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The Arab awakening, Islam and the new Middle East


Book Review:
The Arab awakening, Islam and the new Middle East
New York: Penguin, 2012. 273pp ISBN 978 1 846 14650 3
Reviewed by Fakiha Hassan Rizvi



The unexpected spectacle, astonishing for the world and a trigger for mass mobilization in Middle East, involved a street vendor setting himself alight in Tunisia. The defiance of Mohamed Bouazizi against state oppression is often labeled as the beginning of Arab uprising. However, The Arab awakening,Islam and the new Middle East urges readers to view the demonstrations in the Arab world objectively and by taking into account broader historical, political, social and economic contexts. Ramadan explores the appropriate term that should be
associated with mass protests in the Arab world, instead of blindly projecting them as ‘revolutions’ or ‘springs’, he calls it an ‘awakening’, with “cautious optimism”. The author connects the deep-rooted indicators of ‘social explosion’ like unemployment, illiteracy, lack of opportunities and despotism at a specific and general level in Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Tracing down the origins of these unprecedented mass mobilizations, The Arab Awakening, Islam and the New Middle East, finds a midway between the notions of ‘Western control and manipulation of Arab uprising’ and the ‘exaggerated optimism that if often linked with the change in Middle East’. According to the text, “cyber-dissidents” and digital activists were trained by foreign funded organizations (centers like Albert Einstein Institution and Freedom House), back in 2004, to promote non-violent protest through the use of social networks and digital technology. However, none of the Western powers could have
anticipated the reaction of Mohamed Bouazizi and the chain of reactions after his death. Resistance against dictatorial set ups scattered at an exponential rate. This propelled the Global North to give a patient hearing to the aspirations of the people.

The author links this ‘revolting attitude’ of the Arabs with Edward Said’s concept of ‘other’ by marking it as an end point of a “time worn” debate between “Secularism and Islam”, “Occidents and Orients” and “We and Others”. For Ramadan, “the other no longer remains the other” as it is striving for the same values179
(equality, dignity and freedom) that the West has always promised, but has failed to provide. To validate his hypothesis, the author refers to other events occurring in the wake of Arab uprising. Considering the death of Osama Bin Laden as a ‘media coup’ planned by the American president at an appropriate time he opines that this event itself indicated the extension of a friendly-hand from the West towards the Muslim. After eliminating a man known as the symbol of “anti-Western ideal” a new “political orientation” was established for Muslim-
majority countries. There was no reason for the West for not listening to the voices in Liberation Square (Tahrir Square) when they non-violently demanded for human dignity and an end to coercive measures employed by the dictator, Hosni Mubarak. Throughout the text, references are made that explicitly indicate dual-standards and moral relativism of the West for the sake of safeguarding economic and geo-political interests. While
the United States and other NATO countries accepted the aspirations of the people to some extent in Egypt and Tunisia, at the same time, it maintained close contacts with the military establishments of these countries. On the other hand, the mass movements in oil-rich petro-monarchies like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar were downplayed and manipulated by the international media. The liberty to use Internet when curtailed
for the Egyptian bloggers was countered by Google, which provided them with satellite codes. The same ‘Google’ denied access to those codes when asked for by Syrian bloggers. It is noteworthy, as Ramadan mentions that the role of Google has been completely in line with the policies of NATO countries
along with the United States during the mass protests in the Middle East.

The author considers the ‘Arab awakening’ as an eye opener for the Muslim countries and the rest of the world as well, to devise new socio-political models instead of adhering to the present and flawed ones. Restoration of “self-confidence” in the Global South is the key to engage developing and under developed countries in a constructive debate. For the author, such debates can serve well to provide blueprints of socio- political models based of ethical governance, that is no where to be seen in today’s global order. The Muslims are advised by the author to use their state of awakening in a positive direction for the welfare of human society. He refutes the argument that democracy and political Islam are dissimilar by claiming that180 Journal of Media Studies 26(2)
five essential components of democracy are in “fundamental conformity” with Islam; ‘rule of law’, ‘equality for all citizens’, ‘universal suffrage’, ‘accountability and separation of powers’ (executive, legislative and judiciary). Religion can play a decisive role for formulating the ethical norms of governance that are absent in majority of the countries of today even “the civilized Occidents”. The Arab world needs to turn this uprising to its advantage as it has suffered a lot at the hands of Western imperialism and colonialism. Ramadan aptly puts it at two instances “ours is the era of mass communication”, “ours is the era of passivity” and the need of the hour is to change for the good of humanity. Relying on the ideology that there are “no ideologies” will not turn the Arab awakening into the Arab revolution as the author points out the necessity to create ideologies from within, which are irrefutable for both the East and the West and derive ethical principles from religion.

The Arab Awakening, Islam and the New Middle East is a well- researched attempt to understand and operationalize the accelerating changes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The author generously offers readers to negate his views and proposes that the debate in his book is open for all.

