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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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Exploring the Images in Arab Blogosphere


Exploring the Images in Arab Blogosphere

By Fakiha Hassan Rizvi 

Introduction and Background:

The word ‘blog’ is a contraction of two words, Weband ‘Log’. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘weblog’ as a frequently updated website consisting of personal observations, excerpts from other sources, typically run by a single person and usually with hyperlinks to other websites. It can also be referred to as an online journal or diary.

Walker.R (2008) defines ‘blogging’ as a cumulative process as the information shared is always placed in a broader context and bloggers have complete control over the content that they want to share unlike other means of communication (print, broadcast). [1]

Brans & Jacobs (2006) while discussing the ‘Uses of Blogs‘ elaborated the concept of ‘News Blogging’ as a “practice of covering the news through blogging- either by reporting originally or by providing opinion on the news that has been reported in the news sources”. [2]

Barlow (2008) explained the working dimension of blogs, he argued that the words on the screens become movers of judgement, all supposedly equal, though there are plenty of means of heightening their exposure. [3]

Pole (2010) discussed the influence of blogging networks (blogosphere) on political communication. As per his argument, blogging has altered political discourse by changing ‘how’ and ‘when’ people discuss politics. He further supports this by explaining the enhanced level of interactivity while blogging that enables dialogue among bloggers and readers leading to an exchange of ideas. The ideas can then be manifested in the form of an ‘action’, ‘policy’ or ‘mobilization’. Therefore, political communication has no boundaries with regards to ‘scope’ and ‘magnitude’ in the blogosphere. [4]

The Arab uprisings and protests starting from 2010 used blogs as an important source for disseminating information that was denied any other outlet (mainstream news media). However, some argue that the role of ‘social networks’ and ‘blogs’ in triggering the waves of protests around Middle East is overstated. Whether less or more, the impact of social media did resonate and there are no differences over this. Downing (2010) marks 2003 as the year during which Arab bloggers/citizen journalists started to gain prominence. However, it was only after 2005 that these bloggers “emerged as important leaders of social movements.” [5]

This is the reason that Murphy (2011) labels blogging as a predominant form of written protest in the Arab world and the Internet as the new “clandestine printing press.” [6]

Arab Blogosphere

Arab Blogosphere

Literature Review:

This is a concise research study which aims at revealing the images in the Arab Blogosphere, pertinent to four key issues of Middle East during 2012:

  1. Morsi as the President of Egypt
  2. Syrian Massacre
  3. Protests against anti-Islam film in the Arab World
  4. Recent conflict between Gaza and Israel

‘Three’ blogs were considered for this research study. The images that reflected the issues mentioned above were studied. ‘Image analysis’ is very significant for analyzing opinions being communicated through the web. 

Image source: Encyclopedia of Social Media Movement by John D.H.Downing (2010)

Image source: Encyclopedia of Social Media Movement by John D.H.Downing (2010)

It becomes all the more significant in the case of ‘blogs’ as readers are hooked by the images accompanying the posts. Sometimes they even get a clue of the entire post by viewing images. In case of the Arab world, there are certain blogs that share images being submitted by natives belonging to different countries in the Arab countries. In this way the blog becomes ‘a portrait of the current happenings’ in the Middle East.

It’s time to take a look at the images in the Arab Blogosphere

References:

[1] Walker. J. Rettberg (2008), Blogging.

[2] Jacobs J. & Brauns A. (2006), Uses of Blogs.

[3] Barlow A. (2008) Blogging America: The New Public Sphere

[4] Pole A. (2010) Blogging the Political: Politics and Participation in a networked society.

[5] Downing. J. D. H (2010) Encyclopedia of Social Media Movements

[6] Murphy. C. Emma (2011) The New Arab Media: Technology, Image, Perception

BLOG URL’s

http://lynch.foreignpolicy.com/

http://angryarab.blogspot.com/

http://tabsir.net/

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2012 in Research Hub, Slide shows

 

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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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