A senior Middle East specialist has called on decision-makers in Washington to spell out their attitude towards the Islamic movements in the region. “They cannot, on one side, call for democracy and refuse, on the other, to accept its outcome as has been the case when Hamas was voted to power with an overwhelming majority (in Palestinian territories),” says the deputy director of the Brookings institute in Doha, Shadi Hameed.
“The Arab governments who had hoped for a tangible policy shift after President Obama took over office, now feel disappointed after waiting for 10 months,” Qatar’s Al Arab daily has quoted him as saying.
Hameed says: “The US administrations have, since the 1950s and 1960s, constantly stood by the dictatorial regimes in the Middle East on the pretext of safeguarding mutual interests.”
Hameed, an expert on Islamic political parties and democratic reforms, adds: “There has always been a wide gap between American perceptions and actual practices on strengthening democracy in the Middle East. The triangular relationship between the US administration, the Arab governments, especially those of Egypt and Jordan, and the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, has always sought to marginalise the Brotherhood Movement.”
Hameed believes that it may not be in the long-term interests of the United States to follow such a policy.
“It may lead to the emergence of more Islamic radicalism based on the Salafiya school of thought,” he says. “The main thing that holds the US administration from a rapprochement with the brotherhood movement is that the latter, if voted to power, may abrogate the Camp David accord.”
(Al Arab daily, November 30)
Call to abolish sectarian system
There was much furore in Lebanon recently, especially among the political groups, over the call to abolish the sectarian system in the country. The Speaker of the Parliament, Nabih Berri, had called for the constitution of a national level committee to go into the question of abolishing the sectarian system as decided at the summit held in Taif, Saudi Arabia, in 1989.
It was the summit that brought to an end the Lebanese civil war which lasted for nearly 15 years. But his call has been met with resistance.
Abolishing the sectarian system will lead to three major transformations in the country: the political structure will change totally. And secondly political values and norms will also change because the interests of the state will supersede all other interests; and lastly there will be a new mould in economic and social relations.
Lebanon has by far the largest proportion of Christians of any Arab country, but both Christians and Muslims are sub-divided into many splinter sects. All population statistics are, by necessity, controversial, and all sects have a vested interest in inflating their own numbers.
One of the rare things that most Lebanese religious leaders will agree on is to avoid a new general census, out of fear that it could trigger a new round of sectarian conflict. The last official census was performed in 1932.
It is thus obvious that the vested interests among the political class in Lebanon constitute a stumbling block in the path of the country becoming truly secular.