Originally written for and published in the Journal of Media Studies (JMS)- research journal of the Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab.
Link: http://www.jms.edu.pk/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleID=127

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Posted by on November 10, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Turk and Arab Youth Unite


TAYC-3

 

VIEW : Turk and Arab youth unite — Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

Events unfolding as a consequence of the Arab Spring had a substantial impact on the young people living in the countries in revolt. The Arab awakening is described at times as a ‘youth-driven’ movement, which is driven by the poor performance of authoritarian regimes. However, despair lingered amidst slogans of democracy, equality and freedom of speech. A recent opinion poll by Miftah (the Palestinian initiative for global dialogue and promotion of democracy) unveils that the Palestinian youth are distinctly less positive today about the effects of the Arab Spring. Presently, only 18 percent of all youth believe regional changes are positively affecting the Palestinian situation. Moreover, a study by Al Jazeera in July 2013 revealed that Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Tunisia’s youth feels disenfranchised from politics. Although young people represented a majority of those who sparked the revolutions, today they are alienated from politics.

To guide the youth in the right direction and to carve a vision for its future, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Youth Assembly (IMMYA) planned to arrange the Turk Arab Youth Congress (TAYC). This year, the second congress was conducted in which participants belonging to 24 different Arab countries participated, including conflict-ridden areas like Palestine, Syria and Indian-occupied Kashmir. During the congress, Turk and Arab youth convincingly decided to work together in order to chalk out a future that assuages their sufferings. I got an opportunity to attend the TAYC 2013 as a student of journalism from Pakistan, and to gather some interesting insights relevant to the Turk-Arab cooperation.

On the first day of the congress, eminent intellectuals and politicians provided the participants with the background knowledge to build a theoretical framework for understanding regional issues. Advisor to the Chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Ms Summeyya Erdogan, said that the common geography made Turks and Arabs closer to each other. She was of the view that borders had never been a barrier to the Turk and Arab brotherhood. Her message suggested that young people should remain optimistic under their common heritage and to think of Istanbul as their city. The notable part of her speech argued that Turkey works towards the ‘West’ but always takes the ‘East’ into consideration.

The first panel discussion for the first day was initiated by Fuat Keyman, Director of the Istanbul Policy Centre at Sabanci University. He threw light on the topic of the panel: “New approaches to the new world crisis” and defined the Arab Spring as a crisis of globalisation. He believed that integrated information and communication technologies (ICTs) can no longer allow countries to remain isolated. According to Mr Keyman, the Arab Spring proved both the Orientalist and Occidentalist perspectives wrong. Orientalism believed that the Arab world cannot change. However, the Arab Spring marks the initiation of a long term transformation in the region. On the other hand, the Occupy Wall Street protests challenged Occidentalism as well. As per Mr Keyman’s view, the west is weakening and the east is rising. Regarding democratisation of the Arab region, he held the opinion that Turkey cannot be taken as an exemplary model, as it is still in the phase where democracy needs to be consolidated. The rest of the Arab world is shifting towards democratic norms.

Bulent Aras, Chairman for the Centre of Strategic Research, defined the Arab awakening as the rise of collective consciousness. He elaborated that resistances do follow revolutions as history teaches us. The discussion was concluded by Yasin Aktay, Chairman of Institute of Strategic Thinking. He shared that things are only new when we have not experienced them before, and people only differ with regard to the way they react to the events happening around them. The second session of the congress revolved around building regional and global civil networks. The panel was led by Bekir Karliga, Chairman of the national coordination committee of the alliance of civilisation. He reiterated the need to develop a new and more robust sense of ‘civilisation’. As per his view, Islamic history proves that Muslims had a deep understanding of civilisation.

The next speaker for the second panel discussion was Ms Humeyra Sahin, an author. She believed that a uniform paradigm of modernisation was being imposed on the world at the moment. According to her, Internet is a tool for the present generation and it should be used for the right purposes and in the right manner. Ms Sahin thought that instead of letting the west define the east, the latter should write its own history.

Mesut Ozcan, Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, took the topic further by explaining the significance of ‘soft power’ and civil diplomacy. His discussion tried to convince the participants that classical diplomacy is now changing, especially through cultural and academic exchanges between different countries.

On the second and third day of the congress, participants were asked to discuss different topics under three different commissions. One was based on social, humanitarian and cultural issues, the second one on economics, while the third one was based on the intervention of foreign powers and organisations in local conflicts. At the end, every commission proposed a social, economic and political solution to the Syrian refugee problem. The Turk and Arab youth had achieved a consensus on building networks to ensure an interest-free Islamic economic ecosystem. They opined that the Syrian refugees should be hosted and sponsored by the neighbouring countries (Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan), following the spirit of Muhajirin and Ansar during the time of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). On the stage of international politics, they thought that the Organisation of Islamic Conference should take a leading role and advocate the case of oppressed Muslims belonging to any region.

The Turk Arab Youth Congress 2013 was an interesting way of creating an interactive platform for the Turk and Arab youth; however, what is left to be seen is the practical application of what the youth aspires for the region. 

The writer is a student of Communication Studies at University of the Punjab. She blogs at http://www.fakihahassanrizvi.wordpress.com and tweets at @Fakiha_Rizvi

The verbal content of this post was published in Daily Times on November 5, 2013. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C11%5C05%5Cstory_5-11-2013_pg3_6

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2013 in International Affairs

 

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The Uneven Dimension of Arab iRevolution


Introduction
History of the world will always narrate the ‘Arab uprising’ while discussing the years 2011 and 2012. It is the only one of its kind that was technologically driven. Edmund Burke’s ‘Fourth Estate’ evolved into new forms till it became the ‘voice of the people’ at places where they couldn’t use traditional means of communication. The ‘social media’ and virtual networking did wonders for Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans. On the other hand, Bahrainis are still longing for political freedom and strangled in sectarian strife. You won’t be able to see many headlines about the unabated misery of Bahraini protesters and the brutal treatment of US backed regime. Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa has ruled the third least populated land of Middle East for the past 41 years. If it is an ‘iRevoltuion’ then the social media statistics presented by Mashable media report in 2012 ( http://mashable.com/2012/06/08/arab-world-facebook-twitter/) presents a rugged ‘social media-scape’ in the Arab world.

Facebook 

facebook users in Arab world

facebook population penetration

Note the difference between Bahrain on 6th position (from left) and Egypt on 12th position.

Twitter

twiiter users in Arab worldpenetration of twiiter users in Arab worldCompare Bahrain and Egypt again.

Bahrain Versus Egypt
My post will strictly deal with Bahrain and Egypt as internet laws are more or less the same in both the countries. Moreover, Egypt, Syria and Bahrain have all moved to discourage bloggers and their vocal behaviour against state oppression.

In Egypt, even after Hosni Mubarak was ousted, the native blogger, “Son of Ra” was sentenced to three years in prison for criticizing the military. [1]

The website of Reporters without borders, revealed on June 21, 2012 that 21 suspects were prosecuted on June 2, 2011 for their affiliation with terrorist organizations and for attempting to over throw the Bahraini government, one of them was a missing blogger Abdulemam, who is regarded by fellow Bahrainis as one of his country’s Internet pioneers and is an active member of Bahrain Online, a pro-democracy forum that gets more than 100,000 visitors a day despite being blocked within Bahrain. [2]

The interesting part of the available social media reports and statistics is that Bahrain has an internet usage percentage of 88% (highest in the Arab world) with a population of just 0.7 million. Whereas, Egypt (population 66.6 million) has an internet usage percentage of 21% after United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Iran, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon (countries where the Arab spring never blossomed). The statistics provided above also unveil that penetration of Twitter and Facebook (potential social networking tools used in the Arab spring).

An article published in the Guardian [3] could have appalled any of the online protesters, a journalist named Amber Lyon (involved in the production of CNN’s documentary ‘iRevolution‘) expalined that why CNN international did not air the documentary. The reason according to her was:

“A 13 minute portion in the documentary that covered protests in Bahrain.”

This leaves some never-ending questions for those who are happily advocating the role of ‘social media’ as a leader of the Arab Spring. Apart from that, it has led to an obvious conclusion:

‘The iRevolution if backed by the US could bring change in the Middle East’

References:

[1] H.A William & F.J. Scotton (2012), The World News Prism Challenges of Digital Communication, Wiley – Blackwell Eight edition.

[2] http://en.rsf.org/bahrain-bahraini-blogger-still-missing-a-21-06-2012,42840.html

[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/04/cnn-international-documentary-bahrain-arab-spring-repression

[4] http://shusmo.me/2012/06/07/twitter-active-users-in-arab-world-english

Mashable media report – http://mashable.com/2012/06/08/arab-world-facebook-twitter/

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2012 in Research Hub

 

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Is ‘Mohammad Morsi’ the ‘New Hosni Mubarak’?


Is Mohammad Morsi the ‘New Hosni Mubarak‘?
A Comparison of the Editorial Coverage given to Morsi by the New York Times and the Khaleej Times, from June 25, 2012 till November 29, 2012.

By Fakiha Hassan Rizvi 

Mohammed-Morsi-1

Introduction:

Protests that sparked around the Arab World, collectively called the ‘Arab Spring‘ toppled down decades long regimes. Starting from Tunisia and spreading across Syria, where the inflammation has aggravated, the Arab Spring will remain a significant sign post in the political history of the world. For the Egyptians, the billows of the Arab Spring brought a democratic dispensation being headed by Mohammad Esa al Ayat Morsi. On July 1, 2012, Morsi had formally sworn in as the first democratically elected president of Egypt by beating his competitor, Ahmed Shafq (prime minister of Egypt during Mubrak’s rule) with a narrow margin of 3.5%. There are differences over as to how fair the elections were and the question of a citizen-centred change. However, the change is obvious, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, ruling Egypt. Morsi has taken charge of his country during a crucial period and he is under a global-glare. Belonging to a party, widely known for its staunch Islamist nature, antipathy towards Israel, hostility towards the U.S and resentful over the role of military at home, Morsi’s presidential actions are being examined carefully. Under the Mubarak regime, Egypt had been a key ally of the US in the Middle East by cooperating with Israel, its relations with Iran were strained on account of sectarian divide. Philips. L . David (2009) predicted that a path for Muslim Brotherhood to enter politics is likely to make Egypt an undisputed democratic leader in the Arab region. However, there are conditions and tests for this to materialize. Starting from the steps that a non-violent Islamist party can take to stop the more fanatic violent one’s from entering into politics, extent of civil participation in the politics, transparency, press freedom, socio-economic development to the diplomatic orientation adopted by it. [1]

However, Bowker (2010) has argued that there can be broadly three likely drivers of political change: a new class of entrepreneurs, an impact of demography and generational changes on both the secular and Islamic political life and the effects of engagement with other countries like the United States and Israel. [2]

Vincent. H. Billie (2012) described the adverse changes that could lead to grave consequences for the region and above all, the Egyptians. “A worst-case scenario would be if Morsi turns out to be a weak and pliant president. His flexibility can allow the terrorists to compete for power. If this happens then the military will stage another coup, creating long-term turmoil in Egypt.” [3]

Morsi’s bout with the military and the need to restore economy is a complex duo. After taking charge as the president he has been in the international mainstream media. Commentators and media analysts from around the world are assessing the developments in Egypt under his control, ranging from Egypt’s Sinai problem, the débâcle between Egyptian military and parliament, to broad issues like the protests against the anti Islam film or the regional destabilization due to turmoil in Gaza. James Petras in his article, ‘The Summer of Muslim Discontent: it’s not “the Amateur Film” Stupid, builds the opions that the “Egyptian Muslim and secular populace are profoundly disenchanted with the Brotherhoods betrayal of their promises of welfare, jobs, prosperity and nationalist foreign policy .The “film” served as a “legitimate pretext” to unify their forces: the protest against “the film” was in reality about the larger socio-economic and political cleavages emerging and the tremendous boost in US influence in Morsi’s Egypt.” [4]

Amid these wide range of discussions, Morsi is being stigmatized for exercising dictatorial powers that make his decisions irrefutable and legitimate till a new government is elected. Such measures are not constructing a positive image of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, who is time and again being described with phrases like: the ‘new Mubarak’, ‘Morsi the new dictator’, Morsi’s democratic dictatorship’ and ‘Morsi’s Coup’. On the other hand, dissenters have already started to gather once again in the historical Tahrir Square, raising slogans that warn Morsi (remember Morsi after the throne, there is jail).

In light of the background information this research has the following objectives:

R1 What is the extent of editorial coverage given to Mohammad Morsi in The New York Times and Khaleej Times after he won the presidential seat?

R2 What suggestions are given by the editorials for handling governance issues, whether explicitly or implicitly, by The New York Times and Khaleej Times?

R3 What words/adjectives have been ascribed with Morsi during the editorial coverage in The New York Times and Khaleej Times?

Method:For the first research question, the researcher will present a quantitative analysis of the editorial coverage of Morsi by both the newspapers. For the second and third research questions, a discourse analysis of the editorials will be presented, according to the relevant hypotheses. All the editorials from June 25, 2012 till November 29, 2012, containing the terms ‘Morsi’ and ‘Egypt’ will be considered as the sample for the research. The time frame starts from the day Morsi took charge as the President till late November this year. A discussion following the editorial will compare and contrast editorial coverage, the description of Morsi and the advices that the editorials are lending to him as the president.

Newspapers:

The New York Times: An American daily newspaper. The paper’s motto, printed in the upper left-hand corner of the front page, is “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” The New York Times website (NYTimes.com) has the motto “All the News That’s Fit to Click.” Copies of this newspaper have circulated in the New York City since 1857. It has won the most Pulitzer Prizes among all the news organizations in America. It is also considered as the most popular American print media outlet. The paper in owned by The New York Times Company. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times]

Khaleej Times: A Dubai based newspaper catering to the needs of the readers in the Gulf. First published in 1978, the newspaper became the first English language newspaper of Dubai. The government of the United Arab Emirates owns it partially. Khaleej Times Online is the global face of the newspaper on the internet. The online version offers more stories and exclusives not found in its print paper. Currently, it’s print edition is the second most popular English language newspaper in Dubai. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khaleej_Times]

Hypotheses:

The following hypotheses have been formulated by the researcher:

H1 Khaleej Times gave greater editorial coverage to Morsi as compared to The New York Times.

H2 The New York Times explicitly mentions that stability in Egypt can’t be achieved without the cooperation of US, whereas, Khaleej Times suggests Morsi to handle the situation keeping view the aspirations of his subjects.

