The Great Debate UK
-”Kathleen Brooks is research director at forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.”-
The peoples of the Middle East are rising up and letting their political views be known. In Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen protestors have taken to the streets to demand political change, and in the case of Tunisia they have succeeded. These tensions between the people and their governments have caught the global media’s attention. It has also set off something of a domino effect with other autocratic regimes in the region worrying that the same could happen to them.
The protests were sparked initially by rising food prices. They are a sensitive issue in the Middle East; in Egypt, for example, they have been rising at a 17 percent annual rate. With approximately 15 percent of Egypt’s population living in poverty, the rising price of food erodes living standards and fuels resentment at governments perceived as turning a blind eye to the plight of the poor.
However, as the protests gather momentum criticism of food policies has spread to criticisms of the ruling elite and charges of corruption and economic mis-management threaten to topple more than just Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Adding fuel to the protests are high youth unemployment rates – it’s running at 35 percent in Egypt. When more than half the population is under 25, the lack of opportunities for ambitious, energetic young people is a deeply de-stabilising force.
from The Great Debate:
By Alan Elsner, who is the communications director for The Israel Project. The opinions expressed are his own.
The uprising in Egypt that looks like it may sweep away President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-old regime threatens to deprive Israel of its most important strategic ally in the region.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
All countries are unique and comparing two of the world's most populous Muslim countries, Egypt and Pakistan, is as risky as comparing Britain to France at the time of the French Revolution. But many of the challenges likely to confront Egypt as it emerges from the mass protests against the 30-year-rule of President Hosni Mubarak are similar to those Pakistan has faced in the past, and provide at least a guide on what questions need to be addressed. In Pakistan, they are often summarised as the three A's -- Army, Allah and America.
Both have powerful armies which are seen as the backbone of the country; both have to work out how to accommodate political Islam with democracy, both are allies of America, yet with people who resent American power in propping up unpopular elites.
from Felix Salmon:
Davos, in 2011, was the year when the cynics were finally proven wrong. Long derided as a sybaritic alpine gabfest, the World Economic Forum astonished the world with what it was capable of this year, deftly leveraging the talk around its chosen theme -- "shared norms for the new reality" -- into an effective and timely intervention in Egypt. The Forum's slogan -- "committed to improving the state of the world" -- became reality, as the actions of a small and powerful few atop a distant Swiss alp managed to give shape and direction to what would otherwise have remained inchoate and dangerous demonstrations in the volatile North African hotspot.
Certainly the Forum had a lot to work with -- it has long been looking long and hard at global risks including political instability in undemocratic countries as well as the demographics of North Africa and the Middle East; the adverse effects of high unemployment among both educated and uneducated youth; the game-changing aspects in autocratic regimes of the rapid spread of information over cellphones, the internet, and satellite TV; and countless other issues of direct relevance to Egypt.
from The Great Debate:
Philip N. Howard, recent author of "The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Information Technology and Political Islam," who is an associate professor at the University of Washington, where he directs the Project on Information Technology and Political Islam. The opinions expressed are his own.
It's time for the State Department to stop backing individual leaders in the Middle East. Instead, the State Department needs to back networks.
from Davos Notebook:
Jim O'Neill, the Goldman Sachs economist who coined the term BRICs back in 2001, is adding four new countries to the elite club of emerging market economies. But does his new edifice have the same solid foundations?
In future, the BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, China and India will be merged with those of Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and South Korea under the banner “growth markets,” O'Neill told the Financial Times.
Muslim creationism is back in the news. There's been a spate of articles in the U.S. and British press recently about the spread of this scripture-based challenge to Darwinian evolution among Muslims, mostly in the Middle East but also in Europe. The fact that some Muslims have embraced creationism, a trademark belief of some conservative American Protestants, is not new. Reuters first wrote about it in 2006 -- "Creation vs. Darwin takes Muslim twist in Turkey" -- and this blog has run several posts on the issue, including an interview with Islam's most prominent creationist, Harun Yahya. What's new is that these ideas seem to be spreading and academics who defend evolution are holding conferences to discuss the phenomenon. (Photo: Portrait of Charles Darwin, 12 Feb 2009/Gordon Jack)
There are too many recent articles about Islamic creationism out there now to discuss each one separately, so I'll have to just link to them in the ... New York Times ... Washington Post ... Boston Globe ... Slate ... Guardian ... National ... Beliefnet ... ... Many of these articles highlight the role of Harun Yahya, the once secretive Istanbul preacher and publisher who has gone on a PR offensive in recent years and turned very media-friendly (as Steve Paulson describes in that Slate article). But as Michael Reiss, a London education professor and Anglican priest told the Guardian, "what the Turks believe today is what the Germans and British believe tomorrow. It is because of the mass movement of people between countries. These things can no longer be thought of as occurring in other countries."
President-elect Barack Obama has been getting a lot of advice these days on how to deal with Muslims and Islam. He invited it by saying during his campaign that he either wanted to convene a conference with leaders of Muslim countries or deliver a major speech in a Muslim country "to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular”. But where? when? why? how? Early this month, I chimed in with a pitch for a speech in Turkey or Indonesia. Some quite interesting comments have come in since then. (Photo: Obama image in Jakarta, 25 Oct 2008/Dadang Tri)
Two French academics, Islam expert Olivier Roy and political scientist Justin Vaisse argued in a New York Times op-ed piece on Sunday that Obama's premise of trying to reconcile the West and Islam is flawed: