Scottish residents headed to the polls on 18 September to decide whether Scotland should sever its ties with the United Kingdom and become an independent country. The ‘no’ vote obtained a robust 55% majority while the ‘yes’ campaign still managed to attract over 1,600,000 votes from those who exercised their right to cast a ballot. The Union with England dating back to 1707 remains thus intact, as indeed does the place of Scotland within the United Kingdom. A new referendum on independence is not on the cards for the foreseeable future. And yet, the no vote was hardly a vote for the status quo.
What Does Toleration Mean?
What Does Toleration Mean?
Ever since the dawn of Enlightenment, toleration has been considered one of the most solid bastions of social peace in liberal and pluralist civilization. Acknowledging and protecting freedom of religion, ideas and speech, the modern rule of law can be considered as a political-institutional as well as juridical fulfillment of what previously was only a hoped-for virtue: toleration. What does tolerating those who are different, those who think or act differently, really mean? Is toleration a form of resignation and indifference regards to the mistakes of others? Or is it rather a synonym for respect for and interest in diversity? Who is called upon to be tolerant? Individuals or institutions?
The last two centuries (since 1798) have witnessed a lively intellectual revival in Islamic thought, a fact that has impacted all sectors of life, without, at the same time, forming a clear line of thought or a “new paradigm” that overcomes the malaise of either/or, modernity or traditionalism, change or conservatism. Medieval Islam managed to construct a dominant and prosperous “sharia paradigm” for some centuries, a paradigm in which reason and revelation generally worked together. This paradigm was especially enforced politically, and that is how it rooted itself in Islamic history, and medieval history in general.
From the onset things on the field were already very clear. The violence of the regime manifested itself immediately. In fact, the revolt was symbolically born as a “civil” response to an act of violence: a group of children, beaten and tortured for having written what they thought of Bashar al-Asad on a wall. At that stage the propaganda machine was already well greased, but nobody with any sense thought that these images and videos of the repression against peaceful protestors were fake. However, this would actually become one of the pillars of misinformation in the years to come.
In the ‘Great Game’ developing in the Middle East and amidst constant changes in diplomatic equilibria, as well as the deployment of armed forces to try and stop ISIS’ advance, the only certainty for the moment is the role the Kurds have over time cut out for themselves and their mandate from the most important European countries and the United States. This concerns not only the often discussed Peshmerga, Iraqi Kurds who have rather effectively opposed the Islamic State’s penetration since the beginning of the summer, but also Syrian Kurds, active since at least 2012 and without doubt less visible at least from a media perspective.
Classical Islamic philosophy has broadly been a philosophy of reconciliation between reason and revelation. It has tried to differentiate itself from Greek – and now Western philosophy – but it does not seem to have established some other norm than reason as the key to philosophy. Even what is called rational theology, theosophy, and Sufism have all used reason to empower revelation. Yet, some voices of contemporary Islamic philosophy – very few in fact - are trying to re-ground philosophy and its practice, by making ethics, and not reason, the essence of man and philosophy. This view will be presented gradually into three complementary pieces and steps (Islamic Philosophy I, II, III).
Reset-Dialogues is pleased to republish the summaries and video of a panel discussion organized at the National Press Club in Washington by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy. Islam and foreign policy experts - among whom John Esposito, Shadi Hamid, Michele Dunne, and Michael O'Hanlon - talked about the causes for the rise of radicalism in Iraq and Syria and the creation of militant groups such as ISIS. They discussed the intentions of ISIS and the threat posed to the Middle East and the rest of the world. The panelists provide criticism of the Obama administration’s response to ISIS and offered recommendations for moving forward.
As expected, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been elected president of Turkey and was sworn in on August the 28th. He won the August 10th elections, once again, by a wide margin. The outgoing prime minister obtained 51.79% of votes, surpassing the best results ever achieved by his party, the AKP, thus avoiding a second ballot and winning in many constituencies, both less urbanised ones and in the country’s two main cities; Ankara and Istanbul. This confirms that Erdogan’s success transcends the urban-rural divide.
Iraqi Kurds are gaining ground thanks to United States’ air strikes in northern Iraq and support from the regular Iraqi army. On the one hand they have the decision made by the U.S., France, Germany and Great Britain to provide the Kurdish peshmerga with weapons, and on the other, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is providing logistic support to Kurdish fighters. Furthermore, the PKK’s historic leader, Abdullah Ocalan, following a letter dated 2013 in which he asked for the armed struggle to end, has reiterated a request to end all conflict with the Turkish authorities in a document signed in Imrali prison (Sea of Marmara).
