Blasphemy and apostasy laws were applied in a discriminatory manner in several Middle Eastern and North African countries in 2012, according to a new report by the U.S. State Department. “These laws are frequently used to repress dissent, to harass political opponents, and to settle personal vendettas,” Secretary of State Kerry said on May 20.
At least 60 percent of Egyptians prefer democracy to any other kind of government, according to new poll by the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project. Results suggest that Egyptians want Islam to play a major role in their democracy. About 58 percent of Egyptians say laws should strictly follow Koranic teachings while 28 percent contend that laws should reflect Islamic values and principles ― but not strictly follow the Koran. Only 11 percent do not think the Quran should influence national laws.
About 76 percent of Egyptians say economic conditions are bad, and 42 percent expect them to worsen in the coming year, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project. Egyptians are split over whether or not the country is better off after President Hosni Mubarak’s departure.
Salafis are shaking up the fragile political balance among Muslims in Lebanon. The ultraconservative Sunnis—whose religious and social models come from the 7th century—are now stealing the limelight from Sunni and Shiite movements that have dominated politics since Lebanon gained independence in 1943.
The Boston Marathon bombings do not appear to have changed the public’s view of Islam. In a notable poll, about 42 percent of Americans say Islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions, while 46 percent say Islam does not. Opinions reflected in the new survey are similar to those found in others from the past decade. But in March 2002 ― just six months after the 9/11 attacks ― only a quarter of respondents said Islam was more likely to encourage violence.
Islam is now playing a more powerful role in Egyptian public life more than a year after Islamist parties dominated parliamentary elections. But Egypt is not following Iran’s path toward theocracy, according to a new paper by Nathan Brown, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Tunisia’s secular opposition may be a major contender in presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for late 2013, according to a new paper by Marina Ottaway, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Call of Tunisia, an alliance of secular political groups is competing for supporters. In April 2013, it was “running almost even” with the Islamist Ennahda party in public opinion polls.
Responding to the Muslim Brotherhood, leading female activists are charging that Islam actually guarantees women wide-ranging rights–and that the largest Islamist movement in the Arab world merely wants to maintain male dominance. In March, the Brotherhood had warned that U.N. passage of a draft declaration on violence would lead to society’s “complete disintegration.” It said that the declaration contradicted Islamic principles by allowing women to have full sexual freedom and marry outside their faith while cancelling the need for a husband’s consent to “travel, work, or use of contraception.”
Nasser Weddady, the Muslim representative at the Boston Marathon memorial service, quoted from the Koran to condemn the violence. “Whoever kills a soul, it is as if he killed mankind entirely. And whoever saves a life, it is as if he has saved all of mankind,” he told attendants, who included President Obama and other government officials. He called the attacks “an assault on our fundamental values” of liberty and freedom.
The Arab uprisings have deepened ethnic and religious tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in the Middle East, according to a new report by The Brookings Institution. The rise of sectarianism is being drive by three main factors: •Sunni Islamist ascendancy in Tunisia and Egypt •The civil war in Syria, renewed conflict in Lebanon, and unrest in Bahrain •Popular perceptions of outside intervention have created a “virtual proxy war” with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah on one side and the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey on the other