Islamists are Coming
Three-quarters of youth in 15 Arab countries think “our best days are ahead of us,” according to a new survey by Asada’a and Burson Marsteller. About 70 percent of respondents think the Arab world is “better off” since the uprisings began in December 2010, and 67 percent feel personally better off. Nearly half of youth say their government has become more transparent and representative.
Iran hailed the 2011 Arab uprisings as an “Islamic Awakening” and considered the overthrow of U.S.-backed dictators a continuation of its own 1979 revolution. A new report claims that Tehran’s goals are to foster political Islam in the Arab world and Arab independence from U.S. influence—both elements of a broader strategic narrative ultimately radiating from Iran.
Egypt and Tunisia have “traveled the furthest on the road to democratic transformation,” according to a new paper by Adeed Dawisha, a former public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Both countries have held free and fair elections. They also formed parliaments tasked with writing new constitutions. Tunisia’s prospects for democracy, however, may be better than Egypt’s, Dawisha argues.
In early January, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz appointed 30 women to Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council, which had been an all-male assembly. Fifteen women in nine Arab countries, from Morocco to Egypt and Iraq, reacted to the appointment, and remarks by controversial cleric Ahmed al Abdulqader ― who reportedly called the new council members “prostitutes” on Twitter. Nearly all of the women saw the appointment as an important step in the struggle for women’s rights in the kingdom. But several stipulated that the appointment would make little difference if other reforms are not enacted.
President Obama said Syrian President Bashar al Assad has lost his legitimacy and “must go,” during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 20. Obama, on his first presidential visit to Israel, warned that the Syrian regime “will be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons or their transfer to terrorists.”
“I see a Muslim Brotherhood crescent developing in Egypt and Turkey,” Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned in a series of interviews with The Atlantic. The monarch said the Muslim Brothers are not necessarily interested in democracy. They are “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
On March 15, Sheikh Salman al Oudah warned that Saudi government inaction on political prisoners, poverty and corruption could spark violence in the kingdom. “When tempers are high, religious, political, and cultural symbols lose their value. The mob in the street takes control,” the open letter said.
A U.N. declaration on women’s rights contradicts “established principals in Islam” and would “lead to the complete disintegration of society,” according to a new statement by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. The online statement warned that the ratification of the document would “be the final step in the intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries.”
Women in the Middle East and North Africa are more educated than ever before, but their participation in the workface is 25 percent – about half of the world average, according to a new report by the World Bank. “Often what stands between women and jobs are legal and social barriers,” said Manuela Ferro, Director for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management in the MENA region. But even some educated women lack the relevant skills currently in demand.
The Arab uprisings have “generated a spike in threats to U.S. interests… that will likely endure until political upheaval stabilizes and security forces regain their capabilities,” according to the U.S. intelligence community’s new worldwide threat assessment. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper delivered the report to the Senate on March 12.