H3 The New York Times will be more blatant while ascribing certain words with Morsi and Khaleej Times will present a more factual account regarding Morsi rather than attaching words like ‘conservative’ with him.

Hypotheses Testing:

Editorials of The New York Times and Khaleej Times were retrieved from the websites of both the newspapers. After analysis, the following quantitative data was observed:
Morsi-editorial coverage

H 1 Deduction: Editorial coverage of Morsi by Khaleej Times is greater than that of The New York Times

The New York Times gives the following suggestions to Morsi:

The New York Times has talked of Egyptian transition as yet another chance for the people of Egypt to steer through a democratic pathway and for this more willingness is required to reduce political polarization. It has explicitly stated that Egyptians can decide their own future, but they will need help from the United States. The editorials suggest Morsi to curb military power but not to dissolve the entire legislative cabinet (only the legally questionable number should be re-contested). [Another Chance for Egypt, June 25, 2012-The New York Times]

Regarding the Sinai problem, The New York Times mentions it as a new series of tensions between Morsi and the army. To make Sinai a priroity is in the national interest of Egypt and Morsi should deal with it as a test of his ability to control lawlessness in Egypt. It stated the possibility of Egypt revising its treaty with Israel in order to increase the military assets. In another editorial, it has implicitly suggested Morsi to improve security relations with Israel as there are a number of other problems like shattered economy to deal with at home. [Egypt’s Sinai Problem, August 7, 2012. Morsi’s First Crisis, August 10, 2012]

Morsi is exploiting the attack on Sinai Peninsula by firing Generals to seize on going protests going on in Egyptian streets. Egypt shouldn’t hope for change is Morsi continues with stern actions. [Morsis’s Rebalancing act, August 16, 2012-The New York Times]

The newspaper builds the opinion that Egypt cannot restore its economy without the support of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United States. Therefore, Morsi should consider the aid and loans being granted by the Obama administration. [Egypt’s Economic Struggle, September 24, 2012]

Morsi is blamed by the newspaper for a delayed response on the gruesome attack on the US ambassador for Libya and attacks by protesters of Anti-Islam film on the US embassies in Cairo. He should condemn violence with a firm fist in order to improve the economic condition of the country. It clearly mentions that the expected $4.8 billion loan to Egypt by IMF would receive the Western support if ‘Egypt is reasonably safe’ for the West. [Belated Response from Egypt, September 13, 2012]

Morsi can be given ‘some’ credit for the Gaza deal, but that doesn’t mean that the United States will support measures which are perceived to be of authoritarian nature by the Egyptians. “While the State Department advocated a constitutional process that does not overly concentrate power in one set of hands.” [The Crisis in Egypt, November 26, 2012]

Khaleej Times gives the following suggestions to Morsi:

Khaleej Times describes the change in Egypt as a positive sign, but the free and fair future of democracy is uncertain. Cooperation between the military and the Islamists will decide the sustainability of ‘democratisation’ in Egypt. A compromise between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military can lead to a sustainable democracy. [What after the Elections?, June 26, 2012- Khaleej Times]

The newspaper endorses Morsi’s move of ‘negotiating powers back from the military’. It’s a painful exercise to make sure the required transition as civil engagement in the political process is also required. On the other hand, retaining military stalwarts in the cabinet can be disappointing for the protesters. [Transition in Egypt, Power Struggle in Cairo, Cairo’s Cocktail Cabinet, July 22, July 26, August 4, 2012- Khaleej Times]

Morsi should deal with the Sinai predicament like a ‘true leader’ by ensuring that Cairo has zero tolerance for militants. Egypt should not go against its agreements with Israel, especially when Morsi has to keep a check on radicalism and reply back to his political allies for the compromises he has made with military generals.Morsi has made the right move by firing generals as he has denied the chance of a puppet administration. The people of Egypt can’t tolerate a coup and Morsi has shown civilian authority by retiring generals using the brazen attack in Sinai as an opportunity. [Cairo’s Sinai predicament, Bold-Shake up in Egypt, August 10, August 14, 2012-Khaleej Times]

This is the time for the intelligentsia, media, academia and elected representatives to strive against poverty, terrorism and parochialism.” The newspaper doesn’t completely thwart Morsi’s decision of disallowing freedom of speech. Editorial reflects that press should be responsible enough in a democratic set up and at such a crucial time the government can’t look at superficial issues. People in Egypt won’t move towards the Presidential Palace if they are allowed personal freedom. AN example of this had been given by quoting Egypt’s Maria TV starting in July, where women wearing Niqab present shows. Under Mubarak rule there was a ban on head scarfs for female news presenters. The editorial asks Morsi to allow personal freedoms without taking into account Western reaction (that viewed the Hijab as a wave conservatism in Egypt). [Morsi versus the Press, Egypt’s ‘cover story’ August 26, 2012, September 4,2012 Khaleej Times]
The judiciary is not supporting the transitional process. Morsi should adopt a reconciliatory approach and nullify the baseless accusation against Muslim Brotherhood. The newspaper builds the opinion that President Morsi’s move is temporary just to increase the pace of legislative process. “The arguments against the Mursi decree may have their own merits, but it seems the president has taken the measure in good faith and in an attempt to let the elected representatives exercise their right of governing their constituents”. [Power Tangle in Egypt, November 27, 2012]

