11 posts categorized "Egypt"

5 Qs for... Barbara Ibrahim, Director, Gerhart Center for Philanthropy at the American University in Cairo

September 20, 2011

Barbara_ibrahim (Shortly after the government of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was toppled earlier this year, we asked What Lies Ahead for the Egyptian Philanthropic Sector? Seven months later, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is still serving as de facto head of state as various factions attempt to shape the oft-delayed transition to a democratically elected government. While the form and composition of the next government remains uncertain, few people are better positioned to assess the situation in Egypt than Barbara Ibrahim, director of the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy & Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo and co-editor of From Charity to Social Change: Trends in Arab Philanthropy. We recently had the opportunity to ask Ibrahim about the role of philanthropy in shaping the future of the country, what Western foundations can do to support democratic transitions in the Middle East, and why she is optimistic about the future of Libya.)

Philanthropy News Digest: The first chapter of your book From Charity to Social Change is titled "Arab Philanthropy in Transition." Now that we're seeing one authoritarian Arab government after another crumble, one has to wonder whether the political changes sweeping the region will accelerate the changes already taking place in Arab philanthropy.

Barbara Ibrahim: There is no doubt that the pace of change will be faster and deeper now in the countries experiencing political uprisings -- and perhaps also in neighboring countries trying to avoid a popular uprising. However, the direction and pace will very much depend on specific historical and socioeconomic conditions in individual countries.

Philanthropy in the Arab world had been growing fairly rapidly until the global economic recession, driven partly by the recognition that governments could no longer provide quality welfare services for their populations. Some of that philanthropy was too closely allied with ruling families and not transparent in its mode of operation. Now there will be a necessary period of "resetting."

PND: The Egyptian people have taken an amazing step toward self-determination, but longstanding social issues and economic problems in Egypt clearly won't be solved by the ouster of Mubarak alone. While the new government, whatever form it takes, will have the primary responsibility for addressing these problems, philanthropy seems poised to shoulder some of the burden -- especially in the human services sphere. Is philanthropy in Egypt developed enough to meet the challenge? And what are some key areas where philanthropic resources could do the most good?

BI: This is a moment of tremendous potential for philanthropy in Egypt. Always a country of great individual generosity, now we are seeing an unleashing of interest in more collective means of problem solving. When the police withdrew from protecting citizens in January, thousands of neighborhood watch groups sprang up spontaneously across the country. Many of those are hoping to evolve into more sustainable community development organizations -- the classic motivation for a community foundation. I also anticipate that middle class and professional Egyptians will become more engaged in giving through new institutional forms. Social media like Twitter and Facebook are already being utilized to inform and mobilize citizen funding for good causes.

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Event: The Arab World in Transition: What’s the Role of Philanthropy?

April 21, 2011

(Nick Scott is assistant to the publisher at Philanthropy News Digest. In his previous post, he looked at burgeoning civil society movements in the MENA region.)

Libya_protestor Taking my seat in a crowded conference room at Philanthropy New York earlier this month, I felt a bit like an interloper in the company of so many foundation presidents, investment bank VPs, and executive directors. But banishing my insecurities, I settled in to listen to an excellent workshop moderated by Foundation Center president Brad Smith.

The panel of speakers featured Stephen Heintz, president of the New York City-based Rockefeller Brothers Fund (and a former co-founding president at Demos: A Network for Action & Ideas); Dr. Bassma Kodmani, executive director of the Arab Reform Initiative (and a former senior program officer at the Ford Foundation's MENA office); and Anthony Richter, associate director at the Open Society Foundations and director of OSF's MENA initiative and Central Eurasia project.

