan for fear that it might send a signal that U.S. support for Musharraf was declining. Likewise, I”m told, he has refused to meet with leading opposition figures such as former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf has exiled. (Boucher says he has met with “people across the full political spectrum of Pakistan” during his nine visits there, from government parties to Islamic radicals to Chaudhry”s lawyer.) Meanwhile, Boucher”s boss, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, demands democracy and media freedom in Venezuela but apparently deems such niceties irrelevant to Pakistan.

With Cheney in charge and Rice in eclipse, rumblings of alarm can be heard at the Defense Department and the CIA. While neither agency is usually directly concerned with decision-making on Pakistan, both boast officers with far greater expertise than the White House and State Department crew. These officers, many of whom have served in Islamabad or Kabul, understand the double game that Musharraf has played — helping the United States go after al-Qaeda while letting his intelligence services help the Taliban claw their way back in Afghanistan. The Pentagon and the CIA have been privately expressing concern about the lack of an alternative to blind support for Musharraf. Ironically, both departments have historically supported military rulers in Pakistan. They seem to have learned their lesson. It”s a pity that those calling the shots have not.

What is at stake? Quite simply, the danger of a civil war or the country unraveling even more dramatically than it did when it lost Bangladesh in 1971.

The establishment that has sustained four military regimes is deeply divided. The judiciary and the legal system are out in the streets, demanding an end to military rule. They are backed by the country”s gleeful federal bureaucracy, which resented being shunted aside by Musharraf, and joined by civil society organizations and opposition parties. The protesters” ranks have also been swelled by poor people protesting increases in the price of food and other necessities and shortages of electricity during an already blistering summer.

These dissenters have been joined by an increasingly influential media. Under military regimes, the media always grow in stature as they act as the conscience of the people and give voice to political opposition. For the first time, the public can watch demonstrations live on private satellite-TV channels — something that has bewildered the army”s Orwellian thought-control department.

On the opposing side stand Musharraf”s remaining allies. The most important is the powerful, brooding army. On June 1, its top brass issued a strong statement of support for Musharraf that dismissed the protests as a “malicious campaign against institutions of the state, launched by vested interests and opportunists.” But on live TV talk shows, pundits are lambasting the army for the first time, shocking many viewers. Such withering criticism has forced younger officers to question whether the entire military establishment should risk the public”s wrath to keep one man in power.

Musharraf is also supported by the business community, which has experienced economic stability and rising investment from the Arab world during his regime. He also retains — for now — the backing of a motley group of politicians who came to power after the military rigged elections in 2002, although many of them are considering jumping ship or ditching Musharraf.

Running parallel to this domestic political crisis is the growing problem of radical Islam; the Taliban and al-Qaeda are now deeply entrenched in the tribal border belt adjacent to Afghanistan. These groups gained political legitimacy last year when Musharraf signed a series of dubious peace deals with the Pakistani Taliban. They are now coming down from the mountains to spread their radical ideology in towns and cities by burning down DVD and TV shops, insisting that young men grow beards, forcibly recruiting schoolboys for the jihad and terrifying girls so that they won”t attend school. The military has refused to put a brake on their extremism.

Musharraf promised the international community that he would purge pro-Taliban elements from his security services and convinced the Bush administration that his philosophy of “enlightened moderation” was the only way to fend off Islamic extremism. But Pakistan today is the center of global Islamic terrorism, with Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mohammad Omar probably living here.

Instead of confronting this threat, the army has focused on keeping Musharraf in power — negotiating with extremists, letting radical Islamic students set up a base in Islamabad and so forth. Meanwhile, to spook the West into continuing to support him, Musharraf continues to grossly exaggerate the strength of the Islamic parties that he warns might take over his nuclear-armed country. In fact, the United States would be far safer if it pushed for a truly representative Pakistani government that could marginalize the jihadists, rather than placing all its eggs in Musharraf”s basket.

How will the current crisis end? It”s unlikely to peter out; the movement has lasted three months now, despite Musharraf”s intelligence services” prediction that it would end within days. And Chaudhry is a formidable foe — not a mere politician (who, in Pakistan, are inevitably corrupt) but a judge perched above the political fray.

The logical strategy for Musharraf would be to apologize to the nation for hounding the chief justice, bring all parties to a reconciliation conference and agree to early elections under a neutral interim government. If he still insisted on running for president, he would have to agree to take off his uniform first so that no matter who won, Pakistan would return to civilian rule.

But how can a commando general carry out such a U-turn without losing face, especially when he is being publicly backed by the White House? A secretary of state with vision — a James Baker or a Madeleine Albright — could have recognized that Musharraf”s time is up. Instead, we have Rice and Boucher and Cheney, who — just as in Iraq — can only reinforce a failed policy. Washington is doing itself no favors by serving as Musharraf”s enabler. Indeed, the Bush administration”s policy of sticking by Musharraf is fast becoming eerily reminiscent of the Carter administration”s policy of sticking by the shah of Iran.

Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist, is the author of “Taliban.”


Indonesia: an Islamic force for peace and progress

By John Hughes

The most populous Islamic country in the world, Indonesia, is emerging as a would-be peacemaker in the troubled Middle East and a moderating counterbalance to jihadist extremism.

The steps are tentative, as perhaps befits a mystic land, as complex as the wayang, the popular Indonesian shadow play in which puppets are manipulated behind a backlit curtain.

Some critics are skeptical that Indonesia will have much heft. In the world scheme of things, Indonesia is not a political heavyweight. But with a largely Muslim population of about 240 million, it is forging a significant example of how democracy and Islam can successfully coexist. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda signaled his nation”s desire to take a larger role in solving problems of the Islamic world. Countries in the Middle East, he said, have been so deeply involved in their problems for so long that they can get too focused on specific aspects. “We who follow events in the Middle East from a distance,” he said, “can see a larger, clearer picture. Hence we are able to produce some fresh ideas that might be helpful in the quest for a solution.”

The first major test of this new policy of involvement will come in August when Indonesia attempts a conference of reconciliation between the competing Palestinian factions of Hamas and Fatah. With its approach to internal political problems, Indonesia typically adopts the practice of mushiwara, the art of bringing everybody together to make decisions by consensus, rather than determining winners and losers.

Thus the conference will include an array of interested scholars and political figures from the United States and Europe to participate in the discussions. If a satisfactory decision by mushiwara could erase the divisions between the Palestinian factions, it might breathe a little new life into the frozen Israeli-Palestinian peace process. This would enhance Indonesia”s credibility as a potential interlocutor in Islamic affairs.

Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of neighboring Singapore, and considered one of Asia”s wise elder statesmen, cites Indonesia as an essential participant in the war against terrorism. In a Foreign Affairs article earlier this year, he wrote, “When moderate Muslim governments, such as those in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Persian Gulf states, Egypt, and Jordan, feel comfortable associating themselves openly with a multilateral coalition against Islamic terrorism, the tide of battle will turn against the extremists.”

Non-Arab Indonesia has long practiced a more moderate brand of Islam than exists in Arab lands. It is also more familiar with democracy. President Sukarno, who led Indonesia to independence from Dutch colonial rule in 1949, was deposed after 20 years of mismanagement, and the military installed as president a general of the Army, Suharto. He, too, proved a disappointment and was ultimately deposed, but in the past seven years Indonesians have enjoyed democratically elected leadership. The current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is also a former military man, but he won election fairly. The military is still an influential participant in Indonesia”s mushiwara way of decisionmaking, but both President Yudhoyono and many of the Army”s generals have cordial relations with the U.S. military establishment and familiarity with democratic traditions through visits and training in the U.S.

While Yudhoyono favors a more prominent role for Indonesia in attempting to solve some of the problems of the Islamic world, he must move with some circumspection because his country is challenged by some of its own jihadist extremists. They have mounted acts of terrorism, and some of the leaders have been jailed. But the extremists are a minority, and the government seems to have the situation contained. However, Indonesia”s moderate form of Islam and its successful embrace of democracy make it anathema to the international jihadist movement and therefore a potential target.

Indonesia”s history has often been one of adversity: colonization by the Dutch, World War II occupation by the Japanese, Suharto”s regime of autocratic corruption, and poverty for the masses for many years because its natural resources were despoiled and misused.

Now its people are enjoying a period of relative peace and harmony. Perhaps this huge Islamic nation”s current example of stability and moderation, perhaps even its mushiwara way of solving problems – which may seem quaint to some – may suggest the path to progress for some of the world”s more angry and unstable areas.