However, the latest editorial published warns Morsi that the protests will be more grand this time. He should consider the demand of the protesters or take them into confidence is they seem unstoppable. At this point in time, Egypt is in the hands of those who have a good will for governing the country. Agitators must be convinced somehow, even if it requires a compromise over the decree. Otherwise, an army is likely to stage a coup. [Trouble in Cairo, November 29, 2012]

H 2 As predicted The New York Times exhibits a total imbalance while suggesting Morsi, Khaleej Times has taken a balanced and rational approach.

Comparing words ascribed to President Morsi

The term ‘new dictator’ has only been used in one of the editorial of New York Times. Morsis has been labelled as a ‘conservative ‘Islamist’, for Khaleej Times he is a good will leader who can steer Egypt out of the domestic turmoil if he takes the proper steps. The New York Times has emphasized the dependence of Egypt on the financial assistance provided by the IMF and the United States. Morsi has even been blamed of being ‘shrewd’ when he removed the military generals in response to the Sinai attack. On the other hand, Khaleej Times expressed the notion that he can be a ‘true leader’ provided that he handles the things in accordance to the will of the people.

H 3 The New York Times is not taking a fair approach while ascribing words to Morsi.

Conclusion: An imbalanced editorial coverage by The New York Times, suggestions are made in a very authoritative and blatant way. Khaleej Times has a much fair line. Though at times it seems increasingly considerate for Morsi, but it strongly backs up whatever opinion it tends to formulate.

Sources:

[1] Lawrence (2009) From Bullets to Ballot: Violent Muslim Movements in Transition, Transaction Publishers

[2] Bowker Robert (2010), Egypt and the Politics of Change in the Arab Middle East, Edward Elgan Publishing.

[3] Vincent H. (2012), Bombers, Hijackers, Body Scanners, and Jihadists, Xlibris Corporation

[4] http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article32538.htm#.ULeFafkDL8k.email

Editorials retrieved from the online versions of The New York Times and Khaleej Times.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2012 in Research Hub

 

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New Turkish Politics, Arab Spring and the Role of Media – Lecture


Alper Y. Dede delivering the lecture in Hameed Nizami Conference room, Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab

Alper Y. Dede talking to the students. Seated Right- A Turkish guest, Left – Prof. Dr. Ahsan Akhtar Naz (Director Institute of Communication Studies)

In a special lecture arranged at the Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab, Alper Y. Dede (Turkish PhD scholar) explained the political evolution of Turkey, the foreign policy of Turkey in the context of Arab Spring and the role of media in purporting the transitions of the Arab World. The lecture was delivered in the Hameed Nizami Conference room of the Institute and was hosted by the Director of the Institute of Communication Studies (ICS), Prof. Dr. Ahsan Akhtar Naz.

Before starting off with the topic Alper admired the hospitality of the Pakistani people. He especially mentioned his predilection for the Pakistani food. He appreciated the Director of ICS, Prof. Dr. Ahan Akhtar Naz for arranging an important lecture keeping in view the contemporary ‘global politics’. Alper Y. Dede is an International Relations expert and his area of interest includes; state and society relations, Turkey-Egypt ties, Turkish foreign policy and comparative politics. Alper distinctly explained Turkish policies, Arab Spring and the role of media, later on he connected the distinct parts that aided the students to understand and learn. While elucidating the evolution of Turkish politics, Alper told the students that Turkey used to be a ‘Statist’ country (a term used in political science for countries where social and economic policy is controlled by the government to some extent). He said that the domestic problems such as education, social services remained unresolved till the 1980’s. According to Alper, the government at that time introduced economic liberalisation and a new class of businessmen (conservative and liberal) precipitated out in Turkey. In a geographical context, he stated that 30 % of Turkey’s land lies in the European continent and the rest in Asian continent. Istanbul, lies in the European portion and it is the hub of Asian Tigers (Anatolian Tigers) who represent the conservative class of businessmen. The economic progress of Asian Tigers helped them to establish their own institutions and media outlets, which made them powerful in domestic politics. However, Turkey’s ruling party (Justice and Development Party) drifted away from the conservative Virtue Party and gained popularity over a short period of time. Alper linked the dramatic change in Turkey with the election of 2002, during which Justice and Development Party took a sweeping victory.

