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Archive for the ‘Egypt’ Category

This is our revolution, too

In Egypt, Jan25 on February 21, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Europeans just cannot seem to get Islam, or more properly, Islamism, out of their heads. This seems to be particularly true of Europeans who have not spent much time in the Islamic world, and whose idea of immersion journalism is to spend an afternoon wandering round an immigrant neighbourhood in the European capital city of their choice with a view to chatting up a few swarthy-looking men over a cup of mint tea.

And even some more serious writers have ended up falling into the same trap over the last few weeks. Take Timothy Garton Ash, for instance, whose reporting of the decline of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe in the 1980s was exemplary in its combination of in-depth research and first-hand experience. In a series of articles in The Guardian, Garton Ash has been greeting the wave of insurrections sweeping across the Arab world with a wall of worry. In his latest piece, published last week, a visit to the Calle de Tribulete in Madrid plunged him into new depths of anxiety. Despite garnering some half-hearted expressions of ill-defined hope, it was not long before he and his interlocutors were overtaken by the memories of terrorism past. He even managed to run into a young man at a bus stop spouting Wahhabi-inspired anti-semitic conspiracy theories to casual passers-by. Needless to say, the overall effect was far from encouraging. (…)

My take on what it is about the Arab revolutions that really frightens the Western establishment.

Read the full text of this article at openDemocracy.

From Cairo to Madison

In Egypt on February 21, 2011 at 8:53 pm

A very interesting article by Muriam Haleh Davis at Jadalliya asks whether the switch from Islamism to labour activism as the single preferred explanation for Arab revolts isn’t a new form of Orientalism which risks betraying the emerging forces in the Middle East by submerging their difference(s). The debate which it has sparked in the comments is worth reading in full.

Since Haleh Davis’ arguments touch on issues I have raised both in my last article for the Monde Diplo, and in my forthcoming piece in Open Democracy, I couldn’t help weighing in:

I agree that to reduce what is going on across the region right now to social and economic unrest, is as inaccurate as it was in the past to attribute everything to a mystical essence of Islam, or Islamism. But at the same time, your argument seems to me also to threaten to mystify the nature of the nature of the solidarity and emulation we can see emerging now in the US or Europe, and which hopefully will continue and grow, even as it becomes more self-conscious, and thus more complex, and more accurate in its references. (…)

Read the full text of her article, and of my response, at Jadalliya, one of the best English-language resources for thinking about what is going on in the Arab world.

Revolution 2.0, phase two

In Egypt, Jan25 on February 15, 2011 at 12:41 am

For Egypt’s workers, the revolution is not just about an image or an emotion. It is about concrete demands, based on their concrete experience of what it is like to go without food, to be unable to pay for their children’s education, and to witness at first hand the corruption that illicitly breeds obscene levels of wealth. And it is rooted in their experience of mounting countless “illegal” actions that have united their communities, built bridges with other forces within Egyptian society, and demonstrated many times over how sheer force of numbers could overwhelm the repressive apparatus of a regime that was looking increasingly neurotic and out-of-touch.

An initial attempt to assess the achievements to date of the 25 January revolution, by looking at the two opposing figures of Wael Ghonim and the Egyptian working class.

Read the rest at Le Monde diplomatique English edition.