• John Hughes, a former editor of the Monitor, won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Indonesia as a foreign correspondent in the 1960s. His book, published in the U.S. as “Indonesian Upheaval” and in Britain and Australia as “The End of Sukarno,” was recently republished.

(Source: Christian Science Monitor)


Why do Muslims look to religion to address political issues?

Dalia Mogahed

Washington, DC – One of the foremost experts on what he refers to as Islamic democracy, Noah Feldman, explains in his book “After Jihad: America and the struggle for Islamic Democracy” how the Western paradigm has focused on two diametrically opposed models of government, each tracing its origin to one of two ancient cities: Jerusalem, the birthplace of Christianity and Athens, the birthplace of Democracy.

In broad strokes, Jerusalem represents a model in which religion is dominant, there is no separation between Church and State, and is characterised by near-absolute rule by an emperor who is also the head of the Church. Whereas Athens represents reason, where religion is strictly “privatised”, the god of science is dominant, and the people have a direct say in who is to lead them.

Western history is characterised by a dynamic tension between these two cities. This leads to the assumption that if a society”s conception of an ideal government does not fit neatly into the secular Athens model, it must of necessity be opting for the Jerusalem model. In this binary paradigm, no third choice exists.

However, Feldman asserts, Islam”s political history originates in another city altogether, Medina, the place of origin for both Islam”s spiritual and democratic tradition.

A recent Gallup survey shows that while there is a great deal of diversity among Muslim nations, some salient themes emerge which fly in the face of conventional wisdom. One of these findings is Muslims” widespread support for shari”a, Islamic religious principles that are widely seen as governing all aspects of life, from the mundane to the complex.

Often assumed in the West to be an oppressive corpus of law supported only by a small handful of fanatics (and especially detested by women), the incorporation of shari”a as one source of legislation enjoys the support of a majority in the eight Muslim-majority nations surveyed. Perhaps more surprising is the general absence of any large difference between men and women regarding their support for the incorporation of shari”a into governance. The only outlier is Turkey, where 57% say that shari”a should not be a source of legislation.

But how is shari”a understood by the majority of Muslims? Does its inclusion mean a rejection of democratic values and a call for the absolute rule of an infallible clergy?

The findings suggest that this is not the case. The vast majority of those surveyed, in addition to their admiration for political freedom in the West, also said they support freedoms of speech, religion and assembly – as well as a woman”s right to vote, drive and work outside the home. Indeed, majorities in every nation surveyed save for Saudi Arabia (where the number is 40%) also believe it appropriate for women to serve at the highest levels of government in their nation”s Cabinet and National Council. In addition, a mean of 60% say they would want religious leaders to play no direct role in drafting a country”s constitution (and even among those who take the contrary view, most would want clerics limited to an advisory function).

Should the West be surprised by this response? Richard Bulliet, in his book “The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization”, explains that shari”a traditionally acted as a limit on the power of government. He writes, “All that restrained rulers from acting as tyrants was Islamic law, shari”a. Since the law was based on divine rather then human principles, no ruler could change it to serve his own interests.”

To use more familiar language, shari”a in Muslim understanding represents those inalienable rights each person is endowed with by their creator. Government”s role therefore should be to protect those rights. Thus, complete secularism can mean for many the lifting of all constraints on the tyranny of government, in fact taking away people”s God-given rights.

That the vast majority of Muslims support an approach that refuses to exclude God from the governmental sphere even as they embrace democratic values may bewilder many who can only fathom a French-style secular democracy.

However, what is surprising is how many Americans may actually embrace a similar model. In a recent Gallup poll of American households, 46% say the bible should be a source, but not the only source, of legislation and 9% more say the Bible should be the only source of legislation.

However, the majority of Americans, like Muslims, do not favour handing control over to religious leaders. Interestingly, American views of the role of religious leaders almost exactly parallels those in Iran, with 55% of Americans and Iranians saying religious leaders should have no part in drafting a constitution for a new country, while the balance believes they should have at least some role.

Understanding this third model of government, one that embraces both religious principles and democratic values, may be America”s key to helping build authentic, popularly supported democracy in this region of the world.

* Dalia Mogahed directs the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and is co-author, with John Esposito, of the forthcoming book “Who Speaks for Islam? Listening to the Voices of a Billion Muslims”. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.


Press Release
Egypt, July 25, 2007

A Statement by the Grand Mufti of Egypt on Apostasy and Freedom of Religion

Cairo, Egypt

I never retracted my statement on apostasy and freedom of religion. On Sunday I published an article in the Washington Post-Newsweek OnFaith forum discussing the Islamic perspective on apostasy. I affirmed the freedom that God has afforded all of humanity in their right to choose their own religion without it being imposed upon them from the outside. Choice means freedom, and freedom includes the freedom to commit grave sins as long as their harm does not extend to others. This is why I discussed the fact that throughout history the worldly punishment for apostasy in Islam has been applied only to those who, in addition to their apostasy, actively engaged in the subversion of society.

These two points sum up a greater religious principle: with freedom comes responsibility. My remarks on the OnFaith forum were picked up in local Egyptian papers, but they only focused on the question of freedom giving the impression that leaving Islam is a light matter. Nothing could be more serious. In order to maintain the balance of the original article my press team sent out a statement emphasizing the aspect of responsibility, mainly that apostasy is a grave sin and, when combined with sedition, is punishable in both this world and the next.

This balanced opinion is one that I have held for years and I have included in both my books and lectures. It is a position that I have never retracted. Unfortunately, some members of the press and the public understood this statement as a retraction of my position that Islam affords freedom of belief. I have always maintained the legitimacy of this freedom and I continue to do so.

About Dar al-Ifta
A fatwa is an official non-binding Islamic legal opinion issued by a qualified scholar in response to a question posed by a member of the public. The institution of Dar al-Ifta was established in 1895 with the purpose of issuing authoritative, accurate, and practical legal opinions. It is considered one of the few institutions authorized to issue fatwas in the Islamic world, and it issues over 5,000 fatwas a month in response to the questions it receives from all over the world by all forms of communication.



To Check Syria, U.S. Explores Bond With Muslim Brothers

Activist Group Provides Link to Syrian Islamists; Seeking Women”s Rights
July 25, 2007; Page A1

WASHINGTON — On a humid afternoon in late May, about 100 supporters of Syria”s largest exile opposition group, the National Salvation Front, gathered outside Damascus”s embassy here to protest Syrian President Bashar Assad”s rule. The participants shouted anti-Assad slogans and raised banners proclaiming: “Change the Regime Now.”

The NSF unites liberal democrats, Kurds, Marxists and former Syrian officials in an effort to transform President Assad”s despotic regime. But the Washington protest also connected a pair of more unlikely players — the U.S. government and the Muslim Brotherhood.

One of the NSF”s most influential members is the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood — the decades-old political movement active across the Middle East whose leaders have inspired the terrorist groups Hamas and al Qaeda. Its Syrian offshoot says it has renounced armed struggle in favor of democratic reform.

In the months leading up to the May 26 rally, the NSF held a string of meetings with officials from the State Department and the National Security Council. They discussed media and political strategies, and the administration dispatched a camera crew from the U.S. government-funded Al Hurra television station to beam scenes of the rally across the Arab world.

How Bush hard-liners and the Brotherhood”s Syrian branch came together is a tale of desperation to keep up the pressure on Mr. Assad, whose regime has weathered all attempts by the U.S. to cripple it in recent years. The unusual relationship is also a measure of the evolving strategies on both sides as they seek ways to counter the Syrian government.


Key players in bringing closer the White House and Syria”s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Abdul Halim Khaddam. Syria”s vice president until 2005, when he expressed distaste for President Bashar Assad”s rule and fled to Paris. Helped form National Salvation Front, a political alliance with the Brotherhood.

Ali Sadreddin Al Bayanouni. Now head of Muslim Brotherhood”s Syrian arm, he fled Syria in 1979 during Damascus”s crackdown on the Islamist group. Joined with Mr. Khaddam to form NSF.
Najib Ghadbian. An early supporter of U.S. efforts to engage the Brotherhood, the University of Arkansas political scientist joined the NSF in early 2006. He argues that the group will have credibility in the Middle East only with the Brotherhood”s participation.
Ammar Abdulhamid. Syrian exile played a key role in building ties between the Bush administration and NSF. Democracy activist runs a separate foundation, Tharwa, which monitors Syria”s elections and human rights abuses. He quit the NSF in June, concerned it wasn”t moving aggressively enough to unseat President Assad.
Elliott Abrams. Bush”s Middle East adviser in the National Security Council. His office was reluctant to engage the NSF due its links to the Brotherhood and Khaddam. It warmed amid fears of a threat to U.S. interests by Syria and Iran.
Scott Carpenter. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State runs the Middle East Partnership Initiative to promote democracy in the Islamic world. MEPI has met regularly with the NSF and funds groups that aid Syrian opposition groups such as Abdulhamid”s Tharwa.

