The social and economic crises President Assad referred to in his recent speech mask the real political crisis, says Harry Hagopian. This concerns the governance of the country, the relationship between the different members of the ruling dynasty, and the fact that the major impediment to a normalisation of the situation is the mounting anger against the two-million strong security services and police force who have been running amok and applying myriad forms of retributive action against largely unarmed demonstrators.
The G8 summit of world leaders in France in May 2011 announced billions of dollars of 'aid' for the Arab Spring. Yet it was the G8 who armed and financed the dictators of Egypt and Tunisia, who have now been overthrown.
There are plenty of grounds for a paradoxical 'pessoptimism' about developments in the Middle East and North Africa, writes Harry Hagopian. The huge Arab struggles for dignity and freedom are vital but will take a long time. History in Europe and the USA should surely teach us that revolutions are never made in one swoop, but take time and cause pain.
Elizabeth Kassab is a scholar of philosophy, and taught for many years at the American University in Beirut and Balamand University in Lebanon. Here she is interviewed about the “Arab malaise” from a political, rather than cultural perspective, and in a post-colonial, rather than exceptionally Arab, context.
Religion changes and mutates. Some of these religious mutations can be positively harmful in a changing Middle East. But other religious innovations can help religion accommodate itself to modernity, says Ahmad Sadri. It doesn’t matter whether a society has or does not have religion per se. What is important is what kind of religion or irreligion pervades in that society.
A hurricane of change is blowing through the Arab world. Even now, many Arab regimes are still in denial, says Nadim Shehadi. But this volatile situation also challenges the West to grasp a new political reality.
Despite the pernicious narratives of past decades, and despite dismissive Western attitudes towards the Middle East and North Africa, Arabs are showing that they can practise democracy after all, says Harry Hagopian. This moment in history is not just a revolt, it is a struggle for the Arab soul.
In the midst of popular uprisings against oppression across the Middle East, an important identity question faces hard-pressed Christian minorities, says Harry Hagopian. Can these Christian communities play their role as fully-fledged Arab citizens rather than solely as ‘Arab Christians’.
Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab's new book, published recently by Columbia University Press (CUP), is a timely assessment of the challenges facing Arab thought today, and contains some material which is unique in terms of research.
The Israeli government is no longer granting routine re-entry visas to Arab Christian religious leaders who wish to travel in and out of occupied Palestinian territories - making their pastoral activities much more difficult to carry out.