The dilemma that the so-called Arab Spring has entered in its third year since its inception in 2011 makes many wonder if it deserves the name in the first place. It is an Arab winter, bloody, gloomy and dark. The political deadlocks in Tunisia and Yemen, the rampant violence in Egypt, the demolition and possible division of Syria, instability in Libya, slow change in Morocco and Jordan, and controlled change in the Gulf are arguments put in the forefront to express disappointments over the Arab massive street protests and the little they have achieved. It should be remembered, however, that social movements always bring a spirit, and that is what marks them in history. That is what turns them into revolutions, after being mere revolts, unorganized protests, that are or appear to be leaderless, and of little internal and external support. The American and French revolutions took decades to stop violence and social distrust, and about two centuries to reach their current status (which other nations and societies are not obliged to mimic, but only to learn from).
Blasphemy between past and present. Punishment, decriminalization and politics
Blasphemy, an insult addressed at God, a religion or its symbols, is once again an issue in many countries, even where it appeared to have been resolved. Why and in what forms? From Pakistan to the United States, from Europe to Jewish and Christian jurisprudence, the problems raised by blasphemy in the modern world are still many, and they do not only concern religion, but also politics, society and co-existence.
Recently Islam watchers have been busy pointing at yet another blow to political Islam but this time a heavy one. Turkey and its ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are going through hard times for some time now and the woes are deepening every day. As the "champion" of political Islam among Muslim countries, Turkey was a "model" for some, a source of inspiration for others, thanks to its successful achievements in matching the requirements of modernity with religious belief. But model, Turkey is no more.
The weekly magazine The Economist reported on the current repression in Egypt, a country addressing the effects of a second lethal revolutionary euphoria, saying, “the re-emboldened security services have increasingly been hammering the whole gamut of opposition, from secular reformers to every type of Islamist.” The enthusiasm, with decisive support provided by the army, that had resulted in the overthrow of the Islamist President Mohammed Morsi on July 30 2013, must now deal with an abrupt awakening.
By publishing this paper we would like to remember Massimo Rosati, who died on January the 30th, 2013, at the too-young age of 44. A dear friend of Reset-Dialogues, over the years he supported our work and we were discussing a permanent form of cooperation with him involving a series of projects scheduled for the coming months that would have been directed by him. “The Archaic and Us. Ritual, Myth, the Sacred and Modernity" is the paper presented by Massimo Rosati on December 4th, 2013, for the international seminar "Europe, Democracy and Critical Theory. A German-Italian Workshop on Jürgen Habermas’ Theory", organized by Regina Kreide, Walter Privitera and Ilenya Camozzi at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften in Bad Homburg. Rosati’s Paper sparked a lively discussion with Prof. Habermas and an intense debate with all the participants in the seminar.
Massimo Rosati died suddenly after suffering a stroke. He was not yet 45 years old. “Reset” has lost a friend and a tireless co-worker, with his ideas, his blog and the projects we shared. His death was completely unexpected, and the suddenness of this break in friendly and productive contacts, in working relations, is unbelievable and painful. Until just a short moment ago there were the normal and trivial efforts made to find a suitable date for a conference on “Religion and the web”, or to plan a series of seminars and a book on religion as a “war and peace” factor.
Tunisia has surprised the world by approving the text of a new constitution in a climate of change and compromise, following lively debates and lengthy negotiations between the political parties and with civil society increasingly attentive and vigilant. The welcomed result is a progressive constitution that is unique in the Arab world. A mix of modernity and tradition that appears to be the result of an agreement between secularists and Islamists and approved with a significant 200 to 12 votes with 4 abstentions. The mist noteworthy points concern the absence of Shari’a law (albeit mentioning that Islam is the country’s religion), freedom of religion and conscience, a ban on accusations of apostasy, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and publication, freedom of association and the right to strike, equality of rights and responsibilities for men and women and equal opportunity within elective bodies (a novelty in the Arab world). Ferida Labidi, a member of the Ennahda Islamist party and of the Constituent Assembly also participated in the drafting of this text and fought for gender equality. She is a lawyer born in al Kef in 1968 and lives in Tunis with her husband and two children. She is the president of the Constituent Assembly’s Rights and Freedom Commission.