A Limited Role for U.S. Foundations in the Arab World

It was clear from the outset that the major theme of the evening was going to be caution and restraint. Political reform in the Middle East is the kind of topic that gets international funders excited, but the panelists all agreed it is important for Western foundations, NGOs, and development agencies to respect the fact that the democracy movements in the Arab world are homegrown and driven by local actors. Moreover, the appropriate role for an outsider is almost always a supporting one -- and only if requested. Kodmani spoke of the hyper-sensitivity to Western intervention she experienced firsthand recently in Egypt. Change, when it comes, "will be on our terms" was an oft-repeated sentiment, and outside funders, she said, need to understand that the debate over issues such as minority rights, religion, and women's participation would continue to be an internal conversation. The events of the last decade have made citizens of many Arab countries wary of American interventionism, so any attempts to influence the political discourse -- well intentioned though they may be -- are likely to be met with resistance.

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The Arab World: From Statism to Civil Society?

March 08, 2011

(Nick Scott is assistant to the publisher at Philanthropy News Digest. In his previous post, he took a look at what may lie ahead for the Egyptian philanthropic sector.)

Arab_statism As a follow-up to my previous post, I thought I'd take a look at some of the broader issues and trends driving change in the Arab world. These include a "youth bulge" and other demographic trends of importance; the pernicious effects of high unemployment, political exclusion,
and low per capita GDP in large parts of the Arab world; and the ways in which social media and modern communications technology have accelerated the dissemination of ideas and helped protest movements spread rapidly across borders. My lens is what all this might mean for civil society development and engagement, with a special focus on the role of philanthropy in the region. If, and this is a big "if," we have entered a new epoch in the Arab world, the role of philanthropy in providing social services could increase exponentially.

It's important to note that the turmoil in Arab countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen cannot be reduced to a single neat formula; unrest stemming from sectarian discrimination in wealthy Bahrain is not analogous to the largely secular/cross-denominational calls for democracy in Egypt. That said, lack of economic and political opportunity are endemic to the region, and if some of the causes behind country-specific uprisings are unique, they nevertheless share a common context.

Demographics and the Youth Factor

The wave of unrest in the Arab world was not inevitable, but the main ingredients -- rapid population growth combined with lack of economic and political opportunity -- have been in place for a long time. Populations in Arab countries, where the median age is 22 compared to a global average of 28, are among the youngest in the world. And in sharp contrast to their political aspirations, many of these young people have lived their entire lives under a single, autocratic ruler.

According to the 2010 ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, "The single most important priority for young people in the Middle East is living in a democratic country, followed by having quality infrastructure, and access to the best universities: 99 per cent of those interviewed said living in a democracy was either 'very important' or 'somewhat important'."

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5 Questions for...Helen Brunner, Director, Media Democracy Fund

March 03, 2011

The pro-democracy uprisings sweeping the Arab world have focused the world's attention on the importance of demography and the promise and perils of globalization. They've also demonstrated the growing power of new communications technologies to influence and affect change. From Egypt to Libya to Iran, the reponse of strongmen and dictators has been predictable: Shut it down. More and more, however, economic and educational opportunity, creativity, freedom of expression, and democracy are intertwined with and dependent on the Internet and wireless communication.

Brunner_helen Recently, PND chatted with Helen Brunner, director of the Media Democracy Fund, which partners with funders to make grants that "protect and promote the public's rights in the Digital Age," about events in the Arab world, net neutrality, and the role of nonprofit advocacy groups in ensuring that every American continues to benefit from an open 'Net.

Philanthropy News Digest: Over the last six weeks, we've seen autocratic regimes in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere attempt to squelch pro-democracy protests by "turning off" the Internet. How have those governments done it? And what does it say about the Internet as a neutral, open network?

Helen Brunner: I think it speaks to the centrality of the Internet to civil society and democratic movements across the world. The Internet is now the world's primary tool for communications and accessing information. You're right that it's problematic that a dictator can attempt to shut it off or limit access to information, as China does. Your readers might be surprised to learn that it's relatively simple to shut off the Internet — Fast Company has a recent piece that does a good job of explaining how it works — but essentially you can unplug it. Obviously, this is easier in repressive regimes, since they're already in control of much of the communications infrastructure or have an extremely close relationship to the providers. But it's way, way too late for us to go back to a world that doesn't rely on the Internet — that genie is out of the bottle. That's why it is so important to establish a strong set of protections that govern the Internet and what governments and corporations can and cannot do with it. We need to establish basic rights that protect a neutral and open network.

