Archive for the ‘Culture & Society’ Category

11
Jul

By Bruce Ackerman

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As violence escalates, Egypt’s military is trying to bridge a widening political gap by promising a rapid return to civilian rule. But its gesture of accommodation does not get to the heart of the problem: the presidential system, inherited from the Mubarak era, virtually guarantees a repetition of the tragic events of the past year. A democratic breakthrough requires a more fundamental constitutional redesign, in which the contending sides compete for power in a European-style parliamentary system.

If Egypt had made that switch in the interim Constitution adopted two years ago, or in the revisions that Mohamed Morsi, as president, rammed through last year, it could well have avoided the current upheaval and bloodshed in the first place.

The presidency is a winner-take-all office. This may be acceptable in countries like the United States, where well-organized parties contend for the prize. But it is a recipe for tyranny in places like Egypt, where Islamists have powerful organizational advantages in delivering the vote.

Because their opponents will have great difficulties uniting behind a single candidate, Islamists could probably parlay their strong minority support into another presidential victory. To prevent that result, it is predictable that the military will suppress the political efforts of the Muslim Brotherhood and similar groups — transforming the next election into a democratic farce. The next president would not only emerge with an illegitimate mandate. His victory would convert the Islamists into undying opponents of the regime.

Only a parliamentary system provides a realistic path to a more stable, inclusive future. Even if Islamist parties won a substantial share of the vote, they would not be able to monopolize power.

Consider the Brotherhood’s best-case scenario: Although millions of Egyptians took part in the street demonstrations that preceded President Morsi’s ouster, the Muslim Brotherhood could still win a quarter of the seats in the parliamentary elections, with the more orthodox Salafists gaining another 15 percent. In contrast, the non-Islamist forces are fractured into a number of different factions, ranging from Christian to social democratic. Although the Brotherhood might well emerge with more seats than any other single party, its non-Islamist opponents might nevertheless cobble together a governing coalition. Even if its opponents failed, the Brotherhood could not form a coalition either, unless it reached out to some secularists for support — especially since the Brotherhood could not count on the Salafists to always back it. Read more…

Bruce Ackerman is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University.

As published in www.nytimes.com on July 10, 2013.

8
Jul

How Egypt’s Turmoil Echoes Algeria’s Bloody Civil War

By Vivienne Walt

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Millions of voters elected an Islamic political party to run the country, but the military stepped in, forced out the winners of the election and handpicked a group of politicians in their place. No, this is not Egypt in 2013. It was Algeria in 1992. And in the eyes of some, the bloodshed that followed that fateful Algerian decision 21 years ago offers sobering lessons for the generals in Cairo, who forcibly removed President Mohamed Morsi from office on Wednesday, one year after he’d won a democratic election, igniting violent street fighting between members of his Muslim Brotherhood and the massed ranks of protesters that had pushed for his ouster. “There is indeed a similarity,” Faycal Metaoui, a political columnist for Algeria’s al-Watan newspaper, told TIME on Sunday, adding that Algerians had been gripped by the news from Egypt playing on satellite networks all week. “In both countries, the army arrested a political process involving Islamists.”

The history of the two desert countries along North Africa’s Mediterranean coast has many differences, of course. Algerians fought a brutal war against French colonial rule, which ended with independence in 1962. As the victors, the main revolutionary movement — the National Liberation Front or FLN — has dominated political power ever since. Egypt emerged from underneath Britain’s suzerainty decades earlier and by the 1950s was in the midst of its own revolution, having deposed the country’s King and installed one of the coup leaders, the populist military man Gamal Abdel Nasser, as President.

Yet for all the divergences, Algeria’s more recent conflict offers some chilling parallels, and began when the Algerian constitution was amended to allow political parties other than the FLN to contest elections — not unlike the tumultuous political scramble that has played out in Egypt during the past two years. In December 1991, an Algerian political party called the Islamic Salvation Front, or FIS, which had formed just two years earlier with a platform based on the Muslim faith, swept the first round of parliamentary elections and looked certain to clinch an all-out majority in the second round weeks later. The second vote never took place, however. In between, Algeria’s generals stepped in, dissolved Parliament and banned the popular FIS — a crucial difference from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party has held sway for the past year and will likely be allowed to contest elections again soon.

That move in 1992 sparked eight years of brutal civil war in Algeria. With Islamic politics banned, a militant insurgency quickly formed, led by the Armed Islamic Group — the forerunner to today’s al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, whose affiliated militias seized a huge swath of neighboring Mali last year. About 200,000 Algerians are believed to have been killed in the 1990s war, many of them in horrific massacres, as the Islamist groups split into different factions, some intensely militant, with killings both among themselves and against the military; foreigners were also targets for assassination, and as Westerners fled en masse, Algeria’s economy plummeted. The exhausted foes finally called a truce in 1999 under President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who still rules Algeria. Read more…

As published by Time on July 8, 2013.

5
Jul

By Shadi Hamid

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When Mohamed Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected president last year, it was an especially sweet victory for the Muslim Brotherhood, the region’s oldest and most influential Islamist movement. After a long history of repression, the Brotherhood had finally tasted triumph. But their short-lived rule ended Wednesday when Egypt’s army deposed Mr. Morsi.