Reset-Dialogues is pleased to republish and subscribe to the following press release in which the Center for the Study for the Studi of Islam and Democracy (CSID), based in Washington DC "condemns in the strongest possible terms the gruesome and barbaric killing of journalist James Foley by the so-called Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or of Iraq and Shem (ISIS))."
The “civil war” in Iraq seems to have reached a point of no return. The IS (Islamic State) now threatens not only Kurdistan, but also Baghdad, and the collapse of the Iraqi Armed Forces gives rise to serious doubts regarding the solidity of Shiite political and military assets. The re-establishment of relations between Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds is now, however, the post-Maliki objective supported by the United States, Iran, the charismatic Shiite religious leader Al-Sistani and a number (how many?) of Sunni tribal leaders.
Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli is the Italian government’s delegate for the Middle East and in the past was a professor and OSCE representative as well as being a former member of the Italian and European parliaments’ Foreign Affairs Committees. Pistelli’s long summer started when he returned to Italy with the last flight out of Erbil before U.S. air strikes on ISIS jihadists began. There he saw first-hand Iraq’s wounded image in refugee camps, filled with those who had already abandoned everything to flee the men led by “Caliph” al-Baghdadi, and were now preparing to flee once again. Today, he believes, such an international crisis or the decision-making system in place called upon to remedy matters, are no longer issues to be addressed by desk-strategists, because when events are this harsh, a backlash can only be prevented by the United Nations’ centrality and the flexible of politics and diplomacy.
"After the inventions of writing and printing, digital communication represents the third great innovation on the media plane. With their introduction, these three media forms have enabled an ever growing number of people to access an ever growing mass of information. These are made to be increasingly lasting, more easily. With the last step represented by Internet we are confronted with a sort of “activation” in which readers themselves become authors. Yet, this in itself does not automatically result in progress on the level of the public sphere. [...] The classical public sphere stemmed from the fact that the attention of an anonymous public was “concentrated” on a few politically important questions that had to be regulated. This is what the web does not know how to produce. On the contrary, the web actually distracts and dispels." This is how, among many more subjects, Jürgen Habermas comments the evolution of democratic participation in the internet era. Reset-DoC is pleased to republish the translated version of a long interview published last June on the "Frankfurter Rundschau" for the philosopher's eighty-fifth birthday.
This essay by Richard Bernstein, the Vera List Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York, is drawn from a lecture held during the series of conferences "For an inclusive citizenship" organized by Reset-DoC. The conferences were held in Milan at the Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli between autumn 2013 and spring 2014. Among other speakers, the conferences have hosted Giuliano Amato, Rainer Bauböck, Michael Walzer, Anna Elisabetta Galeotti, Nilüfer Göle, Susan Mendus and Alain Touraine.
Is there such a thing as a leftist foreign policy? What are the characteristic views of the left about the world abroad? When have leftists, rightly or wrongly, defended the use of force? The arguments about what to do in Syria have led me to ask these questions, but I am after a more general answer, looking not only at the left as it is today but also at the historical left. The questions aren’t easy—first, because there have been, and there are, many lefts; and second, because left views about foreign policy change more often than left views about domestic society. Relative consistency is the mark of leftism at home, but that’s definitely not true abroad.
On May 26th, 27th and 28th Egyptians have voted to elect a successor to Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s president elected in 2012 and deposed by the army in July 2013. There are only two candidates; the now well-known general Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, and Hamdeen Sabahi, leader of the progressive Egyptian Popular Current, a pro-Nasser activist who opposed Sadat and Mubarak, who had him imprisoned 17 times. In 2012, with 21.5 per cent of the votes, Sabahi came third behind Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq. He did not hesitate to criticise Morsi’s authoritarian shift, describing him as “a new Mubarak.” He has also expressed his disapproval of abuses of power by the transition government imposed by the army. Today, with the slogan “one of us” and a ‘left-wing’ election campaign, he is supported by important personalities in the world of culture such as Alaa Al Aswany and Khaled Youssef. The secular and ‘socialist’ Sabahi aims to obtain the votes of working class citizens and the young revolutionaries. However, few believe his liberal appeal has any chance at all of overcoming the electoral machine fielded by former general Al Sisi. Sabahi, however, is not giving up. He explains why in Azzurra Meringolo’s interview for Resetdoc.
Hamdeen Sabahi: My Long March Against Al Sisi
Interview by Azzurra Meringolo
Egypt: Al Sisi will certainly win, but then?