PND: Could something like that ever happen in the United States?

HB: Yes and no. The United States' current infrastructure would make it all but impossible to unplug our Internet. But that could change. Senators Lieberman (I-CT), Collins (R-ME), and Carper (D-DE) have introduced a bill, the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, that would allow the federal government to shut down civilian access to the Internet should a "cybersecurity emergency" arise and keep us offline indefinitely. Under the bill, "unplugging the Internet" would not require a judicial order.

PND: What does "net neutrality" mean, and why should Americans care?

HB: True net neutrality would prevent major Internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast, or Verizon from blocking, slowing, or favoring one Internet user's content over another's. They would have to treat all content the same, which is the case today. My Web site loads as quickly as yours, which loads as quickly as CNN's or Fox News'. It means we wouldn't have to worry about a company prioritizing my Web content over your content based on money, political orientation, or whether they own the content themselves. If you think the average person should have access to any point of view, and that nonprofits should be able to use the Web to freely promote their ideas and messages, then net neutrality matters to you.

PND: The Federal Communications Commission passed new regulations concerning net neutrality in December, only to have the new Republican-controlled House vote to defund the FCC's efforts to enforce those regulations. What did the FCC propose, and why do Republicans in the House object?

HB: A very quick description of the FCC decision is that it created some weak and fairly vague consumer protections on the wired — broadband and dial-up — Internet, while leaving wireless Internet almost totally unprotected. One of the themes of the Republicans in the new Congress is a rejection of government regulation. However, if we want to protect small businesses and preserve the Internet's role as an engine of job creation, ensure that innovation flourishes, and guarantee that all Americans have access to a twenty-first century communications infrastructure, we need a "cop on the beat," so to speak.

Although the FCC has attempted to provide some assurance that everyone's content will continue to reliably reach its destination and now requires telecommunications companies to disclose their network management policies to consumers, the commission leaves open the possibility of economically motivated content discrimination. In a letter to the FCC before the vote, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) wrote: "Absent significant changes to the draft order as it has been described to me, adopting these rules as they are may actually send signals to industry endorsing any closing off of the Internet that is not specifically prohibited."

So, why are the big telecommunications companies suing the FCC and Republicans in Congress intent on blocking action by the commission? My guess is that Republicans prefer that there be zero free-speech and consumer protections when it comes to the Internet and — given their partial victory — are going for total victory. If they win, the ability for the FCC to enact the many provisions of the congressionally mandated National Broadband Plan will be in jeopardy.

PND: What should we be paying attention to over the next few months in terms of the debate?

HB: There are the lawsuits and two bills moving through Congress. But the decision is not the end, it's only the beginning. The new rules and the manner of their adoption underscore the deep need for more work in the media justice field, as well as the effectiveness of nonprofit advocacy groups working in this area. They are extraordinary organizers and are using every tool at their disposal, from town halls and viral videos to academic research, op-eds, and petition drives. Without their work, the FCC would likely not have included the consumer-protection provisions that made it into FCC Chairman Genachowski's proposal, some at the eleventh hour. That said, as the debate over a free and open Internet enters its next phase, the public interest community will need to work even harder.

Mitch Nauffts

Transitional Justice: Memory As an Instrument of Peace

February 28, 2011

(Kathryn Pyle is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In her previous post, she wrote about transitional justice in post-conflict situations.)

Unhcr_ transitional_justice In a post last week, I mentioned monuments and memorialization as one of the components of a successful post-conflict resolution process. Coincidentally, an upcoming event on this theme was announced Saturday.

The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience was founded in 1999 by nine groups dedicated to remembering crimes against humanity and the neverending struggle for justice: the District Six Museum (South Africa); the Gulag Museum at Perm-36 (Russia); the Liberation War Museum (Bangladesh); the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (United States); Maison des Esclaves (Senegal); the National Park Service (United States); Memoria Abierta (Argentina); the Terezin Memorial (Czech Republic); and the Workhouse (United Kingdom).

