Diminishing Possibilities in Algeria

Interview with Salima Ghezali

by Geoff Hartman
published in MER203

Selima Ghezali was born in Bouira, Algeria in 1958. After obtaining a degree in literature, she began working as a teacher of French at the Khemis el-Khechna high school, where she was active in the General Union of Algerian Workers. In the 1980s, Ghezali joined the Algerian feminist movement then fighting the implementation of Algeria’s repressive family code. She later became president of the Women’s Association of Europe and North Africa and chairwoman of the Association pour l’Emancipation des Femmes (Association for the Emancipation of Women).

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A Clash of Fundamentalisms

Wahhabism in Yemen

by Shelagh Weir
published in MER204

During the past two decades, a proselytizing, reformist, “Islamist” movement -- mainly characterized as “Wahhabi” -- has gained increasing popularity throughout Yemen. Wahhabism actively opposes both the main Yemeni schools -- Zaydi Shi‘ismin the north and Shafi‘i Sunnism in the south and in the Tihama. It is closely connected with the political party Islah, a coalition of tribal, mercantile and religious interests that pursues a mixed social and political agenda. [1]

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What is Political Islam

by Charles Hirschkind
published in MER205

Over the last few decades, Islam has become a central point of reference for a wide range of political activities, arguments and opposition movements. The term “political Islam” has been adopted by many scholars in order to identify this seemingly unprecedented irruption of Islamic religion into the secular domain of politics and thus to distinguish these practices from the forms of personal piety, belief and ritual conventionally subsumed in Western scholarship under the unmarked category “Islam.” In the brief comments that follow, I suggest why we might need to rethink this basic framework.

The Reawakening of Nahda in Tunisia

by Graham Usher | published April 30, 2011

Casbah Square in Tunis has the feel of the morning after. Strewn around the plaza are the odd, drooping Tunisian flag and other relics of the mass demonstrations that forced the fall of the ex-dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January and then two “interim governments” deemed too closely associated with his regime. There are still a few protests in the Tunisian capital. But they are no longer transformative of the political order. They are small, sectional, partisan -- almost routine.

Egypt Without Mubarak

by Joshua Stacher | published April 7, 2011

Save the worsening snarls of traffic, March 19 was a near perfect day in Egypt’s capital city of Cairo. The sun shone gently down upon orderly, sex-segregated queues of Egyptians who stood for hours to vote “yes” or “no” on emergency amendments to the country’s constitution. Although there have been three other constitutional referenda in the past six years, the plebiscite of 2011 was the first to capture the time and attention of the multitudes. It seemed that no one wanted to miss the historic, hope-filled occasion -- for many of those who patiently waited, March 19 was the first time they had voted at all. Later, official estimates put the turnout at 41 percent, a rate completely unheard of in a country where citizens, many of them given material incentives, had dribbled in to rubber-stamp a predetermined outcome, usually, yet another presidential term for Husni Mubarak. The winding lines in and of themselves set off sparks of national pride. One young woman smiled when asked about the long wait, joking, “Lines are more organized after the revolution.”

Hizballah in the Sights

by Lara Deeb
published in MER258

Thanassis Cambanis, A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah’s Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel (Free Press, 2010).

The Malaise of Turkish Democracy

by Aslı Aydıntaşbaş
published in MER209

In his first televised interview in late 1996, just months after taking office, an avuncular-looking Necmettin Erbakan seemed unsurprised at a question about his taste in clothing. “Mr. Prime Minister, we hear that you favor ties by the Italian designer Versace,” said commentator Mehmet Ali Birand. “What is it about Versace that you like?” His half-smile unfading, Turkey’s first-ever Islamist prime minister answered that “this particular Western designer seems to have borrowed from Islamic aesthetics and Oriental patterns.”

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A Paradox of Democracy?

Islamist Participation in Elections

by Jillian Schwedler
published in MER209

On April 27, 1997, Muhammad Zabara stood outside a polling station in the old city of Sanaa. In a neatly pressed suit and tie, his short hair and mustache freshly trimmed, he greeted voters who had turned out for Yemen’s second post-unification parliamentary elections. A team of Western election monitors approached him and asked whether he was a candidate. In English, he answered that he was the district’s candidate from the Yemeni Reform Group, a conservative party with an Islamist agenda. “But Ahmad Raqihi is the Islamist candidate for this district,” said one of the monitors, referring to Zabara’s main rival, who dons a turban and beard. “You don’t even look like an Islamist.” [1]

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Arcs of Crises

by The Editors
published in MER209

Between the confrontations with Iraq in February and November, and the Cruise missile salvos directed at Afghanistan and Sudan in August, 1998 has been rather busy for the gunboat section of the US diplomatic corps. Twice, the UN secretary-general averted US military action by securing promises that Baghdad would comply with UNSCOM weapons inspectors, but the August bombings of US embassies in East Africa showed how broadly the sparks of war had spread. Washington’s hegemony in the region was challenged both by the survivalist instincts of Iraq’s dictator and by an underground Islamist network dedicated to driving foreign troops out of the Arabian Peninsula.

Women's Space/Cinema Space

Representations of Public and Private in Iranian Films

by Norma Claire Moruzzi
published in MER212

Post-Revolutionary Iranian cinema has attracted critical attention abroad while constituting a vibrant focus of cultural, narrative and technical experimentation at home. In the politically restrictive context of the Islamic Republic, film has become one of the key ways that sensitive topics are broached in civil society. One of the most important topics is the social and juridical situation of women, including the enforcement of legislation over women’s hejab, which refers to modest dress but can also mean modest decorum.

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