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The concept of modernity can be analysed from various points of view. A sociological perspective sees modernity as the historical era arising from feudal society’s profound transformation processes and that, starting with the Protestant Reformation, sees the emergence of the new bourgeoisie..

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In the strictest sense Enlightenment means the cultural movement of philosophical origins that spread through Europe after the beginning of the 18th Century until the French revolution and that is characterised by trust in reason and its clarifying power.

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In the Greek polis the meaning of the term “democracy” implied the government of a vast majority of the people, the “plebs”, as opposed to the aristocracy.

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This is an ambiguous word.

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Ethnic Violence

Many of the conflicts or mass violence of recent decades have been characterised by the adjective “ethnic”. This means that the leading players were groups opposing one another on the basis of identitarian, religious, linguistic or more generally cultural assertions..

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A month of ideas.
Giancarlo Bosetti Editor-in-chief
Association for dialogue and intercultural understanding

Dialogue of Cultures

IT Europe

Tariq Ramadan: “Do not demonise Islam”

Guido Rampoldi

Following Pope Benedict XVI’s famous speech in Regensburg, the crisis in relations between Christians and Muslims has over time become an opportunity for starting a Christian-Islamic forum, in which the well-known intellectual Tariq Ramadan is also taking part. As is now clear, and as proven by two recent books (one a thesis by Nina zu Furstenberg and Islam and Freedom by Ramadan), this former “friend of the terrorists” is in fact a Muslim reformist of ‘liberal’ extraction, if the word is not excessive, since he has made a decisive choice, that of contextualising the words of the Scriptures and not stopping at the literal meaning but rather searching for the profounder one.

IT Obama

Don’t worry, Israel

Daniele Castellani Perelli

According to the exit polls 77% of Jews in America voted for Obama, hence 3% more than those who voted for the 2004 Democrat candidate, John Kerry. This instantly demolishes Republican propaganda concerning the Democrat candidate’s presumed anti-Israeli positions. The first post-electoral act by the President Elect has contributed to reassure those who have Israel’s destiny at heart. Although part of Israeli public opinion is not totally convinced, in theory the Obama presidency’s equidistance offers greater guarantees of peace to both parties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

IT Egypt

The Fifth American President (Since Mubarak has been in power)

Federica Zoja

The media in Cairo enthusiastically welcomed the event too, emphasising its historical importance. At times they also exploited the democratic element as a litmus test for the shortcomings of the local political system. “The first black President in the White House and the fifth American president since Mubarak came to power” denounced the independent daily newspaper Dustour. Equally, there are those who do not hide their doubts, and at times their scepticism. “Will Obama be with us or against us?” wrote the periodical Rose El Youssef, expressing a shared fear.

IT India

Unity in diversity?

Eva Pföstl

“India’s record of human rights is poor. The only mitigating circumstance is that political democracy provides checks and balances on human rights abuses through a free media, civil liberty organisations, an active judiciary, and the right to file public interest litigation on behalf of others”. Neera Chandhoke, Professor of Political Science, University of Delhi and Director of the Developing Countries Research Centre, University of Delhi, explains to Resetdoc the current conditions of Indian democracy and on the subject of religion she says: “The meaning that secularism acquired in the Indian context added one more dimension to the generic concept of secularism: not only the recognition of faith but the equal treatment of all faiths”.

IT India

“If the Mahatma were still alive he would be ashamed of us”

Mohan Guruswami talks to Valeria Fraschetti

“I once asked the Mahatma what surprised him the most. ‘How hard of heart people in authority are,’ he answered. This is even truer nowadays. It is obvious that Gandhi’s moral legacy has vanished. What is the system of values in a State that launches a moon mission but says it has no funds for building schools?” Mohan Guruswami, founder and chairman of the Centre for Policy Alternatives in New Delhi, spoke to Resetdoc about what has happened to the Mahatma’s legacy, and dejectedly said that “Every day the newspapers report violent events linked to the caste system, religion or racism. The Mahatma is now only an icon, a legend exploited for political purposes.”

IT Religion and Politics

Is ‘Muslim’ Democracy Synonymous with ‘Constitutional’ Democracy?

