Armed conflicts, civilians debased by both terrorist groups and dictatorial governments, a worrying repression of dissent and waves of populism and racism experiencing a staggering rise, are in the words of Gianni Ruffini, director of Amnesty International Italia, an indication that the world is moving backwards as far as human rights are concerned.
In October 2015, the Law and Justice Party (PiS), the reference party for Polish conservativism, returned to power obtaining an absolute majority of seats and putting an end to a series of centrist-liberal governments (PO-Civic Platform). As of 2007, this party’s most important representative has been Donald Tusk, former prime minister and current president of the European Council.
In the mid-1970s democracy seemed to have fallen to an all-time low. In Latin America, two of the most successful democratic stories, Uruguay and Chile, were violently overthrown by military coups in 1973, while only two years later Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in India, cancelling a general election and eliminating the most basic civil freedoms.
“Political science must be relevant, it does not involve studying butterflies.” Attempting to discover the theory of reality is what the Florentine political analyst Giovanni Sartori, who died on April 1st at the age of almost 93, had tried to do for his entire life. This amusing comment was made by Gianfranco Pasquino, a political scientist, a former senator.
If we want to understand what is going on today in France, we need to start by saying something about the global geopolitical trend, of which France is obviously part. If a single phrase could summarize the global geopolitical trend, we should say that we are witnessing an era of shift of power: in the last four decades, the geopolitical axis of the world has been shifting from the “developed countries” toward the “developing countries”.
In all countries, established political parties have the dangerous propensity to counter this electoral wave of populism by adopting the issues and language used by them. Political scientists have long believed that when a country succeeds in achieving a democratic transition, creating stable institutions and accomplishing a certain level of wealth, it has a rather low risk of an authoritarian backlash.
Alireza was in Kabul when he received his father’s call urging him to leave the country. A letter signed by the Taliban requested the immediate closure of the English institute that Alireza was directing in Ghazni. After having received a second letter including death threats, Alireza understood he and his family had no chance but to flee the country. The father sold his bakery and the house and paid a smuggler 32.000 dollars to get Alireza, his wife and his two other children out of Afghanistan.
The latest of a raft of measures adopted by US President Donald Trump only a few days after he was sworn into office, the executive order on immigration has sparked heavy criticism in the country and around the world. The measure is intended primarily to suspend the national refugee system temporarily, and the Syrian refugees programme indefinitely, and to deny entry to the US to individuals from seven named, majority-Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen) for 90 days.
The rise of illiberal trends
From India to Russia, the world is experiencing a new rise of illiberal trends and the return of strongmen. Reset DOC
Rio de Janeiro - “The giant has awoken.” This was the mantra that, one year ago, accompanied the beginning of the phase of upheaval of the Brazilian people against their own ruling class and social injustice in a country of fierce inequalities. Never before had hundreds of thousands of people paraded down the streets of Rio de Janeiro and of other cities. Never, since the time former president Collor was impeached in the 90’s. Never, to cry out to the world the suffocating reality of the country, so victimized by its own preconceptions and by a shiny and unreal image, that it cannot show itself in its deepest aspect of tragedy. Certainly not from abroad, where the “myth” of the ever-happy Brazilian has finally had to stand face to face with the images of the enormous protests.
The debate on full veils – burqas and niqabs – in British courts and British schools was always bound to happen. The issue flared up a few years ago following some remarks by Jack Straw but it had not yet turned into a discussion over the possibility of a French style umbrella ban. Politicians such as Phillip Hollobone, Jeremy Browne and Nick Clegg seem to propose something along these lines. Yet, I believe, this country will not eventually generate a law similar to the French one in force since 2011. If it did, it would not be beneficial, but it is still important that we have this discussion.
CONSTITUTIONS AND CULTURAL PLURALISM:
How Can Legal Frameworks Foster Tolerance and Peace in Multireligious Societies?
Cases from the Middle East
In the Middle East today, conflicts along religious and ethnic dimensions create situations in which minorities are in great danger. It is important to look at how constitutions and their supporting institutions can protect religious pluralism and toleration in mixed or divided societies. What are the constitutional arrangements that are the most successful in ensuring minority rights? How can constitutions deal with the tensions between individual and communal rights? What can we harness from local social, political and cultural traditions in various Middle East and North African cultures to aid the development of constitutions that promote pluralism? Top scholars have gathered at Columbia University (NY) on December 3rd, 2013, to discuss these questions.