There are now seventeen member sites in the coalition and more than two hundred and sixty individual and institutional members. The mission of each of these sites is public education -- to promote understanding about past crimes against humanity and prevent their recurrence, partly by raising awareness of the contemporary legacy of such crimes. Support for the coalition is provided by the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for Democracy, the Museums & Communities Collaborations Abroad (MCAA) program, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Oak Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Compton Foundation, the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, the Lambent Foundation, the Libra Foundation, and the Sigrid Rausing Trust.

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Transitional Justice in Post-Conflict Situations

February 25, 2011

(Kathryn Pyle is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In her last post, she wrote about the "art of memory.")

Scales_justice The events of the past several weeks in Tunisia, Egypt, and the broader Middle East-North Africa region have been riveting and, at times, appalling, particularly in Libya. As other commentators have noted, each uprising has been unique, emerging from that country’s history, culture, and demographics. The wildfire nature of the uprisings; the creative use of Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, and the Internet; and the role of youth have all contributed to an extraordinary moment in world history that has been in turn heroic, horrific, inspiring -- and, at the end of the day, familiar.

Take away the new media and other features peculiar to this time and place and the similarities with opposition movements in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, with independence movements on the African continent in the 1960s, and with other pro-democracy uprisings around the world over the last hundred years are striking.

As in those earlier conflicts, the big question today is what happens next. Although the story is far from over -- strongmen in Tunisia and Egypt may be gone, but economic issues and the political structure they created remain -- reformers in those countries are turning the page on a new chapter. Nongovernmental organizations that work in the social, economic, and political sphere know that what happens in the post-conflict period is crucial over the long run.

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What Lies Ahead for the Egyptian Philanthropic Sector?

February 17, 2011

(Nick Scott is the assistant to the publisher at Philanthropy News Digest. This is his first post for PhilanTopic.)

Egypt_crowds While it remains to be seen whether widespread hopes for a more inclusive, democratic Egypt are fully realized, there are reasons to be optimistic. Assuming a positive outcome, the legal environment for foundations and nonprofits could become much more favorable in the coming years. Even with the political obstacles erected by the Mubarak regime, however, philanthropy in Egypt has been growing over the past decade or so. With that in mind, now seems like an opportune time to take a look at what has been going right in Egyptian philanthropy, obstacles to the sector's continued growth, and what the future may hold.

Success Stories...

Long thought of as a leader in the Arab world, Egypt is emerging as a leader in the Arab philanthropic world as well. It is home to the Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo and boasts long-established and effective foundations like the pioneering Sawiris Foundation, established by the Sawiris family after the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 to address the country's unique development goals. And while more money overall may be awarded in oil-rich states like the UAE, Egyptian philanthropy has made significant progress in recent years.

Charity is not a new concept in Egypt. The country -- indeed, the entire Islamic world -- has a long tradition of religious charity. Individual giving in the form of zakat -- a type of religiously mandated alms-giving -- totals an estimated $1 billion (USD) annually in Egypt, making it far and away the country's largest charitable outlet. Charitable foundations are a much less established tradition, although the sector has been expanding rapidly. There are currently well over four hundred registered foundations in Egypt, and the number continues to grow. But while the field is relatively young, with many Egyptian foundations still finding their way, a more open political system would remove many of the roadblocks preventing them from realizing their full potential.

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Weekend Reading: Egypt's Transition?

February 11, 2011

Egypt_celebration With President Hosni Mubarak's resignation, the popular uprising in Egypt enters a new phase of what everyone hopes will be a peaceful transition to a more democratic form of government. Here are a handful of foundation-sponsored reports in our PubHub catalog that explore aspects of democratization, political transition, and nation building in other countries around the globe.

But first: From the organizing of protests via social networking sites, to the Internet shutdown that reportedly sent more people into the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, to the outcry over the detention and abuse of journalists by the state security apparatus, the role of the media in recent events in Egypt and Tunisia cannot be ignored. Against that backdrop, the Carnegie Corporation of New York has posted an extended version of the article "Arab Media: The Web 2.0 Revolution," which originally appeared in 2008 in the Carnegie Reporter.