Ayşen Candaş Bilgen

The complexity of the Turkish context sometimes remains partly invisible to the observers’ perspective, especially if they are looking to find some ‘otherness,’ and if out of sheer good will they portray this ‘otherness’ that they encounter as something necessarily and unquestionably benign. That is partly what happens to European and American liberals when they analyze a predominantly Muslim country such as Turkey. In order to oppose the essentialistic and hostile attitudes towards Muslims within their communities, they attempt to emphasize the positive qualities of Muslims or Muslim way of life, while sometimes neglecting to apply the normative and critical standards that they would apply in their own countries to the issues that they encounter in their own political contexts.

IT America 2008

“Barack Obama, a new Roosevelt”

John Judis talks to Marilisa Palumbo

The economy, Iraq and choosing Sarah Palin as his Vice-President. This is why, according to John Judis, Republican candidate John McCain will lose the presidential race to Barack Obama: “For people like me who admired McCain - the senior editor of The New Republic said to Resetdoc - he has been a tremendous disappointment.” What about the Democrat candidate? Obama’s campaign has been impressive and the risk is that, with so many expectations, he may end up disappointing people. But Judis is hopeful, Barack has all it takes to also deal with the economic crisis. “We are going to need a lot of spending, we need big deficit instead of surpluses. Next one is going to be like a Roosevelt 1930s Democratic congress, it’s going to be to the left of him, so I would expect that the Congress would push him.”

IT Politics and Religion

Bringing God to the side of the poor

A conversation with Roger Friedland

“Making religion an instrument for social justice” is, according to Roger Friedland, who studies the relationship between religious phenomena and the public arena, the profound meaning of Obama’s relationship with faith. “On the one hand, the tradition that Bush follows, that has dominated the discourse of evangelical and fundamentalist communities” says the Professor from Santa Barbara University, “is that sin is located in the individual soul” (most consonant with a celebration of the market with its ethic of individual effort). Obama follows the traditions of the ‘social Gospel’, This is why he believes that the main sources of sin lies within society, in the way it robs individuals of dignity, of the possibility of making righteous choices.”An interview by Elisabetta Ambrosi.

IT America 2008

Election in the Midst of Crisis

Andrew Arato

In the United States a party may very well come to power that has the ideological inclination to carry out and solidify a paradigm change abandoning the Washington consensus, and in the direction of regulated capitalist economies. Moreover, this party, for a change, is led by a remarkable person, who has in domestic and economic policy at least a capable team around him. Thus what we are witnessing is not only a dramatic crisis, but also its potential longer-term solution. Obama has distinguished himself as a tranquil force in the crisis, and that is not a bad thing under the circumstances. But the election is not over. The factor of race, obliquely if inconsistently revived by McCain’s camp may still reappear in some unexpected form.

AR IT Egypt

The remote desert, a few steps from Darfur

Mohammed Helmy interviewed by Marco Hamam

It’s not the first time that tourists have been kidnapped in Egypt, but in other cases the regime has always been able to keep it hidden from the news, for “fear of potential damage to tourism in a country where, in the last year, the sector represented 6.5% of GDP and around 13% of the work force”. Mohammed Helmy, researcher at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and director of magazine Ruwaq Arabi tells Resetdoc: “Egypt, which is known for the great importance it puts on security, can be victim to attacks in its outer regions and become involved in conflicts beyond its own territory”.

IT Egypt

“There can be no development without political change”

Amr Hashem Rabie interviewed by Federica Zoja

With inflation even higher than 25% month after month essential food prices rose by 60% during the first semester this year compared to the same period in 2007, over 40% of the population is now obliged to survive on less than a dollar a day, and there are one million newborn every year. The serious economic crisis is affecting developing countries such as Egypt, causing a massacre and emphasising the limitations of curtailed democracies. This was explained to ResetDoc by Amr Hashem Rabie, a political analyst at the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.

IT Egypt

“One day we too will have democracy (also thanks to bloggers)”

A conversation with Wael Abbas

“We bloggers have been capable of reawakening civil society from a long sleep. In some cases we have managed to make people more aware of their rights”. Wael Abbas, freelance journalist, political activist, leading player in the Arab world’s internet galaxy, particularly in Egypt, and not linked to any political party or label, is the founder of the blog MisrDigital@l. For the moment this a country he is still permitted to live in: “Our work is not done, because Egyptians need to achieve greater awareness - he adds – especially regards to choosing who must govern this country when it becomes a real democracy. This because if free elections were held, they (the Muslim Brotherhood) would win. Interview by Federica Zoja.

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