The Great Debate UK
from The Great Debate:
The term, “Arab Spring” is itself misleading. The changes over the past 20 months have produced a fundamental transformation of the region – but not in the way most outside observers anticipated: They reflect the replacement of the dominant Arab national identity by a more Islamic identity.
This change has been evolving for more than 40 years and did not begin in January 2011 with the demonstrations across the Middle East.
The Middle East today is less Arab and more Muslim. It was clear from the start of last year’s protests that the successor governments would be less Arab nationalist and secular, and more Islamic.
from The Great Debate:
By Stefan Wolff
The opinions expressed are his own.
When Mohamed Bouazizi, a jobless graduate in the provincial city of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia, about 200km southwest of the capital Tunis, set himself on fire on December 18, 2010 after police had confiscated a cart from which he was selling fruit and vegetables, few would have predicted that this event would spark the phenomenon we now refer to as the Arab Spring. Protests quickly escalated in Tunisia and within four weeks Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali had to flee to Saudi Arabia having failed to stop the protests either by repression of promises of reform.
On 17 January, one day after Ben Ali’s departure, another young man set himself afire near the Egyptian parliament. Within a week, coordinated mass protests began in Tahrir Square, and forced the resignation of long-serving Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who handed power to the military on 11 February.
from David Rohde:
For decades, the Egyptian military has operated an economy within an economy in Egypt. With the tacit support of the United States, the armed forces own and operate a sprawling network of for-profit businesses. The military runs factories that manufacture televisions, bottled water and other consumer goods. Its companies obtain public land at discounted prices. And it pays no taxes and discloses little to civilian officials.
Within weeks of Hosni Mubarak’s fall in February, experts predicted that the Egyptian military would refuse to relinquish its vast economic holdings or privileged position in society.
Few things better sum up Egypt's uncharted future than the vague policy platform of the Muslim Brotherhood, a long-repressed Islamist movement poised to become a decisive force in mainstream politics. With the country's military rulers reluctant to push through major reforms without a popular mandate, all eyes are on the emerging political class set free by the overthrow in February of veteran leader Hosni Mubarak.
Where is the Arab Spring leading the Middle East? What will be the longer-term outcome of the popular protests that have shaken the region since the beginning of this year? Of course, it’s still too early to say with any certainty, even in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt that succeeded in toppling their authoritarian regimes. Some trends have emerged, however, and they’re on the agenda at a conference in Venice I’m attending entitled “Medio Oriente verso dove?” (Where is the Middle East heading?). The host is the Oasis Foundation, a group chaired by Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Roman Catholic patriarch of this historic city, and guests include Christian and Muslim religious leaders and academics from the Middle East and Europe.
from Business Traveller:
Tourism at Egypt’s Red Sea resorts, we read, has plummeted. At the Giza Pyramids, not one Western tourist could be seen by a Reuters correspondent as the sun set on an April weekday. Surely this makes it the perfect time to visit?
Egypt's tourism minister has forecast that 2011 revenue will be 25 percent lower than the previous year, but even this may be bullish; many travel companies are offering large discounts. This has dealt a devastating blow to the millions of Egyptians (one in eight) whose livelihoods depend on the 14 million or so visitors who until this January visited annually.
Egypt's army rulers face a dilemma as a bolder stance adopted by Islamists in the post-Mubarak era is worsening sectarian tension and triggering demands for the kind of crackdown that made the former president so unpopular. Armed clashes between conservative Muslims and Coptic Christians left 12 dead in a Cairo suburb on Saturday, touching off angry protests by some of the capital's residents who called for the army to use an "iron fist" against the instigators.
from The Great Debate:
Philip N. Howard, an associate professor at the University of Washington, is the author of "The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Information Technology and Political Islam". The opinions expressed are his own.
The Day of Rage in Saudi Arabia was a tepid affair, and Libyan rebels have suffered strategic losses. Only two months ago, popular uprisings in Tunisia inspired Egyptians and others to take to the streets to demand political reform. Will the tough responses from Gadaffi and the Saudi government now discourage Arab conversations about democratic possibilities? It may seem like the dictators are ahead, but it’s only a temporary lead.
By Hugo Dixon
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
LONDON -- Egypt needs a reconstruction fund too. Japan will be spending tens of billions of dollars on rebuilding after its tsunami. Egypt can't afford to finance an equivalent fund after its political tsunami. But foreign powers could help by showing they are not just interested in bombing neighbouring Libya.
Abboud al-Zumar went to jail 30 years ago for his role in killing Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Now a free man, he believes democracy will prevent Islamists from ever again taking up the gun against the state.