The question “can European Islam be inspiring to the Arab world?” may smell of pejorative Orientalism: Europe thinks for the Arab world even when it comes to religion! Yet, the intent (anniya in Arabic) is not that. The question aims at questioning the established dichotomy of “Islam vs. the West.” Comparing two geographies or two versions of religion in two different political entities is the aim here, though the title seems to compare a religious interpretation in a political geography “European Islam” with a another political geography “the Arab world.” By the Arab world here is meant “Arab Islam” – to avoid repeating “Islam” twice. Both Western Europe and the Arab world are heterogeneous and have different histories with religion and politics, and it is not acceptable to put them all in one basket through entities as the title above suggests. However, it is the links between these two geographies, polities, and histories that have encouraged posing the question for further reflections.
In his most recent book L’altro siamo noi (Einaudi, 2010) Enzo Bianchi, the monk who founded the Bose community and a prolific author, addresses the subject of managing the conflict between oneself and ‘others’ in Christian terms, reflecting on the recovery of Christianity’s founding values so as to face the fear, diffidence and the “cultural autism” that nowadays characterises the relationship between immigrants and native identities.
Reset-Dialogues is pleased to publish this essay by Michael Walzer, Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, drawn from a lecture held during the series of conferences "For an inclusive citizenship", 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, Richard Bernstein, Anna Elisabetta Galeotti, Nilüfer Göle, Susan Mendus and Alain Touraine.
Reset-DoC carries on the debate about Europe and its future with a new essay by Hauke Brunkhorst, Director of the Institute of Sociology and of the Department of European Studies at the University of Flensburg, Germany. The following paper has two parts: in the first part the author outlines an evolutionary model for analyzing the relation of democracy, cosmopolitanism and conflict. In the second part he applies this model it to the case of European constitutionalization, and its failure.
The proliferation of totalitarian regimes in the Arab world has certainly not helped the publishing industry. Perhaps the Arab spring, with the emergence of more democratic political systems, will help overcome censorship. However, the reemergence of the book, being not only a cultural but also a commercial product, will also depend on the fate of the markets.
At the international conference entitled “Recreating Babel; teaching cosmopolitism” organized by the Intercultura Foundation in Milan from April 7th to the 9th, 36 experts (among them Fred Dallmayr, John Lupien, Giancarlo Bosetti, Marco Aime, and Ramin Jahanbegloo) explained how social, political and economic events in the 20th Century, including the very recent events in North Africa and Japan, are almost all of an international nature and allow us to understand well how it is impossible to live within the political and cultural borders of one’s own state or nation.
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).
Tehran - A little more than a month has gone by since the street protests, clashes and arrests at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar. The reasons that led Iranian merchants to take to the street are still at work in the country. They have now taken second place and been outclassed by news of the elections in the United States and protests against the detention of bloggers in Iranian jails. But many issues are still unresolved.
Sheikha Mozah, second wife of the emir of Qatar, appears to have embarked on an ambitious project with an uncertain outcome, involving teaching her citizens to play a leading role in the country’s life and not just that of privileged spectators. There are only 300,000 Qataris out of about 1.8 million inhabitants and they form a wealthy minority, the wealthiest in the world, but one that does not contribute to Qatar’s economic life. The intelligent sheika’s ultimate objective is to ensure that the emirate’s economy does not continue to rely only on its enormous reserves of gas but also on know-how.
Mohamed Morsi has been declared President, the first civilian Head of State of the Arab Republic of Egypt since 1953, when Mohamed Naguib inaugurated a line of long serving military Presidents that ended, eighteen months ago, with the demise of Mohamed Hosni Mubarak. He is also the first democratically elected President, ever. Quite independently from the result of the popular vote – which appears to have been in favour of the Muslim Brothers candidate by a slight margin – the proclamation of the victor has remained in doubt for several tense days during which the military establishment negotiated with the Brotherhood a series of very substantial restrictions to the effective powers and competences of the new President.
The fact that Egypt does not have a president ensures that the army will continue to govern after parliamentary elections, because the current system ensures that the government and prime minister do not respond to parliament, but directly to the president, an appointment currently held by the army. Beyond facile promises, between parliamentary elections and drafting the new constitution, the presidential elections should be held in a year, but in the meantime the army will continue to exercise its power.
Many Egyptians in the past few days have complained they did not know who to vote for. They were informed neither by the media nor by the same political parties that should have represented them. Some asked for advice from their own families, others from friends. Others arrived at the polling stations and asked party members who were there. Many Muslim Brotherhood members had desks where voters could get information on how to vote.