Civil society has many roles to play in the few months and years to come in order to keep the democratic momentum in the country, and also keep conviction alive among the youth that democracy is a national need. Democracy does not need regimes; regimes need democracy because it is their only way to stay abreast of the legitimate aspirations of their people and be responsive to them. The highly dynamic and active Moroccan civil society can help in implementing the new constitution and protecting this achievement through: playing their role of watchdog, doing more grassroots activism against corruption and political malpractice, spearheading the political cultural change, fighting all forms of abuse of power and advocating for social justice in the country.Photo by Vesna Middelkoop (cc)
Freedom and Democracy
Nine months after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, and as the Egyptian people continued to express their dissatisfaction with Egypt’s military rulers, celebrated blogger and activist, Hossam el-Hamalawy, spoke about the roots of his country’s spring revolution. During a fresh October evening in Rome, Hossam began by dispelling the notion that Egypt’s was a “social media revolution”. Facebook, twitter and al-Jazeera undoubtedly played a part, but the extent in which many in the west hailed these new technologies was to overshadow the decisive role played by ordinary men and women, activists and factory workers, whose courage and commitment were rarely captured on film.
I can understand the frustration of the Arab intellectual if he finds himself being engaged in small matters while he sees foreign intellectuals doing ‘academic tourism’ in the field, to go home and be producers of knowledge about revolutions these home intellectuals take part in but find no time nor funding to sit and compose the fieldwork as written knowledge to be passed on to the coming generations. This frustration is justifiable. At the same time, and hoping that the ‘academic tourists’ do their job as faithfully as they can, there is no harm if knowledge produced about ‘us’ is made ‘there’ as long as ‘we’ at home can access this knowledge, and are able to read it and share it with the masses that need it.
Thirteen thousand national observers and 600 international ones, among them 75 from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), were part of the control system set up in Tunisia to avoid the danger of ballot-rigging. Ballot-rigging was the greatest fear not only of the people, but also for the Superior Independent Electoral Commission, led by Kamel Jendoubi, who put his credibility on the line on this issue. All parties agreed that the October 23rd elections were free and fair, as did the Commission and the OSCE delegation, led by an Italian, Riccardo Migliori, vice-president since 2010 of the European Union’s agency based in Denmark.
by Antonella ViciniSouad Abderrahim is the secular face of Ennahda, the Islamic party causing debates all over the world. Here in Tunisia, especially in the capital, many Tunisians who defend their secular identity, as well as an Islam that looks to Europe and rejects all forms of extremism, perceive Ennahda as quite frightening. More and more often, all this becomes simplified and exemplified by the “veil or no veil” option.
The October 23rd election in Tunisia has all the characteristics of a historic event, further heightened by a sense of national pride and mixed with the awareness of a watching world. Tunisians speak freely with the hundreds of journalists gathered here to bear witness to the first free elections in 23 years in the country where the Arab Spring began.
Relations between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Egypt deteriorated during the 1970s due to the converging of two opposing tendencies, with on the one hand the development of radical or extremist Islamism, which from a Muslim perspective exasperated the differentiation and contrast between believers and non-believers. On the other hand, it is however inappropriate to pose the problem of recent sectarian clashes between opposing religious factions, from the December 31st 2010 attack in Alexandria to the more recent clashes between Coptic Christians and the police, in terms of the Muslim majority’s lack of respect for the Coptic minority’s religious freedom.
Are we seeing a revival of hostilities between Muslims and Christians in Egypt? It is true that tensions between the two religions have deteriorated recently, but this does not appear to be the reason for what took place. In fact, it was not an interdenominational clash but rather a deliberate provocation at a peaceful protest held by Coptic Christians who were then brutally assassinated by army units.
All the major events in people’s histories, if not the whole of humanity, drew a lot of their vocabulary and seminal expressions from the works of writers and intellectuals. The reverse has also happened, political repression, torture, and all forms injustice inflicted on people, have been a source of inspiration for great literary works and a passage obligé to understand turning points in people’s histories. Since the Arab world is on the fire of revolution, from the coast to the Gulf, the problematic of literature and revolution imposes itself at different and complicated levels.
One television station has transformed the Middle East over the last decade. There has been nothing like this in history. What is remarkable is not just its causal role in laying the ground over many years of what we have seen is a prodigious mobilization but of doing this by creating what are perhaps best called the cognitive conditions that make possible such changes through mobilizations.
Imposing the State to be neutral about religion doesn’t take a position on religion but at the same time it does not necessarily say religion has nothing to do in the public space: I believe religion has a public role, we cannot really exclude it from politics. I simply make a distinction between State and politics: religion and State are to be separate, but religion and politics can’t and shouldn’t be separated. Believers will act politically as believers, and we have to confront with the paradox to keep State and religion separated in a reality where religion and politics are interconnected.
Ten years have passed since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Reintegration and reconciliation, regionalization, security and the battle against drug trafficking are all issues still far from being resolved. At the same time, preparations are taking place for what is described as the country’s “afghanization,” with Afghanistan being returned to the Afghans. One deadline, 2014, has been established, but this is not, after all, that far off, and for now there are those, such as Malalai Joya, a former member of the Afghan parliament forced to resign after reporting the presence of new War Lords and characters linked to the Taliban inside Afghan institutions, who believe that, “after a decade, Afghanistan is still the most unstable, most corrupt and most war-torn country in the world.”