The Brotherhood’s fall will have profound implications for the future of political Islam, reverberating across the region in potentially dangerous ways. One of the most important political developments of recent years was the decision of Islamist parties to make peace with democracy and commit to playing by the rules of the political game. Leaders counseled patience to their followers. Their time would come, they were told.

Now supporters of the Brotherhood will ask, with good reason, whether democracy still has anything to offer them. Mr. Morsi’s removal will breathe new life into the ideological claims of radicals. Al Qaeda and its followers have long argued that change can’t come through the democracy of “unbelievers”; violence is the only path. As the Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri once said, “What is truly regrettable is the rallying of thousands of duped Muslim youth in voter queues before ballot boxes instead of lining them up to fight in the cause of Allah.”

Al Qaeda’s intellectual forebears emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, and were shaped by events that bear an eerie similarity to those of this week. In 1954, a popularly backed Egyptian Army moved against the Muslim Brotherhood, arresting thousands and dismantling the organization. Prison had a radicalizing effect on Sayyid Qutb, a leading Brotherhood ideologue, who experienced torture at the hands of his captors before being executed in 1966. Many of Mr. Qutb’s followers later left the Brotherhood’s embrace and went their own way, setting up militant organizations that would begin perpetrating acts of terrorism.

In 1954, no one could have guessed that the brutal crackdown against the Brotherhood would set in motion a chain of events that would have terrible consequences for the region and America.

Shadi Hamid is director of research at the Brookings Doha Center and a fellow in Middle East policy at the Brookings Institution.

 As published in www.nytimes.com on July 4, 2013 (a version of this op-ed appeared in print on July 5, 2013, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Demoting Democracy in Egypt).
4
Jul

Letter From Cairo

By Ashraf Khalil

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For the past several days, as Egypt has approached the political cliff, the country has been seized by an ironic sense of nostalgia. Protesters massing to end Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s term have openly invoked the 18-day uprising that ousted the country’s former president, Hosni Mubarak, from power in 2011.

In truth, there are similarities: Like 2011’s protest, the Tamarod (meaning “rebellion”) movement, the grass-roots signature campaign that is demanding early elections, sprang up independently of the formal opposition and has reached citizens that the opposition never touched. And the crowd, festive and optimistic, is socially diverse and organic. Like Mubarak, Morsi has even been given his own demeaning barnyard nickname. Mubarak spent much of his time in power widely known as la vache qui rit — “the laughing cow” (the brand of a popular French-made cheese) — because of his perceived lack of intelligence. In chants and signs this week, Morsi has been referred to as al kharouf (“the sheep”) — implying that he remains subservient to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Council.

Despite the similarities, though, this is not 2011. Whatever happens over the next few days, Egypt is in more dangerous territory than it was 29 months ago — and the downsides are much more frightening.

For starters, even without a political crisis, Egypt is teetering on the brink of economic failure, which is one of the factors contributing to the unrest. Making things more troubling: One of the country’s most generous patrons, Qatar, is heavily invested in the Brotherhood project. As the must-follow Egyptian journalist Sarah Carr wrote in a recent tweet: “So will Qatar be demanding a refund now, or what?” If Morsi is indeed ousted, that supply of vital Qatari largesse might just dry up, leaving the transitional government scrambling for emergency relief.

In terms of politics, the military faces a legal and procedural obstacle. Beyond forcing early elections and the downfall of an elected president, suspending the constitution — which, according to the Egyptian state news agency, is among the steps in the military’s transition plan — would also raise genuine questions of legitimacy and democratic propriety. After all, this is not the threadbare and discredited Mubarak constitution. This document, although deeply divisive and absolutely hated by secularists, was still narrowly approved in a nationwide referendum.

In addition, as much as the protesters might want it to, the Muslim Brotherhood will not simply leave, as Mubarak did. After all, it has been a mainstay in Egyptian politics for decades; even Mubarak, in his 30-year reign, could not get rid of it. The pro-Morsi protests and Egypt’s first round of presidential elections last summer indicated that the Muslim Brotherhood’s true national support is likely still around 25 percent of registered voters. Read more…

As published in www.foreignaffairs.com on July 2, 2013.

 

2
Jul

By Stephanie Uribe – MIR 2013 Student

June 6, 2013

Stephanie Uribe

On Thursday June 6, 2013, I participated in an ieTalks! seminar on Fear Management. Ana García Villas-Boas, an Executive Coach, led the talk and she focused the discussion on what happens to an individual’s brain when he or she finds him or herself in a situation of fear, more specifically in the workplace. Ana emphasized throughout the seminar that it is important to recognize that we all respond distinctly, and that we must have an awareness of our innate reactions. She addressed that primarily the best thing to do when someone finds himself or herself with fear in the workplace is that he or she pause and take deep breaths for about 10 to 15 seconds. Pausing before responding allows for one’s emotional intelligence to react as opposed to the impulsive fight or flight limbic system rooted reaction. After her discussion she used two case examples to exemplify her points, and I happened to be one of them.

In my talk, I chose a particular moment of fear that occurred in an internship experience at a crisis center for adolescents. Speaking about the experience proved very helpful, because Ana was able to point out how I tend to react, and she advised me on what I could do better in the future. After my case, another IE student shared his experience as well.

The seminar ended with a Q&A from the audience, and from their feedback, it appeared to have proven a very helpful exercise for all who attended.

For more information about the speakers please click here
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