The White House views Syria — along with its allies, Iran and militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas — as a main threat to stability in the Middle East. So it is exploring the potential benefits of engaging with the Brotherhood. Despite its checkered record, the Sunni group could provide a counterweight against the rising influence of Shiite political power in the region. It could also, the reasoning goes, emerge as a force for democratic change.

The U.S. has traditionally avoided contact with the Brotherhood across the Middle East. But now the State Department and National Security Council have begun to hold regular strategy sessions on Syria policy with the NSF and is funding an organization linked to it. Senior officials from the State Department and the National Security Council confirm the meetings. The U.S. has also discussed with the NSF and linked groups ways to monitor elections and promote civil society in Syria.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scott Carpenter says the U.S. talks “with everyone in the Syrian opposition” to understand what is happening in the country and hasn”t bestowed the NSF with special status. The front “is the largest coalition of groups that have come together” to promote democratic change, Mr. Carpenter adds. “It”s begun to have its own gravitational pull.”

U.S. diplomats and politicians have also met with legislators from parties connected to the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Egypt and Iraq in recent months to hear their views on democratic reforms in the Middle East, U.S. officials say. Last month, the State Department”s intelligence unit organized a conference of Middle East experts to examine the merits of engagement with the Brotherhood, particularly in Egypt and Syria.

A Syrian embassy spokesman in Washington, Ahmed Salkini, described the NSF as “an insignificant force,” and said Damascus is aware of the NSF”s activities and its meetings with the Bush administration. “It”s a coalition that lacks any form of legitimacy inside or outside Syria,” he said.

Set up in the 1920s by an Egyptian schoolteacher amid the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Muslim Brotherhood”s leaders argued that only a society governed by Islamic law could buttress the Muslim world against foreign aggression and internal corruption. A principal credo of founder Hassan al-Banna states, “The Prophet is our leader. Quran is our law.”

Branches spread across the Arab world, including Syria, Jordan and Iraq. Though ideologically linked to the Egyptian group, they were largely autonomous. In the Palestinian territories, Muslim Brothers established Hamas in 1987 as a militant response to Israel”s occupation; the organization seized control of the Gaza Strip this June. The U.S., Europe and Israel designate Hamas as a terrorist organization for its use of suicide attacks.

Today, the Brotherhood”s relationship to Islamist militancy, and al Qaeda in particular, is the source of much debate. Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders cite the works of the Brotherhood”s late intellectual, Sayyid Qutb, as an inspiration for their crusade against the West and Arab dictators. Members of Egyptian and Syrian Brotherhood arms have also gone on to take senior roles in Mr. bin Laden”s movement.

Al Qaeda”s leadership, however, has also criticized Brotherhood branches recently for their embrace of democratic elections and dialogue with Western powers. The Brotherhood”s modern leadership has renounced al Qaeda”s use of violence.

The Brotherhood”s Syrian branch was established in the 1940s and won seats in early parliamentary elections and government cabinets. In the 1960s, the Baath party and the Assad family seized power, ushering in a violent chapter in Syrian history. Arms of the Brotherhood assassinated senior military and Baath party officials in the 1970s. Syria made membership in the Brotherhood a capital offense in 1980. In 1982, the regime killed up to 25,000 civilians in the city of Hama, a Brotherhood stronghold, driving many of its leaders into exile.

Syria currently has mixed relations with Islamist groups. Damascus supports the Brotherhood-inspired Hamas, as well as Hezbollah, in their fight against Israel”s presence in the region. The U.S. charges Syria with facilitating the entrance of al Qaeda fighters into Iraq, a charge Syria denies. But the staunchly secular regime represses these or other Islamist groups seeking political change within the country.

Among the Syrian exiles pressing for regime change is Ali Sadreddin Al Bayanouni, a lawyer and former bodyguard to Brotherhood officials. Mr. Bayanouni fled to Jordan in 1979 and eventually took over as president of the Brotherhood”s Syrian arm. In 2000, Amman expelled him to appease Damascus, and Mr. Bayanouni settled in London. Fit and energetic despite his 69 years, he personifies to many the new, moderate leadership of the Brotherhood.

Though his son-in-law was executed during the 1982 crackdown, Mr. Bayanouni says he rules out armed struggle as a way to change Syria. He advocates the rights of women and ethnic minorities, and envisions a government based on “pluralism and power sharing.”

“The Brotherhood has a very moderate understanding of Islam that needs to be taken into account,” he says.

The seeds of the NSF were planted four years ago by Abdul Halim Khaddam, who was among the longest-serving senior Baath party officials under late President Hafez Assad.

President Assad died in 2000, replaced by his son Bashar. By 2003, Mr. Khaddam says he believed one-party rule was fueling corruption and wrecking Syria”s economy. Mr. Khaddam, then Syria”s vice president, secretly contacted Mr. Bayanouni to discuss a rapprochement. Through a third party, Mr. Khaddam says he conveyed his belief that Syria could progress only if the Muslim Brotherhood was brought inside the political system. In 2005, Mr. Khaddam resigned and fled to Paris.

Messrs. Khaddam and Bayanouni formed the NSF in February 2006. The marriage of the Muslim Brothers and breakaway Baathists shocked many in the Arab world. The pair also reached out to the Bush administration, hoping a partnership with the U.S. could increase pressure on President Assad.

Instead of requesting military aid or financing, the group is seeking Washington”s help in focusing on Syria”s human-rights record. It is pressing for more financial sanctions on President Assad”s family. (The U.S. already has some sanctions on Syria, including on senior government officials.) The NSF also wants Washington to give up its historical bias against Islamists in government, saying the Brotherhood could help moderate Damascus”s behavior.

“We don”t want to see the U.S. give the regime a way out from its violations,” Mr. Khaddam says.

An initial contact between the White House and NSF was forged by Najib Ghadbian, a University of Arkansas political scientist. In 2005, Mr. Ghadbian and other Syrian-Americans had set up the Syrian National Council in a bid to influence the U.S. policy debate. Meeting that fall with a senior State Department official, he suggested the U.S. work with his group and its contacts, including the Brotherhood. U.S. officials confirm they were initially resistant to talking with Syrian groups tied to the Brotherhood.

Syrian-Americans were also divided. At a January 2006 conference of Syrian-American activists in Washington, participants debated whether to align with the NSF. The Syrian Reform Party, a group of pro-democracy activists close to the Bush national security team, declined to attend. “We can”t trust our future to Islamists,” says its president, Farid Ghadry, a regular visitor at the White House. “The Brotherhood will never moderate itself.”

Mr. Ghadbian”s group, however, decided to join the NSF. Syrian-American activists, he explained, “wouldn”t be taken seriously” in the Arab world without ties to arguably the largest group opposing President Assad.

As 2006 progressed, Washington became increasingly concerned about Syria”s military alliance with Iran, and the threat it posed to U.S. interests in the region. Damascus and Tehran backed Hezbollah, which fought Israel to a virtual draw that summer. The White House also worried about the threat Syria posed to Lebanon”s pro-Western government.

By early summer, the stance of key administration officials — including the White House”s chief Middle East adviser, Elliott Abrams — began to shift, say U.S. diplomats and NSF members. The White House”s National Security Council quietly vetted Messrs. Bayanouni and Khaddam through retired diplomats and Syrian-American activists, participants in the process say. U.S. officials sought assurance that the Syrian Brotherhood was committed to democracy and had renounced violence. They also hoped Mr. Khaddam could provide information on the inner workings of the Assad regime.

During 2006, Syrian exile and democracy activist Ammar Abdulhamid emerged as one of the NSF”s main liaisons with senior White House officials. In the weeks surrounding the Lebanon war, which began in July, Messrs. Abdulhamid and Ghadbian and other Syrian-Americans met with Mr. Abrams”s deputies in the Old Executive Office building next to the White House. Through these intermediaries, the White House exhorted the NSF to build a wide coalition of opposition groups and to run it in a transparent and democratic manner, participants say.

The two sides began discussing ways to highlight the problems of Syria”s parliamentary and presidential elections, approaching in 2007. The Baathists allowed no candidates from other parties to run in the May 27 presidential poll.

