Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

McJihad, the Film

by Jacob Mundy | published February 2015

The themes of Adam Curtis’ new documentary Bitter Lake should be well known to those familiar with his body of work: power, techno-politics, science, managerialism and the media. The film uses the contemporary history of Afghanistan to tell a story about how polities in the West have become incapable of understanding the complex and horrible happenings around them. Traditional forms of power in the West and Afghanistan have taken advantage of the fear and confusion to consolidate their control, but at the expense of an intellectually deskilled Western public and a world that is fundamentally less governable. Bitter Lake is more fable than scholarship, but the film is nonetheless a devastating examination of how Western interventions in Afghanistan refract the vacuousness of our own politics.

Potholes in the Road to Revolution

by Michael Marcusa
published in MER272

Nearly four years later, the dusty road between Sidi Bouzid’s main thoroughfare and the humble residential quarter where Mohamed Bouazizi grew up is still blemished with the same potholes. He was not known in his hometown by that name. Though international media outlets immortalized this moniker after he set himself on fire, the first name of the young Tunisian street vendor who lit the now clichéd proverbial match was Tarek. (Full name: Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi.) His friends called him Basbousa. In the popular discourse, the story of Sidi Bouzid’s December 2010 uprising is something of a fairy tale: The youth revolted, the tyrant fell and the Arab world’s first real democracy was forged in the fires of Bouazizi’s rage.

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On Memes and Missing Girls

by Jillian Schwedler | published May 16, 2014 - 10:37am

Michelle Obama tweeted a photo of herself on her official account last week using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, joining the Twitter campaign on behalf of the hundreds of schoolgirls, most of them Christian, who were kidnapped a month ago by the Nigerian Islamist group, Boko Haram. The purpose of the kidnappings remains unclear, but at least two girls have claimed to have converted to Islam, and at least 130 appeared in a video wearing, as the Guardian put it, “Islamic-style dress.” The group’s leader Abubakar Shekau, indicated a willingness to release the girls in exchange for jailed militants.
 

The Muslim Brothers Take to the Streets

by Neil Ketchley
published in MER269

On August 14, 2013, supporters of deposed President Muhammad Mursi were massacred at two protest camps in Cairo and Giza. In the subsequent four months, the Muslim Brothers have regrouped to launch a wave of popular protest the likes of which has not been seen in Egypt since the January 25 revolution. Under the banner of the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, the Brothers have mounted over 1,800 actions in 26 of Egypt’s 27 governorates to call for Mursi’s restoration to office and justice for his dead supporters. These protests have continued in spite of an ongoing crackdown that has claimed the lives of hundreds more and seen thousands of Brothers and pro-Mursi supporters detained.

Tibi, Die Krise des modernen Islams

by Gudrun Kramer
published in MER130

Bassam Tibi, Die Krise des modernen Islams: Eine vorindustrielle Kultur im wissenschaftlich-technischen Zeitalter (The Crisis of Modern Islam: A Pre-industrial Culture in the Age of Science and Technology) (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1980).

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Gender and Counterrevolution in Egypt

by Mervat Hatem
published in MER268

The 18 days of revolution beginning on January 25, 2011 united Egypt. A wide range of citizens, men and women, veiled and unveiled, young and old, middle-class and working-class, stood behind the goals of ending the 30-year rule of Husni Mubarak and stopping the planned succession of his son to the presidency, as well as winning bread, freedom, social justice and dignity. The military supported this national consensus and pushed its aims forward.

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Between Grievances and State Violence

Sudan's Youth Movement and Islamist Activism Beyond the "Arab Spring"

by Khalid Mustafa Medani
published in MER267

On June 16, 2012, female students at the University of Khartoum mounted a demonstration that released a wave of protest on campuses and major towns across Sudan. The young women exited the university gates chanting “Freedom, freedom,” demanding the “liberation” of their campus from the grip of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) and the reversal of a 35 percent hike in bus and train fares announced earlier by the government.

Copts Under Mursi

Defiance in the Face of Denial

by Mariz Tadros
published in MER267

Throughout his 2012 presidential campaign, Muhammad Mursi was keen to emphasize that he would be a president for all Egyptians, not just supporters of the Society of Muslim Brothers, and that he believed in equal citizenship for all, irrespective of religious affiliation. The majority of Egypt’s Coptic Christians were nonetheless suspicious of the Muslim Brother candidate, and in the first round many voted for one of the other main contenders, Ahmad Shafiq or Hamdin Sabbahi. Almost a year into Mursi’s presidency, it is clear that the Coptic minority -- roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s population -- did not overestimate either the threat to their rights or the strain on social cohesion that would attend a Mursi victory.

Sivan, Radical Islam; Kepel, Muslim Extremism in Egypt

by Michael Gilsenan
published in MER151

Emmanuel Sivan, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985.)

Gilles Kepel, Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and Pharoah (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985.) Translated from the French by Jon Rothschild.

 

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Editor's Bookshelf

by Joel Beinin
published in MER153

The defeat of the Arab states in the June 1967 war was more than a military setback. It was also a blow against the radical nationalist project and its modern and secular cultural orientation which bonded the Arab world and the West even as it provided a framework for resistance to Western economic, political and cultural domination. Since 1967, only the Palestinian national movement has continued to advance the flag of radical nationalism. Elsewhere, a romantic Islamism, brandishing the slogan of cultural “authenticity,” has posed the most consistent challenge to continuing Western domination of the Middle East.

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