When reflecting on the past 10 years, it’s clear to see that the Arab Spring is far from over. The popular uprisings in Sudan, Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon over the last couple of years, coupled with ongoing political and socio-economic tensions across the region, show that no political equilibrium has been found. However, waiting for another 2011 moment, as if nothing has changed, would be a mistake.
The political upheavals of 10 years ago have brought about far-reaching transformations to both the political landscape, as well as to the determinants of popular mobilization. Calls for political reform will have to take these transformations into consideration if they are to achieve real change.… Seguir leyendo »
Following a resurgence of Islamist terrorism over the past five years, French President Emmanuel Macron has called for the reform of Islam in France. He wants to build an ‘Islam of Enlightenment’, a project which would include training for imams that combines knowledge about Islam with the values of the Enlightenment, as well as in-depth teaching of progressive Muslim thinkers such as Averroes and Ibn Khaldun from the 12th and 14th centuries. The French government’s plan also coincides with calls for reform of the Islamic tradition in Muslim societies such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Underpinning these calls is the argument that reforming Islam is necessary to fight violent extremism.… Seguir leyendo »
COVID-19 has offered regimes in the region the opportunity to end popular protest. The squares of Algiers, Baghdad, and Beirut – all packed with protesters over the past few months – are now empty due to the pandemic, and political gatherings have also been suspended. In Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon, COVID-19 has achieved what snipers, pro-regime propaganda, and even the economic crisis, could not.
Moreover, political regimes have taken advantage of the crisis to expand their control over the political sphere by arresting their opponents, such as in Algeria where the authorities have cracked down on a number of active voices of the Hirak movement. … Seguir leyendo »
The second wave of Arab uprisings that started in Sudan in December last year and extended to Algeria, Lebanon and Iraq this year have built on past experiences of political transitions during the Arab Spring, both its mistakes and achievements. Protesters from this new wave have already learned five lessons from previous transitions.
The first lesson is that toppling the head of a regime does not mean that the political regime has fallen. In Tahrir Square on 11 February 2011, Egyptian protesters celebrated the decision of Hosni Mubarak to step down and left the square, thinking his resignation was enough to allow a democratic transition to take place.… Seguir leyendo »
Over the past few months, protesters have been taking to the streets in Sudan and Algeria, calling for political change.
In Sudan, the protest movement started as a reaction to an increase in the price of bread in December, eventually escalating into demands for regime change. Although the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, has promised economic and political reforms, protestors have continued calling for him to step down.
In Algeria, the protests started in February in objection to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to run for a fifth term. Under pressure from the protests, Bouteflika has decided to drop his plan to run again and has proposed postponing the elections while political reforms are implemented.… Seguir leyendo »
The head of the Coptic Church in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, is attempting to lead reforms that would redefine his church’s relations with other Christian denominations. But he now faces internal opposition that is not just doctrinal, but political, focused on the contrasting approaches of Pope Tawadros and his predecessor, Pope Shenouda III, towards the Egyptian state.
For over four decades and until his passing in 2012, Pope Shenouda acted as the political representative of the Coptic community. He perceived the relation between church and state, and by extension between political leaders and himself, as that of equals.
Pope Shenouda gave his relationship with the state a political slant by both applying and releasing pressure and exchanging political support from the church for religious benefits for the Coptic community.… Seguir leyendo »
The Egyptian presidential election has shown that the regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi still enjoys support among the same constituencies that opposed the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in June 2013. However, there has been a noticeable transformation within the regime’s support circles. Part of it has shifted from an active and unreserved support in 2014 towards a passive and conditional one in 2018.
Where supporters of the regime once showed their support by taking to the streets in 2013 and readily casting their votes in the 2014 election, many did not turn out this time. While around 25.5 million votes were cast in favour of Sisi in 2014, he received only 24.3 million this time, despite the total number of citizens with the right to vote increasing from 53.9 million in 2014 to 59.1 million in 2018.… Seguir leyendo »
The UK and US authorities have recently listed two Egyptian groups, Hassm and Lewaa al-Thawra, as terrorist organizations.
Hassm, an abbreviation for ‘The Arms of Egypt Movement’ (established in July 2016), and Lewaa al-Thawra, which translates as ‘The Banner of the Revolution’ (formed in August 2016), have claimed responsibility for several operations targeting Egyptian security and religious figures. These operations include the assassination of Brigadier General Adel Ragaie, a senior officer in the armed forces, in October 2016 by Lewaa al-Thawra, and the attempt by Hassm to assassinate former Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa in August 2016.
Although some of the members of these two groups were previously associated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the two groups reject any organizational ties to the Brotherhood.… Seguir leyendo »
After the 2013 military intervention against the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, many voices warned that the Brotherhood would shift its tactics to include the use of violence. However, only a minority within the Brotherhood has decided to take up arms. While most policy attention focuses on the causes of radicalization, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt raises an equally important question: why, despite the measures adopted by the regime since 2013 against the Muslim Brotherhood, has only a small minority turned to violence?
The answer is threefold: the position of the leadership, a recognition of the costs of violence and the Brotherhood’s idea of itself as non-violent.… Seguir leyendo »
Christians are often portrayed as supportive of the Syrian regime. There are two main reasons for this: most Christian areas haven’t witnessed demonstrations against the regime and many church leaders have declared their support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The regime and some Islamic groups have encouraged this perception – it serves their aims to frame the struggle in Syria as sectarian.
However, a closer look at the Christian landscape shows a different picture.
I’ve spent the last year interviewing Syrian Christians, both religious and lay, from different Syrian cities: Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Al-Qamishli. Some of them are still based in Syria, while others have left the country.… Seguir leyendo »