In the weeks before the presidential election, the State Department”s Middle East Partnership Initiative, which promotes regional democracy, and NSF members met to talk about publicizing Syria”s lack of democracy and low voter turnout, participants say. A Washington-based consulting firm, C&O Resources Inc., assisted the NSF in its planning for the May 26 anti-Assad rally at the Syrian embassy, providing media and political contacts. State Department officials stress they provided no financial or technical support to the protestors.

Turnout for the May 26 rally in Washington was smaller than expected. From behind the windows of Syria”s colonial-style embassy building, officials snapped photos of the crowd. Some protesters, worried they could be linked with family members back in Syria, covered their faces with scarves.

The cooperation has come at a price for both sides. The Bush administration has come under fire from critics who point to the Brotherhood”s ties to Hamas and al Qaeda. They also argue that any U.S. partnership with the group could destabilize governments in Jordan and Egypt, two U.S. allies where the Brotherhood is a growing opposition force. The U.S. says it is committed to opening political processes across the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bayanouni and the Syrian Brothers have drawn criticism from some Brotherhood leaders in the Middle East, who say contacts with the U.S. discredits their movement. And inside Syria, courts have ordered long prison sentences for three prominent democracy activists in recent weeks, one of whom visited the White House last year.

Senior State Department and National Security Council officials say they haven”t ruled out meeting with Mr. Bayanouni and other Brotherhood leaders in the future. Mr. Bayanouni says the cooperation through the NSF is merely a good start. “In the absence of direct dialogue” between the U.S. and the Syrian Brothers, he says, “we believe the American image of the Brotherhood will always remain vague.”

Write to Jay Solomon at [email protected]


Tariq Ramadan Speaks Out

European intellectual


Muslims Speak Out


A Swiss citizen of Egyptian descent, Tariq Ramadan, is one of the world”s leading Muslim intellectuals. Considered one of Time Magazine”s 100 “innovators” of the 21st century, Ramadan advocates a self-confident Islam that both engages and critiques Western ideas and institutions.


The concept of “jihad” has different meanings and a scholar such as Jalal ad-Dîn as-Suyutî (15th century), while studying its scope, highlighted 80 different dimensions, uses and objectives related to its place in Islamic teachings. Its root “ja-ha-da” means “making an effort”, “exerting oneself” in order to promote good or to resist wrongdoing, evil or oppression. Every individual trying to resist her/his own negative temptations is engaged in “jihad” and the first time the word is used in the Qur’an (25:52), it refers to an intellectual and spiritual resistance by the means of the Qur’an itself.

In all its dimensions, the essence of “jihad” is “to resist” in the name of justice and dignity. When there is an armed aggression, Muslims have the right to protect themselves and to defend their rights. Here “jihâd” means “qitâl” (armed struggle). The use of violence and weapons must be adjusted to the nature of the aggression itself: an armed aggression may justify an armed resistance if there is no other way to come to a peaceful agreement. But the use of violence and weapons must be proportionate and never target innocent people, women, children, the elderly, and even fruit trees as Abû Bakr, the first successor of the Prophet, stated following Muhammad’s teachings. Jihad never means “holy war” in order “to impose” or “to propagate” Islam everywhere. In fact jihâd and qitâl mean exactly the opposite of what we commonly think: rather than being the justifying instruments of war, they are the imposed measures to achieve peace by resisting an unjust aggression.

In specific situations – when one faces an army and has no weapons or other means to resist – it may be understandable and justifiable to consider sacrificing one’s life in attempts to reach the armed soldiers. Here we are not far from a kind of suicide but it is related to three specific conditions: 1. It must be in a time of declared war; 2. when no other means of resisting are available; 3. the targets must be exclusively the army of the enemies and its armed soldiers. Today’s suicide bombers who are killing innocent people are not only not respecting the Islamic teachings as to the ethics of war but are in fact indulging in anti-Islamic actions.


In the Islamic legal tradition, “apostasy” known as “ridda” is related to changing one’s religion and its injunction is mainly based on two prophetic sayings (ahadith) both quoted in sahih Bukhari (9,83 and 84): “The one who changes his religion, kill him” and another tradition noting that among the three categories of people who can be killed is “the one who leaves the community”. The great majority of the Muslim scholars, from all the different traditions and throughout history, have been of the opinion that changing one’s religion is prohibited in Islam and should be sanctioned by the death penalty.

Nevertheless we find, in very early studies and writings, several Muslim scholars having a different approach. The jurist Ibrahîm al-Nakha’î (8th), Sufyân ath-Thawrî (8th) in his renowned work on the prophetic tradition (Al-Jâmi’ al Kabîr, Al-Jâmi’ al-Saghîr) as well as the hanafi jurist Shams ad-Dîn as-Sarakhsî (11th) – among others- hold other views. They question the absolute authenticity of the two prophetic traditions quoted above. They also argue that nothing is mentioned in the Qur’an pertaining to this very sensitive issue and add that there is no evidence of the Prophet killing someone only because he/she changed his/her religion.

The Prophet took firm measures, only in time of war, against people who had falsely converted to Islam for the sole purpose of infiltrating the Islamic community to obtain information they then passed on to the enemy. They were in fact betrayers engaging in high treason who incurred the penalty of death because their actions were liable to bring about the destruction of the Muslim community and the two prophetic traditions quoted above should be read in this very specific context.

In light of the texts (Qur’an and prophetic traditions) and the way the Prophet behaved with the people who left Islam (like Hishâm and ‘Ayyash) or who converted to Christianity (such as Ubaydallah ibn Jahsh), it should be stated that one who changes her/his religion should not be killed. In Islam, there can be no compulsion or coercion in matters of faith not only because it is explicitly forbidden in the Qur’an but also because free conscious and choice and willing submission are foundational to the first pillar (declaration of faith) and essential to the very definition of “Islam”. Therefore, someone leaving Islam or converting to another religion must be free to do so and her/his choice must be respected.

One might hope that anyone, be she/he a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Christian, a Muslim or anything else, would show as much respect towards the religious or spiritual community she/he is leaving as the latter must express towards her/him.


The issue of “women is Islam” is a charged topic with preconceived notions, stereotypes and prototypes, claims and counter-claims on all sides. It is always about a woman’s role, what rights she does or does not have in Muslim societies in opposition to the West. In these dueling lists of rights, only the fighting words are sharpened but no insight is gained. For a fruitful discussion, it is imperative to change the terms of discourse. And as a first step, it is necessary to recall that the Qur’an was revealed over a 23 year period and in a specific historical context: it is important to take these two factors into account. The first helps us to avoid a literalist reading of some verses by being cognizant that they have to be understood through a sequence of different verses leading us to the global message. The second forces us to consider the cultural environment within which the Qur’an was revealed and alerts us not to confuse some cultural contextual features (whether historical or contemporary) with the universal Islamic teachings. These are indeed the two main problems we find when it comes to the women issue: literalist reading and cultural understanding.

It is difficult, in this limited space, to list all the rights of women in Islam and in fact it may be the wrong way to start the discussion. For centuries, Muslim scholars have talked about women in terms of their roles (daughter, wife, mother, sister) and the respective rights and responsibilities related to their family or social functions. It is high time to change our perspective and start talking about “women” as “women”, their being, not their roles or functions. This should be considered their first right: the right to be and to be autonomous ontologically, religiously, socially and economically. Approached from that angle, the perspectives of the whole debate change and it becomes necessary to be quite critical as to the long Islamic legal tradition dealing with the woman issue. We are in dire need of a constructive critical reassessment of the Islamic discourse and understanding on women.

Not only is it necessary to say that female circumcision, domestic violence, forced marriages are not Islamic but we need a comprehensive approach as to the Muslim woman identity within the Islamic communities and societies. It is imperative for Muslim women to be more autonomous, to have equal access to knowledge as men (especially in religious matters), to receive equal pay for the same work and competence, to share social status and political power in their societies and to set the scene for the much needed debate around the role of men in the Islamic societies and communities. A new perspective that focuses on the woman as a psychological and spiritual being will read the sacred texts with fresh eyes (including those of female scholars) and liberates the Muslim women from within by challenging narrow religious interpretations and oppressive cultural practices and is propelled by faithfulness to Islam’s global message.

To speak about Islam promoting “complementarity” between men and women as opposed to the West’s call for total “equality” is not only misleading but it is wrong. There is room for a deep reassessment of this issue from within the Islamic scriptural texts themselves and this is what, Muslim men and women, together should work on/for in the name of their religion to resist all discriminatory practices and views promoted by narrow literalist or cultural understanding.

Posted by Tariq Ramadan on July 25, 2007


Want to Understand Islam? Start Here.

