Islamists are Coming
Most people in seven Muslim-majority countries from Egypt to Pakistan prefer that a woman completely cover her hair in public, but not necessarily her face, according to a survey from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.
In stark contrast to the euphoria after elections more than two years ago, Islamist political parties across the Middle East now face escalating challenges to their rule. The main drama is playing out in Egypt between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood. But Islamist parties in Tunisia, Libya are also under pressure from emboldened opposition movements.
Tunisia’s Islamists are the first to step aside voluntarily after being elected. But they are also more divided today than ever before. The challenges of being in government rather than trying to topple it have driven sharp new wedges into old cracks within the Ennahda Party.
Salafis today influence Tunisian politics in multiple ways. While the number of militant Salafis remains modest, their activism influences the way in which Tunisians and outside observers think about the state of affairs in the country. Generally speaking, violence has not been a common political tool in Tunisia. But the steady escalation in Salafi militancy over the past two years undermines this reputation.
Saudi Arabia has redoubled efforts to silence human rights and civil society activists since the 2011 Arab uprisings, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.
A growing percentage of Tunisians are dissatisfied with their government’s performance, according to a new poll by the International Republican Institute (IRI).
Political Islam in Egypt has suffered a tremendous blow, its biggest setback since its emergence as a formidable ideology and political movement in the early 20th century. But it is not yet clear if other Islamist groups, particularly Salafi groups such as the Nour Party, are in or have benefited from the Brotherhood’s declining fortunes.
Saudi Arabia’s standing among some of its neighbors has faltered substantially since 2007, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. For example, favorability ratings fell 13 percentage points in Egypt and the Palestinian territories between 2007 and 2013. Overall opinion of the kingdom, however, varied widely in the Middle East.
Tunisia’s ruling Islamic party, Ennahda, has made repeated compromises on religious issues to meet secularist demands for a new constitution, according to Woodrow Wilson Senior Scholar David Ottaway. But Ennahda’s moderate leadership has lost secularist trust by showing too much deference to its own militant Islamic wing and fundamentalist Salafis outside the movement.
President Barack Obama outlined his past and future policies toward the Middle East in his September 24 U.N. General Assembly speech. He committed to ensuring the free flow of oil from the region to world markets, dismantling terrorist networks, and stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He also promised that the United States would “continue to promote democracy, human rights, and open markets” to achieve peace and prosperity in the Middle East.