Tag Archives: Arab Spring

“Civil Resistance in the Arab Spring” (Roberts et al, eds.)

In March, the Oxford University Press released “Civil Resistance in the Arab Spring: Triumphs and Disasters,” edited by Adam Roberts (University of Oxford), Michael J. Willis (University of Oxford), Rory McCarthy (University of Oxford), and Timothy Garton Ash (University of Oxford).  The publisher’s description follows:

Civil resistance, especially in the form of massive peaceful demonstrations, was at the heart of the Arab Spring-the chain of events in the Middle East and North Africa that 9780198749028
erupted in December 2010. It won some notable victories: popular movements helped to bring about the fall of authoritarian governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Yet these apparent triumphs of non-violent action were followed by disasters–wars in Syria, anarchy in Libya and Yemen, reversion to authoritarian rule in Egypt, and counter-revolution backed by external intervention in Bahrain. Looming over these events was the enduring divide between the Sunni and Shi’a branches of Islam.

Why did so much go wrong? Was the problem the methods, leadership and aims of the popular movements, or the conditions of their societies? In this book, experts on these countries, and on the techniques of civil resistance, set the events in their historical, social and political contexts. They describe how governments and outside powers–including the US and EU–responded, how Arab monarchies in Jordan and Morocco undertook to introduce reforms to avert revolution, and why the Arab Spring failed to spark a Palestinian one. They indicate how and why Tunisia remained, precariously, the country that experienced the most political change for the lowest cost in bloodshed.

This book provides a vivid illustrated account and rigorous scholarly analysis of the course and fate, the strengths and the weaknesses, of the Arab Spring. The authors draw clear and challenging conclusions from these tumultuous events. Above all, they show how civil resistance aiming at regime change is not enough: building the institutions and the trust necessary for reforms to be implemented and democracy to develop is a more difficult but equally crucial task.

“The Arab World and Iran” (Saikal, ed.)

Next month, Palgrave Macmillan will release “The Arab World and Iran: A Turbulent Region in Transition,” edited by Amin Saikal (Australian National University).  The publisher’s description follows:

This volume focuses on interpreting the changing domestic and regional dynamics in the Arab world and Iran. Its chapters discuss an array of countries, events, actors, andUnknown issues – from an examination of the Arab Spring and the Tunisian democratic transition, to an exploration of the role of Saudi-Iranian geostrategic rivalry, to the impact of ethnic and sectarian politics in Syria, Iraq, and across the region. Chapters from expert contributors are organized into three parts. The first section of the volume covers the aspects and dynamics of change in the Arab world. The second examines the role of Islam, Islamism, Islamic governance, and sectarian and ethnic politics in the region. The third section focuses on Iranian domestic and regional politics. Yet the theme of transition is constant throughout as this multidisciplinary book draws connections across countries and events to not only inform about the prevailing regional situation, but also to invite readers to draw their own conclusions as to the future of the Middle East. Collectively the volume provides a fresh interpretation of the changing dynamics of the Arab world and Iran, unpacking the complexities of the disputes, conflicts, rivalries, failed goals, and processes of change and development that have made the Muslim Middle East so turbulent, directionless, and perpetually contested by both regional and international actors.

Jefferis, “Hamas”

In February, Praeger released “Hamas: Terrorism, Governance, and Its Future in Middle East Politics,” by Jennifer Jefferis (National Defense University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Structured around key elements at the regional, political, institutional, and personal levels of analysis, this is a complete and forward-leaning view of Hamas 51mklYFpluL._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_that provides a deep and detailed examination of the history, ideology, political prospects, and regional opportunities of an often poorly understood organization that is redefining 21st-century terrorism.

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has long been an influential player in the tumultuous Middle East, but as the region’s instability grows, so does the importance and potential influence of this organization. The fact that the Hamas of today defies most of the traditional categorizations of both terrorist organizations and political parties makes the group an ideal study on how states in the Middle East are likely to continue to change. This book offers a clear picture of how Hamas fits into a dramatically evolving region, enabling readers to see how Hamas itself has evolved ideologically, militarily, and politically as well as how it will continue to shape and be shaped by the broader Middle East region.

Author Jennifer Jefferis, PhD, provides the first comprehensive consideration of Hamas in the context of the post-Arab Spring climate, the rise of ISIS, and the consequential emerging politics of the region, presenting information that is highly detailed yet written to be accessible to all audiences whether or not they have previous knowledge of the organization. The book provides coverage of Hamas’s current relationship with Israel and its impact on the Palestinian territories while focusing on the significance of the organization’s role in the broader region—particularly critical in light of the recent political uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria.

“Salafism After the Arab Awakening” (eds. Cavatorta & Merone)

In March, the Oxford University Press will release “Salafism After the Arab Awakening: Contending with People’s Power,” edited by Francesco Cavatorta (Université Laval) and Fabio Merone (Dublin City University).  The publisher’s description follows:

One of the most interesting consequences of the Arab awakening has been the central role of Salafists in a number of countries. In particular, there seems to 9780190274993have been a move away from traditional quietism towards an increasing degree of politicization. The arrival on the political scene of Salafist parties in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen, as well as the seemingly growing desire of Salafists in other Arab countries to enter institutional politics through the creation of political parties, highlights quite clearly the debates and divisions on how to react to the awakening within Salafist circles.