By John L. Esposito

Sunday, July 22, 2007; Page B04


Nearly half of Americans have a generally unfavorable view of Islam, according to a 2006 Washington Post-ABC News poll, a number has risen since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That climate makes it easy to lose sight of the fact that the majority of mainstream Muslims hate terrorism and violence as much as we do — and makes it hard for non-Muslims to know where to begin to try to understand a great world faith.

Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam originated in the Middle East. As F.E. Peters shows in “The Children of Abraham,” the commonalities can be striking. Muslims worship the God of Abraham, as do Christians and Jews. Islam was seen as a continuation of the Abrahamic faith tradition, not a totally new religion. Muslims recognize the biblical prophets and believe in the holiness of God”s revelations to Moses (in the Torah) and Jesus (in the Gospels). Indeed, Musa (Moses), Issa (Jesus) and Mariam (Mary) are common Muslim names.

Muslims believe in Islam”s five pillars, which are straightforward and simple. To become a Muslim, one need only offer the faith”s basic credo, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the prophet of God.” This statement reflects the two main fundamentals of Islamic faith: belief in the one true God, which carries with it a refusal to worship anything else (not money, not career, not ego), and the crucial importance of Muhammad, God”s messenger.

Muhammad is the central role model for Muslims — much like Jesus is for Christians, except solely human. He is seen as the ideal husband, father and friend, the ultimate political leader, general, diplomat and judge. Understanding Muhammad”s special place in Muslim hearts helps us appreciate the widespread anger of many mainstream Muslims — not just extremists — with the denigration of a Muhammad-like figure in Salman Rushdie”s 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses,” the controversial 2005 Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad in unflattering lights or Pope Benedict XVI”s 2006 speech quoting a long-dead Byzantine emperor who accused the prophet of bringing “only evil and inhuman” things into the world. Karen Armstrong”s “Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time” and Tariq Ramadan”s “In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad” provide fresh, perceptive views on his modern-day relevance.

The three next pillars of Islam are prayer, which is to be performed five times daily; giving alms, in the form of an annual wealth tax that helps support the poor; and fasting during daylight in the holy month of Ramadan. The fifth pillar requires that Muslims perform the pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca at least once.

We tend to equate Islam with the Arab world, but the largest Muslim communities are found in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Nigeria. Only about one in five of the world”s 1.3 billion Muslims are Arabs. Islam is the second-largest religion in Europe and the third-largest in the United States.

The treatment of women under Islam is also wildly diverse. In countries such as Saudi Arabia, women must be fully covered in public, cannot drive cars and struggle for the right to vote. But elsewhere, Muslim women freely enter politics, drive motorcycles and wear everything from saris to pantsuits. Women can get university educations and pursue professional careers in Egypt, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia; they have been heads of state in Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Anyone who has followed the news from Iraq has heard a lot about Sunnis and Shiites, the faith”s two major branches. About 85 percent of the world”s Muslims are Sunni, with about 15 percent Shiite. The division stems from a bitter dispute after Muhammad”s death over who should take over the leadership of the newly founded Muslim community. Sunnis believed that the most qualified person should succeed the prophet, but a minority thought that his descendants should carry his mantle. That minority was known as the followers or partisans (Shiites) of Ali; they believed that Muhammad had designated Ali, his cousin and son-in-law, as his heir. Historically, Shiites have viewed themselves as oppressed and disenfranchised under Sunni rule — a longstanding grievance that has flared up again in recent years in such countries as Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Pakistan. Vali Nasr”s “The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future” does a fine job of distinguishing between theology and politics in today”s Sunni-Shiite rivalries.

Muslims also argue over what some refer to as Islam”s sixth pillar, jihad. In the Koran, Islam”s sacred text, jihad means “to strive or struggle” to realize God”s will, to lead a virtuous life, to create a just society and to defend Islam and the Muslim community. But historically, Muslim rulers, backed by religious scholars, used the term to legitimize holy wars to expand their empires. Contemporary extremists — most notably Osama bin Laden — also appeal to Islam to bless their attacks. My book “Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam” tackles this theme, as does Fawaz Gerges”s “Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy.”

The Gallup World Poll”s helpful section on the Muslim world (www.muslimwestfacts.com) sheds some light on the views and aspirations of more than 1 billion Muslims. My years studying those attitudes suggest that Muslim hostility toward the West is mostly political, not religious, and that Muslims hope the West will show their faith more respect. In our post-9/11 world, the ability to distinguish between Islam itself and Muslim extremism will be critical. Only thus will we be able to avoid pushing away mainstream Muslims around the world, marginalizing Muslim citizens at home and alienating the allies we need to help us fight global terrorism.

[email protected] John L. Esposito is a professor of religion and international affairs at Georgetown University and the author of “What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam.”


TURKEY – Erdogan”s AKP wins new mandate

Turkey”s AKP landslide victory delivers Prime Minister Erdogan a clear mandate to continue.

By Ben Judah in Istanbul for ISN Security Watch (23/07/07)


“Our leader is from the street, Our leader is from the street,” screamed the ecstatic crowds gathered outside the Justice and Development Party (AKP) headquarters in the working class district of Beyoglu, in central Istanbul – an AKP stronghold and the very streets that its leader, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan grew up on and worked as a bus driver.

Inside the local party headquarters, as hundreds of activists and supporters, gathered to watch the results come in, Ertan Simsek, a key advisor to Erdogan, told ISN Security Watch he was satified with the result.

“I”m jubilant, after such a tough campaign. This is a victory for the people, and we won because we will bring the state closer to the people at last,” he said.

“There were so many divisions opened up during this campaign, but we are a unifying force, not an Islamic force, but a conservative center party. And we will unify by being transparent about who we are and what the state is.”

The AKP mayor of Beyoglu district, Haydar Ali Yildiz, said the screaming crowds outside his officewere not celebrating the victory of an Islamist agenda, or even a revolutionary one. “You see, a vote for the AK party was a vote for continuity and stability, not rupture or great change,” he told ISN Security Watch.

“We won the confidence of the people that have so often been betrayed.”

Activists where quick to point out that unprecedented in Turkish history, the incumbent party had increased its share of the vote – up from 34 percent to a stunning 46.3 percent, and that the party had delivered strong economic growth and a historic opening of accession talks with the EU. However, due to another opposition party breaking the 10 percent threshold for entering parliament, the AKP will return with fewer seats.

Western paint

The campaign, which saw a rise in far-right sentiment, mass rallies, political murders and bitter enmities, put great stress on Turkey”s minorities, especially the Kurdish population in the east which makes up over 20 percent of the population, and the country”s 60,000-strong Armenian minority still recovering from the assassination of writer and community notable Hrant Dink. Reportage in the western press painted a picture of a nation poised between Islam and secularism, which most Turks are quick to refute.

AKP supporter Mehmet Bayatkan explained that he supported the party and had worked round the clock to make sure it won.

“I went door stopping every day, all day, something the other parties don”t do because they”re not real people”s parties. Why? Because the party is from the street, does a great job economically and represents my views. I am not an Islamist. […] I don”t care much for religion personally.”

Verkin Arioba, a member of the Armenian community in Istanbul and an AKP activist, dismisses the image of the campaign in the western media as a struggle between the secular and the religious.

“It isn”t about that, it is about class. […] The elites created much propaganda surrounding the supposed Islamism of the AK. They want to increase personal freedom, that is good for the religious, that is good for the Armenians, that is good for everyone and in line with the EU negotiations.”

Changing demographics

At the headquarters of the secularist Republican People”s Party (CHP) in downtown Istanbul, a party chief refused an interview with ISN Security Watch on the election outcome.

The CHP, despite having merged with other smaller center-left parties and received military backing, only won 20 percent of the vote.

Most distressing for the party was that while the AKP had previously seen its support base restricted to the new boom towns in Anatolia – such as Kayseri and the highlands – the CHP lost out to its rival in many of the coastal regions, including Antalya, where its leader Deniz Baykal is from.

The distribution of AKP and CHP votes is a reflection of one of the major clefts in Turkish society, between the poorer, more traditional center and the richer, more westernised coast and elite – though this is weakening.

The broader electoral map saw the two opposition parties, the CHP and the secuarlist and far-right National Action Party (MHP) garner strongly localized results. These were the only two parties to pass the 10 percent threshold necessary to get elected, with 112 and 70 seats, respectively – against the AK party”s 341. This means that while the AKP may still be able to form a single-party government, it will have to make alliances to elect a president and change the constitution.