A harsh cultural and diplomatic controversy had been ongoing for months between Poland and Israel, caused by the Polish Constitutional Court’s ban on slaughtering animals following the kosher rituals as of January 1. According to the judges, this traditionally Jewish practice is incompatible with the protection of animal rights, and slaughtering must therefore take place when the animal is “stunned” and hence unconscious.
Britain is anything but new to debates over religious diversity in the public sphere. But the issue partly resurfaced last September following a London court decision requiring a defendant Muslim woman to remove her full-face veil while giving evidence, and more recent controversial remarks by party coalition government members on the Islamic full veil (‘a kind of bag’ for former Conservative justice minister Ken Clarke), and the state’s role in preventing veils ‘being imposed on girls’ (according to Lib Dem Home Office minister Jeremy Browne).
History says a lot about the relationships between Europe and the “broad Middle East,” to preliminarily use the term to mean the Islamic majority countries of North Africa and the Middle East (MENA), and a good part of Asia – from Morocco to Indonesia. The dichotomy of comparing a geographical entity, Europe, with a religious entity, Islam, bears a lot of historical-political tension, and simultaneously conveys the mindset that accepts comparing two entities on two different grounds. Such a “wrong” and “politicized” way of comparisons needs to change, seeing the changes taking place in the Mediterranean basin and world politics.
Saudi authorities may reconsider the ban imposed on women drivers. Things have changed just one month after the October 26 protest that was expected to fill the streets of Riyadh with cars filled with black abayas, a protest that never happened due to threats received and fears they would be arrested. Two activists, Aziza al-Yusef and Hala al-Dosari, have reported to AFP of a meeting held with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister, via conference call in order to respect the rules regulating the separation between men and women.
Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations is pleased to present the special September issue of the Indian magazine Seminar, with contributions by leading international scholars who gathered in Venice for the 2012 edition of our Venice-Delhi Seminars.
Brazil, economic slowdown worries the oil industry. Crackdowns against demonstrators likely to backfire for World Cup plans
Rio de Janeiro. While international attention has turned elsewhere, protests that began last summer in Brazil sparked by public outrage over excessive spending for the Confederations Cup continue unabated. In fact, the partial success of the June demonstrations and the increased confidence in democratic process that it consequently brought on led the Brazilians to continue the struggle. On dozens of occasions in the following months, people took to the streets to shout their grievances — old and new complaints that the ruling class does not seem able to respond to.
Alexandria – Seen from the southern side of the Mediterranean the stories of migrants boarding vessels to reach Italy’s coasts seem tragically more human. They reveal aspects of their arrival in our country that one quickly forgets or neglects. Listening to them one learns of the events that obliged them to cling to the remaining hope on the other side of the sea. Stories of families that vanish in the water, but also of children that end up forgotten behind bars close to the port. These are children who soon become adults, who hope that what they are experiencing is just a bad game of hide-and-seek.
Let us imagine for a moment that at the November 1945 Nuremburg trials, which were held so as to condemn those responsible for instigating World War II and the Holocaust, a Prosecutor decided, by distorting the historical account of the wars' events, to press charges for crimes against humanity during WWII against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. There were surely crimes committed by American soldiers fighting the Nazi regime, yet would this make Roosevelt a just target for crimes committed during World War II? A similar historical and thus juridical incoherence is currently being played out at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague in the case the Prosecutor vs Laurent Gbagbo.
For the last two years, far from the eyes of the world, from the daily attacks and clashes being documented and filmed in Syria, untold tragedies and violations of human rights have been carried, out muffled within the silence of prison walls. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has launched a campaign to tell 21 stories of prisoners’ experiences collected through testimonials and pictures. The imprisoned are not only activists, but also doctors, lawyers and journalists who have tried to tell the story of two years of conflict in the country, to help and protect others.