This book examines in detail how Salafism, both theologically and politically, is contending with the Arab uprisings across a number of countries. The focus is primarily on what kind of politicization, if any, has taken place and what forms it has adopted. As some of the contributions make clear, politicization does not necessarily diminish the role of jihad or the influence of quietism, revealing tensions and struggles within the complex world of Salafism.

Milton-Edwards, “The Muslim Brotherhood”

In December, Routledge will release “The Muslim Brotherhood: The Arab Spring and its Future Face,” by Beverley Milton-Edwards (Queen’s University Belfast).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Muslim Brotherhood is the most significant and enduring Sunni Islamist organization of the contemporary era. Its roots lie in the 9780415660013Middle East but it has grown into both a local and global movement, with its well-placed branches reacting effectively to take the opportunities for power and electoral competition offered by the Arab Spring.

Regarded by some as a force of moderation among Islamists, and by others as a façade hiding a terrorist fundamentalist threat, the potential influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on Middle Eastern politics remains ambiguous. The Muslim Brotherhood: The Arab Spring and its Future Face provides an essential insight into the organisation, with chapters devoted to specific cases where the Brotherhood has important impacts on society, the state and politics. Key themes associated with the Brotherhood, such as democracy, equality, pan-Islamism, radicalism, reform, the Palestine issue and gender, are assessed to reveal an evolutionary trend within the movement since its founding in Egypt in 1928 to its manifestation as the largest Sunni Islamist movement in the Middle East in the 21st century. The book addresses the possible future of the Muslim Brotherhood; whether it can surprise sceptics and effectively accommodate democracy and secular trends, and how its ascension to power through the ballot box might influence Western policy debates on their engagement with this manifestation of political Islam.

Drawing on a wide range of sources, this book presents a comprehensive study of a newly resurgent movement and is a valuable resource for students, scholars and policy makers focused on Middle Eastern Politics.

“Egypt’s Revolutions” (eds. Rougier and Lacroix)

In November, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Egypt’s Revolutions: Politics, Religion, and Social Movements,” edited by Bernand Rougier (Director, Centre d’Études et de Documentation Économiques, Juridiques et Sociales) and Stephane Lacroix (Sciences Po). The publisher’s description follows:

Where is Egypt headed? Did the people ‘bring down the government,’ as the thousands of demonstrators in Tahrir Square claimed in January 2011? What has taken place since the fall of the Mubarak regime the following month? Why was political Islam, although it triumphed in the first free elections ever held in Egypt, overwhelmingly rejected during massive demonstrations in June 2013? Is authoritarian rule making a final comeback since the bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, Field Marshall al-Sisi’s rise to the presidency, and the arrest of revolutionary activists? Has the country become the first front in a regional counter-revolution backed by the Gulf monarchies? Can jihadist violence, which is more active than ever, contaminate the entire Islamist spectrum, beginning with the Muslim Brotherhood’s militant base, which is pondering what action to take while its leadership rots in prison? This volume is the first to describe the ongoing dynamics in the country since the outbreak of revolution. Written by Egyptian, American, and French specialists who have experienced Egypt’s turmoil first hand, it sheds light on a demographic, political and cultural giant whose upheavals and crises have sent ripples throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

Rugh, “Christians in Egypt”

In November, Palgrave-MacMillan will release “Christians in Egypt: Strategies and Survival,” by Andrea B. Rugh (Middle East Institute, Washington, D.C.).  The publisher’s description follows:

Christians in the Middle East have come under increasing pressure in recent years with the rise of radical Islam. Nowhere is this truer than in Egypt, where the large Coptic Christian community has traditionally played an important role in the country’s history and politics. This book examines Christian responses to sectarian pressures in two contexts: nationally as Church leaders deal with Egyptian presidents and locally as a community of poor Christians cope in a mostly-Muslim quarter of Cairo. This intensive study, based on the author’s five years of research in Bulaq, looks at existential questions surrounding the role of religion in poor communities. The book concludes with a review of strategies Egyptian Christians have used to improve their minority status, showing that although expressed differently, both Church leaders and members of the Bulaq community ultimately have worked toward similar goals. The study suggests that under the al-Sisi Government, Christians may be emerging into a more active period after a relative quiescence before the events of the 2011 Uprising.

Esposito et al, “Islam and Democracy after the Arab Spring”

In November, the Oxford University Press will release “Islam and Democracy after the Arab Spring,” by John L. Esposito (Georgetown University), Tamara Sonn (Georgetown University), and John O. Voll (Georgetown University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The landscape of the Middle East has changed dramatically since 2011, as have the political arena and the discourse around democracy. In Islam and Democracy after the Arab Spring, John L. Esposito, John Voll, and Tamara Sonn examine the state of democracy in Muslim-majority societies today. Applying a twenty-first century perspective to the question of whether Islam is “compatible” with democracy, they redirect the conversation toward a new politics of democracy that transcends both secular authoritarianism and Political Islam.