In the east, however, is where the real surprises lay in store for the new Turkish parliament. The Kurdish regions, mostly around Diyarbakir and near Iraq, elected 27 independent candidates -all Kurds – who will now form a new political party. This could see a far greater push for Kurdish linguistic, cultural and even political rights, especially if the AKP chooses to ally with the independents to institute constitutional reforms.

Demographics are starting to worry the Turkish polity, as it is expected that at current growth rates the Kurdish population could be 50 percent of the whole by mid-century. One of the unexpected results of this election could see the slow move towards a bi-national and bi-lingual Republic as the final answer to the minority question. Not only has a major class shift happened, a cultural shift and an ethnic shift has shaken Turkish politics.

Mazhar Alanson, a singer and Turkish cultural icon, told ISN Security Watch he voted for the AKP. “I don”t see this is as Islamism creeping in, I see this as a break with the past,” he said.

For the westernized young, the fears seemed to be more class-based than anything. Surreiya Tarbya, 19, who voted for the AKP, said that “mostly people who voted republican [CHP and MHP] think that the peasants are coming to the city from the mountains, and this scares them.

“It scares them that [Foreign Minister] Abdullah Gul is from Kayseri, an Anatolian and religious city, and not one they understand. I think people will give up now, and start to suck up to the new power,” she told ISN Security Watch.

Military matters

Since the country fell into political turmoil when the military posted an online memorandum on 27 April expressing its fears that the nation”s secularism was being undermined and in alliance with the Republicans prevented Gul becoming prime minister, fears of a coup have been running high.

Tariq, who sells fried sheep intestines in Istanbul for a living, is not so worried anymore. “Look, they [the AKP] got 50 percent – you really think the army is going to attack 50 percent of the country? They can”t, they won”t.”

With such a firm mandate the army is indeed left with very few options and will have to continue to cooperate with the AKP.

However, what Turks refer to as “the deep state” – the web of networks, secret services, army and elite alliances that have traditionally been the arbiters of the political game here – will do is far from certain. They may choose to prolong the political crisis and force yet another election in October if no president is chosen with the short month-and-a-half period allowed under the constitution.

A key test for the AKP in government will be if it is willing to compromise by putting forward a different candidate – a consensus candidate rather than Gul. It is open as to how much the party will now wish to change the constitution. The AKP has made it clear it wants a transparent state and this necessarily means a confrontation sooner or later with the vested interests and the sinews of military power.

Constitutionally, the military is the official guardian of the Republic”s secular system and is charged with protecting it at all costs. But it also fears that as Turkey under Erdogan heads toward the EU, European demands for constitutional changes could lead to a reduction in its political power.

In the meantime, back at AKP offices in Beyoglu, frenzied activists clustered round the television to watch Erdogan make his victory speech.

This leader, who has done much to change Turkey in what many of his supporters refer to as a “silent revolution,” exclaimed in the accent of the street he was born on, that “democracy has passed a great test” with this election.

He pledged to continue his path of reform. Turkey had passed a monumental challenge. Democracy has emerged strengthened and culturally, the very Calvinistic nature of Turkish Islam is cementing itself and the Kurdish issue has a chance of being resolved finally.

Ben Judah is writer and foreign policy analyst based between London and Paris. He has previously worked as a reporter covering race relations for the St Petersburg Times, Russia.


TURKEY – The obvious power of satisfied, empowered, democratic citizens

By The Daily Star – Monday, July 23, 2007



Here”s a sight you will not see very often in the Middle East: an incumbent chief of staff of the armed forces, a prime minister and a president going to vote in a general election, and not knowing who the winners will be ahead of time, because they did not stuff the ballot boxes the night before or gerrymander the electoral districts to achieve predictable outcomes. This is what happened in Turkey Sunday, and it is a refreshing sight indeed in a Middle East region devoid of credible democracy. That Turkey should have weathered its latest constitutional crisis by resorting to a democratic vote, rather than strong arm police state tactics, probably reflects several dynamics that we in the Arab world, and our friends in Washington and other capitals, would do well to grasp.

One reason is that the ruling, and mildly Islamist, Justice and Development Party has practiced the sort of pragmatism and realism that helps keep the Turkish system democratic, pluralistic, electoral, republican and constitutional, and, most importantly, rotational in the exercise of executive power. This is one consequence of pragmatic, democratic Islamists being allowed to play the game by the rules. Another reason is that Turkey”s national reforms on key issues, like minority rights and human rights, have been encouraged in part by carrots of closer association or even membership in the European Union. Carrots often work better than sticks in such situations. This combination of internal and external factors has strengthened Turkey”s democratic values, and reduced the likelihood of the armed forces stepping in once again. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was correct when he told reporters after voting Sunday that, “Our democracy will emerge from this election strengthened.”

The Turkish experience remains deeply relevant to conditions in the Arab world, where police states and presidents-for-life are the persistent political norm among so-called “republics” that have no serious links to genuine democratic republicanism or constitutionalism. It is hard to see today how and when Arab security states will make the transformation to credible democracies. But they will one day, and if they are lucky they will follow a trajectory that is similar to Turkey”s, where the battles are fought democratically and not with bombs, the losers become opposition parties and not corpses, and the winners are the citizens of a state that is secure because it can rely on the power of the strongest force on earth: satisfied, empowered citizens.


Economy trumps religion in Turkey

Scott Peterson Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor



Istanbul, Turkey – A landslide victory for this country”s Islam-rooted ruling party on Sunday – and the sharp defeat of its secular opponents – shows that Turks are more worried about economic instability than the threat of more Islam in government.

But as the celebrations of the Justice and Development (AK) Party calmed Monday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan must turn to challenges ahead: naming a new presidential candidate, stopping attacks by Kurdish militants, and kick-starting stalled membership talks with the European Union.

Also uncertain is the reaction of Turkey”s military – which cast themselves as the staunch defenders of the country”s secular tradition, and has ousted four elected governments – to the fact that the AK Party increased its share of the vote by more than a third from the last elections in 2002, to 46.5 percent.

“This was a vote of confidence on the AK Party”s record, and was certainly a democratic rebellion against military meddling,” says Soli Ozel, a political scientist at Istanbul Bilgi University.

“The AK Party – for all its faults … and all its nondemocratic inclinations – stood for opening up the Turkish system, widening the base of the regime, and remaining open to the rest of the world,” says Mr. Ozel.

Buoyed by the result, the Turkish stock market soared, and the currency jumped to a two-year high against the dollar.

The AK Party kept hold of an absolute majority, with 340 out of 550 seats – fewer than it had before, due to a twist in allocation rules.

The opposition Republican People”s Party (CHP) barely improved its 2002 vote share, with under 21 percent; a nationalist party reentered parliament with over 14 percent of the vote.

Mr. Erdogan immediately sought middle ground with conciliatory words, promising to protect secular traditions to calm fears of an overt Islamist agenda. His wife wears a head scarf – still forbidden in state institutions – as does the wife of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, whose candidacy to be president last April sparked a military warning, mass secular protests, and early elections.

“We will never make concessions over the values of people, the basic principles of our republic. This is our promise,” Mr. Erdogan told celebrants outside the party headquarters in the capital, Ankara. He vowed to lift the nation “to the levels of modern civilization,” invoking the name of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the revered secular leader who founded Turkey in 1923.

“Democracy has passed a very important test,” said Erdogan, calming his supporters while addressing the nation. “Whoever you have voted for…. We respect your choices. We regard your difference as part of our pluralist democracy. It is our responsibility to safeguard this richness.”

A new presidential candidate must be put forward within a month, and experts say that the inclusionary tone of Erdogan”s comments point toward a compromise choice that will be acceptable to the establishment. But armed with the second-largest electoral mandate in more than half a century in Turkey, the AK Party could force Mr. Gul into the presidential palace if it wished.

“Erdogan”s speech gave two important messages: “We are the center party,” and “we understand the message of 54 percent who didn”t vote for us,” ” wrote Asli Aydintasbas in the Sabah newspaper, predicting that the premier would ease tension.

Still on the table is a possible strike by the military – which has an uneasy relationship with the AK Party – into northern Iraq, to go after an estimated 3,000 fighters of the Kurdistan Worker”s Party (PKK) across the border.

Before the vote, the military pushed the government to approve such a strike, though numerous cross-border operations in the 1990s did not stop PKK attacks. Erdogan said that Turkey will take steps at the “right time.”

“From 1960 until today, Turkish voters do the same thing: On the street, they clap for military interference, but they punish [the military and parties that favor such “undemocratic interference”] at the election box,” writes Ms. Aydintasbas. “Turkish voters … showed they first think [of] their pocket.”