Also worth a second look is Muslim Publics Divided on Hamas and Hezbollah, which is based on a spring 2010 survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project. Among other things, the survey found that 59 percent of respondents in Egypt said democracy was preferable to any other kind of government, while 22 percent said in some cases non-democratic governments might be preferable. The survey also found that 61 percent of Egyptians were either very concerned (20 percent) or somewhat concerned (41 percent) about Islamic extremism in their country, while 31 percent agreed that there was a struggle in their country between modernizers and fundamentalists.

An earlier analysis from Carnegie, Russia: Facing the Future, looks at Russia's economy, military, and democratic reforms, societal problems, and possible futures, ranging from the fragmentation of the Russian Federation to the reimposition of Soviet-era totalitarianism.

Often held up as a model of a peaceful transition, South Africa is the focus of Local Democracy in Action: A Civil Society Perspective on Local Governance in South Africa, a report from the Good Governance Learning Network, with support from the Mott and Ford foundations. The report evaluates South Africa's municipal governments in terms of democracy, responsiveness, and accountability; planning and budgeting; and poverty reduction; discusses priorities and challenges; and offers alternatives.

Developing a Strategy for Kosovo’s First 120 Days: Conference Summary Report, a report from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, with support from the Mott Foundation, summarizes discussions from a conference convened to help the new government of Kosovo develop a strategy for governance during a 120-day transition period following the United Nations Security Council vote that transferred administrative control from Serbia to the government.

Reconciliation after the fall of a brutal regime is the subject of So We Will Never Forget: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes About Social Reconstruction and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, a report from the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley. The report, which was funded by the German Civil Peace Service, German Development Service, and Open Society Institute, analyzes the findings of a survey that asked Cambodians about crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge, the work of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, and the outlook for reparations and justice in that Southeast Asian country.

Two other reports from the Human Rights Center, Transitioning to Peace: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes About Accountability and Social Reconstruction in Northern Uganda and Building Peace, Seeking Justice: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes About Accountability and Social Reconstruction in the Central African Republic, examine citizens' views with respect to transitional justice, accountability, and conflict resolution in those two African countries. Supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Humanity United, and USAID, the reports offer recommendations in a range of areas, including reconstruction and development, national dialogue, and regional security.

What has been the philanthropic sector's recent contribution to the building of civil society globally? Peace and Security Grantmaking by U.S. Foundations, 2008-2009, a report from the Peace and Security Funders Group that was funded by the Carnegie Corporation, provides an overview of trends in grantmaking by U.S. foundations for civil society peace and security initiatives worldwide by issue area, strategy, and foundation and grantee characteristics.

The Baltic-American Partnership Fund: Ten Years of Grantmaking to Strengthen Civil Society in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, a report from the Open Society Institute and USAID, reviews the outcomes and lessons learned from the fund's efforts since its creation. In addition to a grant summary and grantee profiles, the report includes essays by some of the fund's officers and partners.

This is just a sampling of reports related to civil society and national reconciliation, broadly defined, that you can find in PubHub. If you know of others, foundation-sponsored or otherwise, feel free to share them in the comments section, or drop me a line at pubhub@foundationcenter.org.

-- Kyoko Uchida

‘Tunisami’: Some Insights Into Events in the Arab Region

February 10, 2011

Flag-Pins-Tunisia-Egypt As the popular uprising in Egypt reaches a fever pitch (watch live here), many people are asking what lies behind the mass protests and whether the fall of the corrupt, often-brutal Mubarak regime will give rise to other democracy movements in the region. Writing in Alliance magazine, Atallah Kuttab, founder of the Arab Foundations Forum, sheds some light on the fluid, fast-moving events there:

The wave of protests across the Arab region triggered by events in Tunisia has become a "Tunisami." Having denied them for many years, governments are allowing reforms to establish the basic rights of citizens, to ensure their fair and equal treatment and to establish greater opportunity.

