The coming US elections couldn’t have happened under more dramatic nor crucially important circumstances.
The world sits ravaged by the Coronavirus, economies braced for one of the worst downturns in living memory and countries and societies polarised and divided like never before. Therefore an election that would decide not only the shape and direction of the US administration for the next four years, but potentially some of the most critical questions facing humanity in several generations, is one that demands full attention.
Whether it be global health care and well- being, racial and economic equality, the economy, climate change, public, personal and cybersecurity, privacy and data regulation, human rights and democracy or extremism and terrorism of all types, whoever sits in the White House come January 2021, will be instrumental.
The Cordoba Foundation in collaboration with Alwaleed bin Talal Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University convened a very timely webinar on 11th of August, which addressed the US elections and its potential impact on democracy in the MENA region. The webinar attracted much attention for understandable reasons. The Trump administration, in the eyes of many, gave oxygen to oppressive regimes and elevated the status of ‘strongmen’, otherwise more commonly known for being dictators, tyrants and oppressors and a return of President Trump would send a clear message that America would continue to not only stand by, but grant actual support to the regimes of Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and UAE among others.
The Cordoba Foundation and the Public Interest Investigations launch a new report:
The Henry Jackson Society and the Degeneration of British Neoconservatism: Liberal Interventionism, Islamophobia and the ‘War On Terror’.
The reports examines the history, activities and politics of the Henry Jackson Society, a leading exponent of neoconservatism in the UK that is grounded in a transatlantic tradition deeply influenced by Islamophobia and an open embrace of the ‘War on Terror’.
The height of the Arab Spring saw Hosni Mubarak deposed in Egypt, and for the first time, the country and its people looked forward to the implementation of the democratic process.
Free and fair elections took place, and Muhammad Morsi of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected into office. That should have been the beginning of a transitional time for Egypt, a new leader had been put into place which a recognised democratic mandate from the people. However, the situation soon deteriorated and Morsi was then overthrown in what can only be considered as a coup d’état.
During protests at the time and since, both sides have made allegations seeking to consolidate their position at the cost of the other. However, it is clear that the momentum and indeed much of the international support is behind that of the regime of el-Sisi.
The reality however is that the criticism and scaremongering of the Morsi administration and therefore the Muslim Brotherhood is nothing more than propaganda; aimed at trying to grain credibility for an illegitimate regime. Much is made of Morsi’s Islamists credentials, and the fact that he brought a brand of ‘Political Islam’ to Egypt. This is a fact seized upon by the media and political classes alike.
The Middle East seize upon such factors in an effort to de-legitimise what is seen as the most powerful opposition to their well established autocratic and intolerant regimes. The West seizes upon the issue so as to continue to foster the suspicion and mistrust which greets many Muslims.
We as a society however need to look deeper, go beyond the rhetoric and see the situation for what it is in reality
It is deeply regrettable that the euphoria that surrounded the end of the Mubarak reign was short lived. Egypt today has reverted to an autocracy back by an all-pervasive military, and any dissent or challenge to that ruling military administration will seemingly be quickly silenced. Democratic rule must return to Egypt. A process of justice, accountability and reconciliation must find a place in Egypt’s next chapter whether it be in Alexandria, Cairo or ultimately The Hague.
The immediate recent history of the Middle-East, North Africa and Gulf region right through to present day, has seen a period of extreme instability, the rise and fall of groups, of political parties, and the establishment of entities that are a cause for significant concern within those host nations, and within the international community at large.
This period of instability, highlighted by the Arab Spring, has been inappropriately characterised by many western media outlets, as being as a result of Islam and its followers, thus fostering a deep mistrust and suspicion of any of those individuals or groups who identify themselves as Muslim or following an Islamic or Islamist ideology.
The word ‘Muslim’ is no longer simply synonymous with a religion of the Middle East, as Christianity and Judaism is in the West; it has become synonymous with the emergence of radical and extremist groups that espouse a wholly warped and unrecognisable interpretation of Islam.
It appears that any action can be justified if announced that it is under the auspices of the ‘War on Terror’. Actions such as the removal of the most basic of human rights and fundamental freedoms such as a fair trial. Actions that many of us take for granted such as the freedom of speech and the freedom to protest have effectively been removed all under the anti-terror rhetoric. Rhetoric that in reality is nothing other than the thinnest of veils over a nationwide power grab; rhetoric solely designed to attempt to lend credibility to a regimes anti-civil society, anti-human rights, and ultimately anti-democratic policies.
This issue of the Cordoba Papers addresses the Palestinian question from another and arguably unique angle. The whole question of Palestinian independence from an Islamic legal point of view is one that is very rarely posed, and even more so addressed adequately and thoroughly. Such an examination is crucial for the understanding of the question of Palestine for young academics, Palestinians, Muslims and others, keen on getting to grips with this issue away from the domination of the pure political narrative.
Ismail Adam Patel is an expert on this issue. His leadership for two decades of Friends of al-Aqsa; the leading UK organisation in education, information, campaigning, and advocacy on Palestine, as well as his own insights and understanding of the Islamic legal perspective on this complex issue, are invaluable to his excellent critique.