The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Digital media and the Arab spring

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By Philip N. Howard, author of "The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Information Technology and Political Islam," and director of the Project on Information Technology and Political Islam at the University of Washington. The opinions expressed are his own.

President Obama identified technology as one of the key variables that enabled and encouraged average Egyptians to protest. Digital media didn’t oust Mubarak, but it did provide the medium by which soulful calls for freedom have cascaded across North Africa and the Middle East. It is difficult to know when the Arab Spring will end, but we can already say something about the political casualties, long-term regional consequences and the modern recipe for democratization.

It all started with a desperate Tunisian shopkeeper who set himself on fire, which activated a transnational network of citizens exhausted by authoritarian rule. Within weeks, digitally-enabled protesters in Tunisia tossed out their dictator. It was social media that spread both the discontent and inspiring stories of success from Tunisia across North Africa and into the Middle East.

The protests in Egypt drew the largest crowds in 50 years, and a second dictator fell from power. The discontent spread through networks of family and friends to Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen. Autocrats have had to dismiss their cabinets, sometimes several times, to placate frustrated citizens. Algerians had to lift a 19-year “state of emergency” and are gearing for demonstrations over the weekend. Even Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi has had to make concessions to activists brave enough to raise street protests against government housing policy.

from FaithWorld:

Concern about Islamists masks wide differences among them

holding up korans

(Hamas supporters hold up copies of the Koran at a protest in Gaza City December 26, 2010/Mohammed Salem)

Part of the problem trying to figure out what Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood or Tunisia's Ennahda party would do if they got into any future power structure in their countries is knowing what kind of Islamists they are. The label "Islamist" pops up frequently these days, in comments and warnings and (yes) news reports, but the term is so broad that it even covers groups that oppose each other. Just as the Muslim world is not a bloc, the Islamist world is not a bloc.

from FaithWorld:

Can Arabs learn from Turkish model of Islam and democracy?

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(Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, December 2, 2008/Umit Bektas)

If President Hosni Mubarak bows to the clamor of the street and goes, Egyptians and other Arabs seeking to turn a page on autocratic government may look at Turkey for some clues on marrying Islam and democracy.

from Breakingviews:

Low expectations should make China do more on yuan

By Wei Gu

The following article is part of Reuters Breakingviews' e-book, Predictions for 2011. The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

HONG KONG -- The Chinese currency rose just 3.6 percent in 2010. As political pressure ebbs and euro zone trouble spreads, traders now expect an even smaller gain for 2011. Beijing has said it wants to make the yuan more flexible. If it really means that, low expectations create a window of opportunity.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan and the taboo of secularism

graveFor everyone trying to understand the implications of Salman Taseer's assassination, this essay from 2007 is good place to start (h/t Abu Muqawama).  "The Politics of God" is about why Europe decided, after years of warfare over the correct interpretation of Christianity, to separate church and state.  But it is also relevant to Pakistan, where the killing of the Punjab governor over his opposition to the country's blasphemy laws has shown that what was left of Pakistani secularism, is, if not dead, at least in intensive care.

Read the opening paragraph to understand why it resonates:

"For more than two centuries, from the American and French Revolutions to the collapse of Soviet Communism, world politics revolved around eminently political problems. War and revolution, class and social justice, race and national identity — these were the questions that divided us. Today, we have progressed to the point where our problems again resemble those of the 16th century, as we find ourselves entangled in conflicts over competing revelations, dogmatic purity and divine duty. We in the West are disturbed and confused. Though we have our own fundamentalists, we find it incomprehensible that theological ideas still stir up messianic passions, leaving societies in ruin. We had assumed this was no longer possible, that human beings had learned to separate religious questions from political ones, that fanaticism was dead. We were wrong."

Tuition row: The beginning of the end for the coalition?

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- Mark Kobayashi-Hillary is the author of several books, including ‘Who Moved my Job?’ and ‘Global Services: Moving to a Level Playing Field’. The opinions expressed are his own. –

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is on a mission to shore up support within his own party for the tripling of university tuition fees. The Liberal Democrats campaigned with a manifesto pledge claiming they would axe fees if they ever got into power. They got the power, but only via a coalition with the Conservative party, and though they claim that some Lib Dem pledges survived the coalition talks, the policy on tuition fees actually went the other way.

How U.S. consultants changed the face of world politics

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The following is guest post by Andrew Hammond, a director at ReputationInc, an international strategic communications firm, was formerly a special adviser to the Home Secretary in the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair and a geopolitics consultant at Oxford Analytica. The opinions expressed are his own.

With less than a month until the crucial November 2 U.S. mid-term elections, the eyes of much of the world are focused upon how many extra seats the Republicans will win in Congress. Should the party win back control of the House of Representatives and/or Senate, President Barack Obama’s agenda will be further stymied.  This could have profound implications not just for U.S. domestic policy, but also foreign policy issues, especially those which require congressional ratification, such as arms reductions treaties, or indeed any climate change deal to replace Kyoto.

from FaithWorld:

“Burqa bans”: First France, then the Netherlands – who’s next?

veil 1First the French banned Muslim face veils, now the Dutch have decided to follow suit. With debates about outlawing burqas and niqabs spreading across Europe, a third ban -- perhaps even more -- may not be far behind. (Photo: A Muslim woman protests against France's banning of full face veils outside the French Embassy in London September 25, 2010/Luke MacGregor)

Only a small minority of Muslim women in Europe cover their faces, but their veils have become ominous symbols for Europeans troubled by problems such as the economic crisis, immigration and Muslim integration.

The NHS: Back on the operating table

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-Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.-

“The NHS – the envy of the world”. This is one of the Great British Myths to rank alongside “A-level standards haven’t fallen”.

Confronting the immigration conundrum

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-Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.-

After being the third rail of British politics for a generation or more, immigration is suddenly a topic which can be spoken about in polite society.

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