The value of what is in those pockets has rising steadily under AK rule, because of pro-business policies that encourage foreign investment, and a string of EU-inspired and other reforms that have opened Turkey more toward the West.

Despite a string of setbacks that have turned many Turks cold on the EU as it grates against some European resistance against permitting a largely Muslim nation into what has been a Christian “club,” Sunday”s vote will give new impetus to the EU process.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Europe should “reach out” to the new government of the NATO ally because a “stable and secure Turkey is massively in our interests.”

“The electorate [did] not take the arguments that Turkey”s secularism was at serious risk seriously,” says Ilter Turan, a political analyst also at Istanbul Bilgi University. Opposition parties that “pursued the strategy of ideological polarization based on secularism now will see that people are more interested in issue-based, pragmatic politics.”

It was a “major misjudgment,” says Mr. Turan, because five years of AK Party rule “did not provide sufficient evidence that these people are out to build a religious state.”

Voters displayed all of Turkey”s varied political stripes with an 80 percent turnout during scorching weather Sunday, and indicated their wish for stability. In the secular Istanbul stronghold of Bakirkoy, voters warned that an AK Party victory would bring unrest. It “will bring chaos to society,” says Haluk Dogan, a sales manager and CHP voter who warned of this “radical Islamic agenda.”

“Difficult days are waiting for us,” says Omer Kormaz, a car salesman and opposition supporter. “It is impossible, Turkey will never be like Iran. But in the hands of this government, they will try.”

But AK Party supporters, now numbering almost half of Turkey”s voters, counter that such fears are overblown. They note that past AK efforts to loosen restrictions on head scarves and other changes have stopped.

“I defend secularism, but secular people are not on the same side as us,” says Ahmed, who only gave his first name. “For example, if a Muslim person wants to go to university wearing a head scarf, [secularists] do not allow it. Which one is democracy, I ask you?”

And those freedoms are what have caught Turkey”s secularists in a bind: where to draw the line when weighing democratic rights against secular tradition?

“Turkey will become a radical Islamist country” frets Sevtap Guru, a sales consultant in Bakirkoy, whose designer sunglasses sport a twisted snake design. “If this [AK Party rule] continues, we will become Arabistan.”


Turkey: Democracy affirmed

International Herald Tribune – Editorial
Published: July 24, 2007

The impressive re-election victory by Turkey”s conservative Muslim ruling party is a tribute to the growing maturity of that country”s politics and an inspiration for the cause of democracy in the broader Muslim world.

Voters rightly rejected the claim asserted by the traditional military-secular establishment that there is any fundamental incompatibility between democracy and Islam. Instead, they rewarded a party that has given the country its most competent and successful government in recent decades. That is exactly how democracy is supposed to work.

Since the Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish initials, AK) came to power almost five years ago, its market-oriented policies have promoted strong economic growth and helped bring runaway inflation back under control. In its pursuit of European Union membership, AK has also pushed through a series of legal reforms that have expanded human rights and brought Turkish law closer to European standards.

Those reforms have stalled in the face of opposition from generals and civilian nationalists and discouraging signals from the EU about Turkish membership. The Kurdish minority is still subject to discriminatory legal restrictions. So is the ruling party”s main constituency, observant Muslims.

The AK should use its huge victory to reinvigorate the drive for reforms, and not just for its Muslim supporters. But it still must be careful not to provoke a military leadership that sees itself as the guardian of secular nationalism and has been less than scrupulous about respecting electoral democracy.

The AK, in contrast, has broadened its support by moving away from its original, narrowly Islamic roots. It is still a visibly Muslim party, but it is also a visibly democratic and tolerant party.

Turkey”s generals should heed the voters. Washington should continue to press Turkey”s case for EU membership. The example of a successful Muslim democracy can be a powerful weapon in the war of ideas against Islamic terrorism.


Turkey”s Islamic template

Gwynne Dyer
Tuesday, July 24th 2007

The best thing about the outcome of the Turkish election on Sunday is that now the army can”t make a coup. It may still want to: it was certainly making menacing noises about it recently. But after almost half the voters (47 per cent) backed the incumbent AK (Justice and Development) party in Sunday”s election, the army simply cannot move against it. A great many officers would just refuse to act against the popular will in such a blatant way, and the army would never risk a split in the officer corps.

The even better thing about this election is that Turks have decisively rejected the false dichotomy between “political Islam”” and “democracy”” that paralyses politics in so many Muslim countries. That matters, because Turkey is a rapidly developing middle-income country of 75 million people that still has hopes of joining the European Union. (The current obstructionism of leaders in France, Germany, Austria and a few others countries is irrelevant, since they will probably all be gone by the time a decision is taken in ten or 12 years” time.) But the election outcome is also important for other Muslim-majority countries.

Most foreign reporting of the Turkish election followed the script provided by the main opposition parties, the Republican People”s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), in which they were defending enlightened, secular democracy in Turkey and the AK Party was just a front for ignorant hordes of rural Muslim fanatics who wanted to shove sharia law down the nation”s throat. It was a “test of Turkish secularism,”” they claimed – and if it was, then secularism lost. But that isn”t what really happened at all.

The real struggle in Turkey was between the “republican elite” and practically everybody else. The “republican elite” are a privileged and well-educated class of people who have virtually monopolised senior jobs in the military, the judiciary and the state bureaucracy for several generations on the pretext that they must have control in order to defend Ataturk”s secular reforms (in the 1920s!). But these days, that is only a pretext for preserving their power: secular democracy in Turkey is not in danger.

There are certainly fanatics in Turkey who would like to force all their fellow-citizens to conform to their particular brand of religion on pain of death. Every country has some of those, but they are as rare in Turkey as they are in Spain – and while the ones in Turkey probably do vote for the AKP, since it is the only party that openly espouses “Islamic values,”” they are a tiny proportion of its supporters.

Indeed, it”s likely that quite a few of the people who voted for the AK Party this time are not even believers. Although officially 99 per cent Muslim, Turkey has lots of unofficial non-believers, especially in the big cities, and many of them would have been attracted by the party”s impressive economic record (five unbroken years of high-speed growth), by its unwavering commitment to membership in the European Union, and above all by its determined attempts to liberalise Turkey”s legal system.

The AK Party has consistently used the need to make Turkish law conform to EU norms as a justification for changing the law in ways that expand individual rights. Of course, that also undermines the ability of the “republican elite”” to control the state from behind the scenes, so they are fighting back by accusing the AK Party of being a Trojan horse for religious fanatics who want to stop Turks from drinking alcohol and force women into “Islamic” clothing. The AK Party denies it, it has spent the last five years in power moving consistently in the opposite direction, and most Turkish voters believe it.

The larger significance of the AK Party”s success in Turkey is that it demonstrates that devout Muslims can co-exist with their less devout fellow-citizens in a democratic constitutional order. All the devout need in order to prosper is recognition of their equal rights, not a monopoly of power and control over the personal behaviour of the less devout and the non-believers.

In Muslim-majority countries where the secular holders of power and the Islamist revolutionaries see one another as mortal enemies – which is to say, in about half of the countries of the Muslim world – peaceful democratic change, compromise and co-existence of the sort that we can see in Turkey are regarded as impossible. It is war to the death between the establishment and the fanatics, and there is very little space between them for people who would quite like more democracy and civil rights but don”t fancy living under sharia law as interpreted by extremists.

Opening that space up is the most important political task these countries face. The interesting thing about Turkey is that it has been the Islamic activists, not the secularists, who did the hard work that made it happen. But let”s be honest: even the AK Party would have found it hard to open the Turkish system up if it had not had the prospect of membership in the European Union as an inducement for everybody to be reasonable and co-operative – and it”s unlikely that the EU will be offering Egypt or Pakistan membership any time soon.

– Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries


Turkey shows the way

24 July 2007

TURKEY’S re-elected Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is right in dubbing the country’s crucial general elections a triumph of democracy and perhaps the most important in the country’s history.

Subsequent parliamentary majority nuances notwithstanding, the Islamist-rooted AK party’s victory has already made some very important points that will resonate in street corners and power corridors across the east and west alike.

Most importantly, the result goes to show that Islam and democracy are not divorced from each other, as increasing sections of the international media, academia and polity have started believing mainly due to the confusion stemming from the so-called war against terrorism. Secondly, it also goes to prove that religious and secular values are not necessarily parallels that never meet, but rather ensure modern-day-specific progress whenever they go hand in hand.