His viewpoint about the Arab Spring endorsed the pivotal role of national, international and social media while covering the protests in the Arab World. “Assumption before Arab Spring was that political transition would be gradual, but the street protests starting from Mohmmad Bouzizi’s appalled the entire world,” said Alper. Y. Dede. He connected the variance in transitions of different parts of the world in terms of the media coverage. The Turkish Scholar believed that Syria and Libya banned reporting of events as the protests started. On the other hand, Tunisia and Egypt allowed it. Talking about the Turkish media, he opined that like many others media voices of Turkey were both hesitant and unprepared for the coverage of the Arab protests. The media reflected a mixed perception of optimism and pessimism. Alper told the students that Turkish foreign policy had been influenced by how the media presented the unfolding of events and much to his dismay the Turkish foreign policy in Syria had been unsuccessful. He was disappointed while telling the students that Syria is at the mercy of global powers like Russia, China, France, UK and the U.S (being the elephant in the room). However, Alper suggested that Tukrey could’ve adopted a better diplomatic course by serving as a mediator because foreign support existed for Syria (Russia and Iran). Alper predicted that Bashar al Assad is likely to stay in Syria for the next few months, at least!

The students keenly listened to his lecture, thanked him for imparting his knowledge and raised questions. The Director of the Institute of Communication Studies, Prof. Dr. Ahsan Akhtar Naz, in his final note, briefly discussed the history of Pak-Turkey ties in three phases. The Director told the students that Turkey and Pakistan had a historical relation starting from before the partition, during the Khilafat movement. The second phase was during the rule of General Ayub Khan when a Regional Cooperation for Development was established between Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. The Director said that in his view the third phase revolves around the recent strengthening of economic cooperation between the ideologically bonded states. However, he suggested that Turkey should be more considerate while dealing with the Muslim countries, it can play a significant role through platforms like O.I.C (Organization of Islamic Conference). The Director admired the effective negotiations of Turkey to ensure the recent ceasefire between Israel and the Palestine. He expressed his gratitude towards Alper Y. Dede for enhancing the knowledge of the students and contributing towards the aim of maintaining friendly relations between Turkey and Pakistan, through such lectures.

 
 

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Democratisation of the Arab World and the ‘US Foreign Policy’


President Barack Hussain Obama accepted nominations for second term during the Democratic Convention of 2012, while settling the crown for a “better U.S” on his head. The speech delivered by his ‘democratic comrade’, Bill Clinton, somehow reinforced the notion that; ‘Obama might be bad, but anyone else can be worse’. Clinton gave what Obama earnestly wanted in order to restore his confidence, especially among the ‘white voters’. As expected, the motif of the convention revolved around a rebuttal of allegations against the incumbent president. However, the first black president of the U.S amplified his ‘foreign policy’ as a successful one. The long ‘to do’ list included the most prominent volition of ‘spending less’ on ‘war’ and ‘investing more’ in ‘nation-building’. A dignified end to war in Afghanistan in near future, getting rid of Osama Bin Laden, putting Al Qaeda on the road that is leading to defeat and the promotion of democratic values was used as a persuasive force to endorse his existing policies. The democratic rhetoric of ‘fairness’, ‘equality of opportunity’, ‘promotion of democracy’, ‘gender equity’, missed out the billows of ‘Arab spring’ (which is an insatiable aspirant of ‘democracy’).

Little had been mentioned about the political transitions burbling in the Arab world. The ‘Arab Spring’ and the myriad ‘liberal protesters’ of Middle East are intertwined with the U.S foreign policy. The initial focal point of Obama’s policy with regards to Middle East was the resolution of ‘Arab-Israel’ conflict. Compared with its predecessor, the Obama administration placed negligible emphasis on promoting democracy abroad. The administration’s priority, instead, was strengthening government-to-government relations, something that Obama administration officials felt had suffered unnecessarily under the Bush administration. The common thread throughout the statements and speeches of Obama and his senior advisers, till 2011, was the target to achieve institutional reform, economic development, and poverty alleviation first, and free and fair elections later. In other words, ‘democracy promotion’ was a secondary motive followed by ‘dignity promotion’. The reasons can be various, from the preservation of the U.S interests in the region to the fear of ‘rapid’, ‘untidy democratisation ‘ of the Arab World. Contrary to the administration’s desired policy, Arab uprisings, pushed it to a position where it had no other choice than to purport the struggles of ‘freedom’ and ‘self-determination’.

President Obama had to celebrate the triumph of protesters calling for change in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. On the other hand, Obama’s move to celebrate along with the pioneers of ‘Arab Spring’ was considered an ‘ominous sign’ by the monarchs of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Obama was seen by the Kings as an instigator, who is backing protests around the Arab world. To ensure support of Washington’s allies in the region, people of Bahrain were deprived of their right to become the creators of their destiny. Leaders in some parts of the Middle East weren’t compelled to give up their dictatorial pursuits like Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad. The United States tried to reassure Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other allies that it stood behind them. Obama’s apparent success in Libya was neutralized by the volatile situation in Syria. The chorus which demands for a democratic dispensation in which people’s voice synchronises with that of the rulers is swelling up in the Middle East. This is likely to continue regardless of who wins the next presidential elections in the U.S.

