Category Archives: Middle East

Obama Knew the Muslim World needed Democracy

Notable & Quotable –

From an article in the German news magazine Der Spiegel, Feb. 7:

Suddenly it seems everyone knew all along that President Mubarak was a villain and the U.S., who supported him until recently, was even worse. However it was actually former President George W. Bush who always believed in the democratization of the Muslim world and was broadly ridiculed by the Left for his convictions. . . .

Painful as it may be to admit, it was the despised George W. Bush who believed in the democratization of the Muslim world and incurred the scorn and mockery of the Left for his conviction. Everyone was sure—without knowing any Muslims—that the Western model of democracy could not be applied in a backward society like Iraq. Everyone knew that the neo-conservative belief in the universal desire for freedom and progress was naïve nonsense. It is possible that the critics were right, albeit for the wrong reasons. The prospect of stability and order seems to be at least as important to many people.


Understanding the Muslim Brotherhood

Stephens: Understanding the Muslim Brotherhood –

So you think they are moderates, eh?


It’s what the good people on West 40th Street like to call a “Times Classic.” On Feb. 16, 1979, the New York Times ran a lengthy op-ed by Richard Falk, a professor of international law at Princeton, under the headline “Trusting Khomeini.”

“The depiction of [Khomeini] as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false,” wrote Mr. Falk. “What is also encouraging is that his entourage of close advisers is uniformly composed of moderate, progressive individuals.”

After carrying on in this vein for a few paragraphs, the professor concluded: “Having created a new model of popular revolution based, for the most part, on nonviolent tactics, Iran may yet provide us with a desperately needed model of humane governance for a third-world country.”


The Times is at it again. Last week, the paper published an op-ed from Essam El-Errian, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Council, who offered this soothing take on his organization: “We aim to achieve reform and rights for all: not just for the Muslim Brotherhood, not just for Muslims, but for all Egyptians.” Concurring with that view, Times reporter Nicholas Kulish wrote on Feb. 4 that members of the Brotherhood “come across as civic-minded people of faith.”

… Hassan al-Banna (1906-1949), the Brotherhood’s founder, was an admirer of the fascist movements of his day, and he had similar ambitions for his own movement.

“Andalusia, Sicily, the Balkans, south Italy and the Roman sea islands were all Islamic lands that have to be restored to the homeland of Islam,” he wrote in a message dedicated to Muslim youth. “As Signor Mussolini believed that it was within his right to revive the Roman Empire . . . similarly it is our right to restore to the Islamic empire its glory.”

Today the Brotherhood has adopted a political strategy in keeping with Banna’s dictum that the movement must not over-reach on its way toward “[subjugating] every unjust ruler to its command”: “Each of these stages,” he cautioned his followers, “involves certain steps, branches and means.” Thus the Brotherhood has gone out of its way in recent weeks to appear in the most benign light, making an ally of former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei and forswearing any immediate political ambitions.

But that doesn’t mean the Brothers don’t have an idea of what they’re aiming for. “We think highly of a country whose president is important, courageous and has a vision, which he presents in the U.N., in Geneva, and everywhere,” the Brotherhood’s Kamal al-Hilbawi told Iran’s Al-Alam TV earlier this month, referring to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust and 9/11 denials. “We think highly of a country . . . that confronts Western hegemony, and is scientifically and technologically advanced. Unfortunately, these characteristics can be found only in the Islamic Republic of Iran. I hope that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia will be like that.

Nor should there be any doubt about what the Brotherhood is aiming against. “Resistance is the only solution against the Zio-American arrogance and tyranny,” Muhammad Badie, the Brotherhood’s supreme guide, sermonized in October. “The improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained . . . by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life.

Such remarks may come as a rude shock to James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence who last week testified in Congress that the Brotherhood was “largely secular” (a remark his office later retracted). They may also surprise a coterie of Western analysts who are convinced that the Brotherhood is moving in a moderate direction and will only be further domesticated by participation in democratic politics. Yet the evidence for that supposition rests mainly on what the Brotherhood tells Westerners. What it says in Arabic is another story. …


Arab World Built Colleges, but Not Jobs (unless they were Govt)

Arab World Built Colleges, but Not Jobs –


Protests erupting across the Middle East are fueled by frustrations ranging from the lack of political freedom to police brutality. But in countries wracked by protest and those that have remained peaceful, a common thread runs: Governments have expanded universities and educated a swelling cohort of youth, without laying the groundwork to employ them.

“Surprisingly,” International Monetary Fund economists Yasser Abdih and Anjali Garg wrote recently, “unemployment in the [Middle East and North Africa] region tends to increase with schooling.” In the U.S., the opposite is true.

In Egypt, where the region’s protests are at their most pitched, the ranks of the college-educated have grown steadily in the past few decades. In 1990, according to World Bank, 14% of college-age Egyptians were enrolled; in 2008, 28.5% were. Egyptian schools expanded, and a crop of European universities opened campuses there. The Egyptian government doubled the funding for higher education in its 2007 five-year plan and sought international advice on revamping the system.

Trying to provide schooling to the largest number of people, many Arab countries spent heavily on higher education.

“The objective was to boost economic growth, boost employment and realize equity in society,” says the World Bank’s Mourad Ezzine, a former Tunisian education expert who worked on the report. “It didn’t work out well. For two reasons. First, the education system delivered quantity, not quality…. And, second, on the economic side, the creation of employment to meet the profile of those graduates didn’t happen. Why? Because the reforms in these countries did not go far enough, fast enough.”

Differences between the Middle East and other developing economies the world are telling:

• Fertility rates stayed higher longer in the Middle East than in East Asia or Latin America. …

• Economies haven’t grown nearly fast enough to absorb these new workers….(because??)

• Unemployment among the young, of all education levels, is particularly pronounced. In Egypt, according to the most recent IMF data, overall unemployment was 8.9%—but stood at 25.4% among those under age 25, the IMF says. In Tunisia, overall unemployment was 14.2%; youth unemployment was 30.3%.

Mohamed Refaat, a 24-year-old Egyptian who followed his brother to the U.S. in 2008… “You don’t have to be educated there,” Mr. Refaat complains about his hometown, 30 minutes outside of Cairo. “It’s not worth your skill. It’s all about the connections.”

While China and other booming economies were cultivating private sectors, Egypt clung stubbornly to a state-dominated model. Outside of agriculture, 70% of Egyptian workers work for the government. Few college grads sought, or even were offered, courses aimed at landing private-sector jobs.

In Amman, Jordan, Ibrahim Taya is the youngest of 12 born to Palestinian refugees. Mr. Taya, 33 years old, didn’t go to college, but took technical training courses, first by correspondence in Jordan and then by going to Canada and China to learn how to maintain pieces of equipment.

Today, he is unemployed and seething. For about a dozen years, he bounced around, working as a technician for mobile-phone networks in Sudan, Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. He returned to Jordan in 2008, started a business that collapsed, he says, when a partner absconded with company funds. (no institutions to help hold people to Contractual Agreements??) He started another last year.

The contrast between his life and those of his older brothers is striking. Four received military-sponsored university scholarships. One became a internist, and found work in Saudi Arabia; another other served as an eye doctor for the Jordanian Army and then began his own practice. A third taught high school in Saudi Arabia, and the fourth became a computer programmer.