Millions of self-professed Turkish secularists have also emphasised to countries with similar fortunes and others watching closely that armed forces’ involvement in the political process, mainly on the basis of their muscle but neatly marketed with selling slogans will just not do anymore. As is evident from the 47 per cent vote, secular and religious Turks alike did not think much of the army’s threat of intervention to “defend Turkey’s secular system”.

Indeed, Turkey’s public has returned from the ballot with numerous valuable precedents. Now, the right way forward for the AKP would be to quickly move for consensus with regard to appointment of the president, and not re-nominate Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, considering how the crisis was sparked in the first place.

With Kurdish deputies, secular representatives and right-wingers providing ingredients for a potentially explosive parliament, prudence dictates camaraderie rather than confrontation be the order of the day. Especially since more than the elections, what happens hereon will determine EU’s response to Erdogan’s promise of persisting with the “European Union goal”.

And the last thing Erdogan would want now is needless finger pointing that would take little time undoing much of the newly gained momentum. Time is ripe for Turkey to set yet more telling examples for the region and beyond. The passing days have tested the resolve and response of the people. The coming days will test the maturity of the government, especially the guy at the top.


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Three positions available at American Islamic Congress

Dear Friends,

I hope this email find you well. We have three positions available at the American Islamic Congress and we are looking for new employees to join our team.

Please share the this email with your contact or friends whom might be interested in working for the AIC. Attached are the Campus Outreach Liaison, the Media and Communications Associate and the Development Associate descriptions.

Many thanks to you all.

Best regards,

Ms. Zainab Al-Suwaij
Executive Director
American Islamic Congress
1718 M Street, NW, # 243
Washington DC 20036
Phone: 202-595-3160
Fax: 202-315-5838



Studying Islam: What Have We Learned?

American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies
25th Annual Conference

April 11-12, 2008
The College of William & Mary Washington Center
1779 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., 8th Floor
Washington DC

The American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies was founded 25 years ago to provide a venue for scholars of diverse disciplines and regional expertise who share a common interest in Islamic societies.

Recent world events and the continuing process of globalization have demonstrated that accurate understanding of Islamic societies is more important than ever.

The 25th annual conference intends to explore and assess the ways that the Islamic world is studied. The goal is to gain an understanding of developments in the field of Islamic Studies in terms of methodology, disciplinary orientation, and regional variation, and to generate new perspectives in the study of religion and society.

We encourage papers in all disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, and law, and representing diverse geographic regions.

Please send proposal abstracts (maximum 250 words) and contact information to Tamara Sonn ([email protected]). Deadline for submission of proposal abstracts is November 1, 2007. (Completed papers will be due March 1, 2008.)


2007 Freda Utley Prize for Advancing Liberty

The Atlas Economic Research Foundation has established the Freda Utley Prize for Advancing Liberty to reward the efforts of think tanks in difficult parts of the world that are most effective in disseminating the ideas of freedom (limited government, the rule of law, free enterprise, the dignity of the individual, etc.).

This annual Prize will provide a $10,000 reward to a single winner that demonstrates excellence in reaching a broad audience or having a substantial impact on opinion-makers, so that concepts relating to freedom become better understood. For example, good candidates for the Freda Utley Prize could be an institute that documents how its radio program reaches 100,000 listeners each weekday with discussions of economic liberty, or an institute that educates 50 college students each year through a certificate program, and has seen a dozen students from past years graduate into high government positions.

In 2006, the Freda Utley Prize attracted 80 applications from institutes from 40 countries, reflecting a 32% increase in the number of applications received from the previous year. The Freda Utley Prize winner in 2006 was the New Economic School (Georgia), and in 2005 was the Association for Liberty Thinking (Turkey).

Who Can Apply: Atlas specifically solicits applications from organizations in countries where the ideas of liberty are not clearly understood or applied (i.e., countries which the various economic freedom indices term as “unfree”). Preference is given to organizations that are headquartered in such countries. However, organizations that are based in freer parts of the world, but developing and contributing to the creation of organizations in the target countries (i.e. serving as a catalyst), are also eligible to apply. The Prize will not be given to new or proposed projects that do not have an existing track record. Please submit an application about a project that has been completed, or a demonstrated body of ongoing work. Institutes that have won one of Atlas”s Templeton Freedom Prizes are eligible for the Freda Utley Prize, but cannot nominate the same project.

How to Apply: The application deadline is August 31, 2007. You can submit your application online at https://secure.lexi.net/atlas_usa/fredautley_award.php, which consists of a simple (one page) nomination narrative that explains why the applying institute merits recognition for excellence in advancing liberty in a difficult part of the world. Supporting documentation which illustrates the impact of the project, as well as the submission of local references, is an important part of the application process. Examples include media coverage, reviews of the project, testimonies from people who have been directly impacted, etc.

Applications must be submitted in English. The required supporting documentation, however, does not have to be in English. We anticipate that some of the strongest applications will concern programs conducted in other languages.

Selection Criteria & Announcement Schedule: The winning institute will be selected by a panel of independent judges, based upon their demonstration of excellent achievement in reaching and persuading new audiences of the merits of the ideas of freedom and on the impact of this process. Atlas will provide a travel grant to the winning institute to receive the Prize at the Atlas”s Freedom Dinner (November 6, 2007) at Washington D.C.’s Willard Hotel. A press release announcing the winner will be posted on the Atlas web site shortly after the announcement at the Freedom Dinner.

The Freda Utley Foundation decided to establish this program at Atlas because of its experience, capabilities, resources, and reputation: “We see Atlas as an ideal partner in continuing her legacy, because it has the infrastructure, experience, and focus to use funds effectively to promote liberty, especially in the world’s poorer nations. Atlas’s core beliefs are very much in tune with Freda Utley’s: namely, concern for human poverty and misery, and the belief that peoples of all nations have similar aspirations and can learn the universal lessons of freedom and prosperity. Freda Utley would have found the Atlas team very, very much to her liking and affinity, not just in its beliefs, but in its common sense and activism.”

Please contact Ms. Yiqiao Xu ([email protected]/703-934-6969) with any questions about this program, or visit www.atlasusa.org for more information. Please send this Prize information to institutes that you think should compete for this Prize.


Atlas Economic Research Foundation Announces:
The 2007 Ibn Khaldoun Essay Contest

Theme: “Economics and Freedom in Islamic Societies”


The Atlas Economic Research Foundation announces the second annual essay contest about freedom in the Islamic Societies. This year’s theme addresses the relationship between free-market economic policies and freedom in the Islamic societies.

The contest is named after Ibn-Khaldoun to honor the scholarly work of this prominent Islamic historian, economist, and sociologist of the 14th century. His writings continue to inspire free-market scholars to this day, promoting the necessity of responsible government to promote economic prosperity and civilized nations.

The Atlas Economic Research Foundation was founded in 1981 by the late Sir Antony Fisher. Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia (USA), it is a non-profit organization that advances freedom around the world by helping develop and strengthen a network of market-oriented think tanks.

About the Contest:
The 2007 Ibn-Khaldoun invites young people to write essays that reflect their views about the relationship between economics and freedom within the Islamic context. Students are invited to write about historical or modern-day economic policy or policies in enhancing or diminishing freedom and prosperity in their country or region. They may propose policy recommendations, emphasizing the principles of property rights, free trade, globalization, etc. within the context of Islamic economic thinking.

We encourage you to be critical and support your arguments with evidence or analysis. Your conclusions should lead to practical policy prescriptions.


1st Prize Winner: $2,000
2nd Prize Winner: $1,000
3rd Prize Winner: $ 500
Two Honorable Mentions: $ 250 (each)
The winning essays will be posted on our website www.atlasusa.org and on Azad – Atlas’s newsletter about freedom in the Middle East.

Winners will be given priority to attend our regional leadership workshops in different parts of the Middle East, potentially in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and Morocco.

Submission Guidelines:
Entries should be no fewer than 800 words and no more than 1,400 words, typewritten, double-spaced, and footnoted. Submissions may be written either in English or Arabic.

Who may join:

The contest is open to university students, undergraduate and graduate levels, who are or below 30 years of age. Each contestant is required also to send a brief curriculum vitae, summarizing his or her academic and, if it applies, work history.

All qualified individuals will be considered for the contest, regardless of race, sex, national or ethnic origin, citizenship, or religious affiliation.


All submissions must be received on or before November 15th, 2007.

Judging Process:

Entries will be judged by a select group on the following criteria: clarity and conciseness, coherence and logic, persuasiveness, and ability to offer practical recommendations or solutions.

Send Submission to: [email protected]