Youth (aged 15 to 24 years old), representing more than a third of the total citizens of the Arab region, have been at the eye of this Tunisami. They are frustrated with the lack of opportunity, education systems that do not help them to start a career, and a lack of transparent governance and widespread corruption. While the horizon is narrowing for them, the information revolution has helped them see what their peers around the world are experiencing and therefore the opportunities that they are missing.

Most people in the region had felt that "revolt" was impossible because of the tight security measures imposed by Arab governments. Not only did the recent events cause people to lose their fear of demonstrating but the location and timing of the demonstrations clearly announced the popular mood (Fridays and Sundays had nicknames like Day of Anger, Day of Departure, and in memory of those killed and injured). This lack of fear at such a popular level is empowering and has created a dream coming true that no government can easily reverse irrespective of what happens next....

In his post, Kuttab summarizes some of the changes that already have taken place in Egypt, Tunisia, and other countries in the region; touches on the implications for the business and philanthropic sectors; and suggests a number of things that foundations, NGOs, and CSOs (civil society organizations) can do over the coming weeks and months.

Good reading on what may well turn out to be the most eventful day of what has been a truly memorable three weeks.

Philanthropy on the Edge: Foundations, Egypt, and Press Freedom

February 04, 2011

(Bradford Smith is president of the Foundation Center. In his last post, he wrote about George Soros' $100 million gift to Human Rights Watch.)

Egypt_protests_fri Whoever said philanthropy is not relevant to the issues of the day?

Take Egypt. Many, who as recently as a week ago may have known little about Egypt, have been riveted to television, Facebook, and Twitter as the drama of a people challenging a government -- and that government pushing back -- unfolds. But foundations have been funding projects in and about Egypt for years, and many of the people, ideas, and institutions they have supported will be vital to that country’s future.

What is the foundation "line" on Egypt? Well, there isn't just one; American foundations are private institutions, so it all depends on the interests, values, and expertise of each donor. Using the Foundation Center's database, I did a simple keyword search for "Egypt" and found more than five hundred grants awarded since 2003. The largest number has gone for higher education, either to U.S. or European universities or directly to Egyptian institutions like the American University in Cairo or Cairo University. Whatever the outcome of the current crisis, Egypt will still depend on skilled human resources to build a modern, competitive society. Other grants have gone for issues that speak more directly to current events such as human rights, personal liberty, and the status of women. These can be controversial anywhere, and in Egypt addressing such issues takes skill, a keen sense of politics, and, well, courage. Even supporting cultural activities, where certain artists are state sponsored and others are not, can represent risk for a funder -- and more so for those who do the work on the ground. Research grants we found help to better understand the complexity of Egyptian politics, transformations in the region, and the role of religion. Good data is lacking, but there are also African and European foundations that consider Egypt important to their programming.

Take Press Freedom: While in Tunisia and the early days of the Egypt protests everyone was celebrating the liberation of information through Twitter, Facebook, and CNN, authorities quickly shut down the Internet and mobile networks and angry pro-Mubarak mobs began to target journalists. A free press is one of the pillars of a democratic society and a favorite target of authoritarian leaders of all persuasions. Even in democracies, where the press remains largely free (though subject to commercial interests), it is frequently accused of one bias or another. Here, some foundations have also translated their values into grants. The same kind of quick search in Foundation Directory Online yielded hundreds of grants made since 2003, most to a select group of organizations created precisely to combat press censorship and persecution. They include the Committee to Protect Journalists, the World Press Freedom Committee, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Not surprisingly, among the foundations that support them are several like the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Gannett Foundation with origins in the newspaper business. For a glimpse into how such grantmaking might strike a raw nerve, check out Silence or Death in Mexico's Press: Crime, Violence, and Corruption Are Destroying the Country's Journalism, produced by the Committee to Protect Journalists with support from the Knight, McCormick, Oak, and Overbrook foundations.