The region yearning for democracy (the belt running from Tunisia through Libya to Egypt) has already established an unprecedented example for the Arab world to follow. The new regime of Jibril in Libya will look towards Tunisia and develop links with the recovered Tunisian economy. Secular-minded liberals will have to adjust with the Islamists in Egypt, which is likely to rise as the most organized example of ‘democratic switch over’. With Muslim Brotherhood leading a compromise with the secular way of life, an appeal of extreme Islamists such as Al – Qaeda will also fade away from the Arab world. Morsi’s idea of ‘United States of Islam’ is a difficult, yet attainable target. Furthermore, upheavals will continue in other parts like Algeria, which won’t be impervious to resentful calls for change. Royals of Jordan and Morocco will be pushed by their subjects to expand the operational premises of politics within their respective regions. The iridescent, oil-rich Gulf will also be swayed by the demand for democracy. United Arab Emirates and Qatar can manage to hold back their people. However, an increased number of young educated Arabs will question their rulers that ‘why democracy is being denied by them at home’, while support is being granted to it in regions like Libya. Saudi Arabia, the giant of the Gulf will also find it difficult to satisfy the impatient and well-informed, mobilized middle class. The only solution to sustain the kingdom will be to bequeath power to a younger generation. Religion-driven conflicts, a characteristic feature of Middle East politics, will also join the bandwagon of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’.

Whether Obama or Romney, both of them will have to attend to the inconsistent developments in the political arena of Middle East. The resonance of discord and dissent cannot be bottled for the sake of Republicans or Democrats. A recent study of Global Attitudes by Pew Research Center concluded that; most Muslims want democracy, personal freedoms, and Islam in political life, while few believe that the U.S backs democracy. Support for an institutionalized democracy and a re-orientation of the U.S foreign policy in order to negotiate with the Islamists is pertinent. Democratisation of the Arab world has turned the tables over, now, what Arabs ‘want’ carries more weight as compared to what governments have to ‘do’.

The verbal content of this post was originally published in the October (2012) issue of Jahangir’s World Times.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in International Affairs

 

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Who hijacked the spring at Egypt?


While witnessing the transitions which plagued the Arab world with the coveted disease of ‘revolutionary changes’, Egypt managed to topple down the 30 year old regime of the mighty Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak. The longest-serving ruler had to descend down from his throne as the chorus which demanded for a ‘change’ in the political set up of the country continued to burgeon up at Tahrir square. There are so many people who claim that the protests and demonstrations that erupted in Cairo were not led by anyone. Social media is often labelled as the leader of this revolution which ultimately ousted the stalwart dictator after 18 days of turmoil at the beginning of 2011. Not only this, but headlines which an Egyptian couldn’t have gone through during his/her wildest dreams grabbed ample space on the front pages of most of the newspapers -dictator behind the bars. Murder and corruption trial of the former Egyptian President was something next to impossible. .

These rapid fluctuations paved the way for elections in Egypt. 2012 serves a completely different political atmosphere for the once oppressed Egyptians. By far this chunk of Middle East is the biggest prize for democracy in the Arab world and will continue to be, but to what extent in the favour of those who gave the payment? The military, having allowed the people to choose their representatives by the end of 2011 has taken the credit of Egypt’s historic elections by stepping out of the way itself after keeping a lot of privileges though. The recent polls in Egypt apart from being ‘historic’ provided a pleasant respite to the protesters as they were now the voters and didn’t have to participate in never-ending rallies, give interviews and adverts. The country had voted before, but those were just deceptive designs to give Mubarak’s regime a veil of democratic legitimacy, even though it was an open secret that the numbers reflected the support the president thought he needed rather than the support he had; hence the frequent 90%-plus winning percentages Mubarak’s officials would announce to a population that knew what to expect.

Elections saga is at an entirely different dimension followed by frenzy and fervent voters who now have a considerable choice of 13 candidates. There are three names out of the 13 candidates that are consistently ahead of the pack: the Muslim Brotherhood‘s Mohammed Mursi, the secular Amr Moussa and the enigmatic Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh. Consequently, there is a stiff competition between the Hosni Mubarak-era figures and the Islamists (neither of them were the heroes of the young, liberal and technocratic Egyptians who are the original revolutionaries of Egypt). The worst form of injustice that could be done to the tweets from the Tahrir square would be to put the voters in a situation where they have no other choice then to vote for the Islamist fundamentalists or the remains of Mubarak. Admit it or not the Arab spring which ignited the Arab world like fire is getting extinguished at Egypt and that too in a very neat manner. The revolutionaries fought for their right to self-determination, but before they could have managed to reach the ladder of appointing their own government, the spring had been hijacked!

Originally published in Jahangir World Times Magazine- June 2012
http://www.jworldtimes.com/Article/62012_WHO_HIJACKED_THE_SPRING_AT_EGYPT

 
 

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