While the opposition movements of the Arab Spring vary from country to country, each has raised questions regarding equality, economic justice, democratic participation, and the relationship between Islam and democracy in their respective countries. Does democracy require a secular political regime? Are religious movements the most effective opponents of authoritarian secularist regimes? Esposito, Voll, and Sonn examine these questions and shed light on how these opposition movements reflect the new global realities of media communication and sources of influence and power. Positioned for a broad readership of scholars and students, policy-makers, and media experts, Islam and Democracy after the Arab Spring will quickly become a go-to for all who watch the Middle East, inside and outside of academia.

Cook, “Understanding Jihad”

In September, the University of California Press will release “Understanding Jihad,” by David Cook (Rice University). The publisher’s description follows:

First published in 2005, Understanding Jihad unravels the tangled historical, intellectual, and political meanings of jihad within the context of Islamic life. In this revised and expanded second edition, author David Cook has included new material in light of pivotal developments such as the extraordinary events of the Arab Spring, the death of Usama b. Ladin, and the rise of new Islamic factions such as ISIS.

Jihad is one of the most loaded and misunderstood terms in the news today. Contrary to popular understanding, the term does not mean “holy war.” Nor does it simply refer to an inner spiritual struggle. This judiciously balanced, accessibly written, and highly relevant book looks closely at a range of sources from sacred Islamic texts to modern interpretations, opening a critically important perspective on the role of Islam in the contemporary world.

David Cook cites from scriptural, legal, and newly translated texts to give readers insight into the often ambiguous information that is used to construct Islamic doctrine. He sheds light on legal developments relevant to fighting and warfare and places the internal, spiritual jihad within the larger context of Islamic religion. He describes some of the conflicts that occur in radical groups and shows how the more mainstream supporters of these groups have come to understand and justify violence. He has also included a special appendix of relevant documents including materials related to the September 11 attacks and published manifestos issued by Usama b. Ladin and Palestinian suicide-martyrs.

The NYT on the End of Mideast Christianity

Egyptian Copts, one holding a Coptic Christian cross, demonstrate against the overnight sectarian violence, in downtown Cairo, Egypt Sunday, May 8, 2011. Christians and Muslims throwing rocks clashed in downtown Cairo on Sunday, hours after ultraconservative Muslim mobs set fire overnight to a church and a Christian-owned apartment building in a frenzy of violence that killed 12 people and injured more than 200. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

 Photo from Christianity Today

Eliza Griswold’s major piece on Mideast Christians in the New York Times Magazine this past weekend is getting lots of well-deserved attention. The Times, more than almost any other media publication, can place items on the national agenda, and both it and Griswold deserve credit for covering the crisis facing Christianity in Syria and Iraq. Griswold makes a couple of mistakes in the article–she incorrectly describes the beliefs of Oriental Orthodox Christians and ascribes the Armenian Genocide to “nationalism, not religion,” when in fact the genocide resulted from both–but, on the whole, it’s a very impressive piece, and well worth reading.

As an American, I was particularly struck by Griswold’s description of how the United States has abandoned Mideast Christians. Really, we are doing next to nothing to help these poor people. “Wait a minute,” someone might object. “How has the US abandoned them? And why do we have to do anything? We’re not responsible for righting every wrong that occurs in the world, and anyway we were in Iraq, trying to help, for years. It didn’t work. Let Iraqis and other local populations settle this for themselves. It’s not worth more American lives.”

I understand the appeal of this objection, but it depends on not a little willful amnesia. Of course, the parties who bear principal responsibility for the persecution of Christians are local Islamists like ISIS. But the US itself bears indirect responsibility. The US invasion in 2003 led to this situation, by creating anarchy and unleashing long-repressed sectarian resentments. And by abruptly leaving Iraq, we have allowed the crisis to intensify. A Catholic bishop Griswold quotes says it well. “Americans and the West were telling us they came to bring democracy, freedom and prosperity. What we are living is anarchy, war, death and the plight of three million refugees.’’ Having helped to create this crisis, the US has a moral obligation to do something to help. We can’t simply abandon these people–and Griswold makes clear that both the Bush and Obama Administrations deserve blame in this–as though we had nothing to do with exposing them to danger in the first place.

As of now, Griswold reports, the US has done very little. (This morning’s announcement of a potential US-Turkish alliance to fight ISIS in northern Syria seems driven largely by Turkey’s desire to preempt Kurdish gains; I doubt most of the region’s Christians hope for much out of it). The US is doing nothing to speed up immigration applications from Mideast Christians, notwithstanding the obvious persecution they are suffering. Even humanitarian assistance has been lacking.

Griswold correctly diagnoses the problem. Mideast Christians have few allies in American politics. Conservatives don’t feel much affinity for Mideast Christians, who often favor Palestine in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and liberals have a hard time seeing any Christians as sympathetic victims. As someone once observed, Mideast Christians have the misfortune to be too foreign for the Right and too Christian for the Left.

I hope Griswold’s timely piece can do something to help change America’s response. You can read her whole essay here.