Imagine what it's like to be a foundation that has staff and grantee partners in Egypt at the moment. Imagine what it's like put your foundation's money behind press freedom and see journalists arrested, beaten, and harassed -- in Egypt and elsewhere. This is philanthropy on the edge: driven by a sense of justice and a willingness to take risks.

-- Brad Smith

Egypt: A PubHub Reading List

February 02, 2011

Egypt_protest_350 As historic protests and calls for democracy in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Middle East continue, here are a few reports from our PubHub catalogue to help you put recent developments in context.

The role of social media in inspiring, spreading, and amplifying the demonstrations has been much discussed. Global Publics Embrace Social Networking, a survey by the Pew Research Center's Pew Global Attitudes Project, shows that as of spring 2010, 18 percent of those surveyed in Egypt used social networking sites -- compared with 24 percent of Jordanians and 18 percent of Lebanese -- 6 percent did not, and 76 percent did not have Internet access.

What might the fall of authoritarian regimes that have suppressed all opposition, including Islamist movements, mean for the intersection of democracy and religion? Based on a spring 2010 Pew Global Attitudes Project survey, Muslim Publics Divided on Hamas and Hezbollah offers findings from Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey regarding respondents' views of Hamas, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda, as well as the role of Islam in politics.

Deradicalizing Islamist Extremists, a study by the RAND Corporation with support from the Smith Richardson Foundation, analyzes the processes through which Islamist extremists become disengaged and deradicalized, and outlines best practices, implications, and policy recommendations.

A Five-Year Review of Scholarship on Islam 2005-2009, a report from the Carnegie Corporation of New York's Scholars Program, profiles six recent fellows and their research on Islam. They include Brian T. Edwards, who explored the circulation of "American civilization" in North Africa and the Middle East; Noah Feldman, who examined recurring themes and features of constitutional initiatives in majority-Muslim countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Bahrain, and Nigeria; and Bruce Lawrence, who researched the role of Christian and Muslim minorities in Africa and Asia. The work of two fellows is of particular interest, in light of recent events: Amaney Jamal's research focuses on the type of "political agency" Islam produces among ordinary citizens in the Arab world -- i.e., how different "frames" shape levels of civic engagement and which formal political institutions are best equipped to meet the demands of citizens within the Arab world; and Vali Nasr's work, which examines prospects for the rise of Muslim democratic political parties and platforms in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Turkey.

Could the current instability spread to other countries in the region? Saudi-Iranian Relations Since the Fall of Saddam: Rivalry, Cooperation, and Implications for U.S. Policy, another RAND Corporation report made possible with support from the Smith Richardson Foundation, examines how structural, sectarian, and ideological tensions and differences over energy interests between Saudi Arabia and Iran have evolved since 2003. The report also analyzes the roles of the United States and Iraq and makes policy recommendations.

What is the role of Turkey as a majority-Muslim "functioning democracy" struggling to balance secularism and Islam? Getting to Zero: Turkey, Its Neighbors and the West, a Transatlantic Academy report funded by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,  examines Turkey's changing global and regional role; its foreign policy agenda of "zero problems with neighbors" as well as its energy policy and promotion of democracy, trade, and migration; and underlying domestic and regional trends.

Global Restrictions on Religion, a report from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, analyzes government and social restrictions on religious beliefs and practices worldwide, including the percentage of countries with "low," "moderate," "high," or "very high" limitations; the percentage of the global population living in those countries; and the types of limitations in religious belief and practice.

Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population, also from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, highlights findings from a demographic study of the Muslim population worldwide, including data and maps on the geographic distribution of Muslims by country and territory, region, sub-region, sect, and majority status. Interactive maps also show the distribution of Muslims worldwide as well as each countries' relative "size" based on its Muslim population.

Last but not least, the Women's Foreign Policy Group's Faces of Contemporary Islam: Fresh Perspectives on Theory, Practice, and Foreign Policy summarizes the proceedings of a November 2008 conference convened to promote understanding between the Muslim world and the West. Among other things, the report examines perceptions about the compatibility of Islam and democracy, Muslim women, Western attitudes toward Islam, and the role of the media in the Muslim world.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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