The lack of democratic breakthroughs worthy of mention in Arab countries has spurred debate about barriers to change. The debate would be incomplete, however, without a discussion of the means by which authoritarian Arab regimes control their societies, particularly the critical roles performed by security services.
Human Rights in the Arab World: Independent Voices offers perspectives from those at the forefront of research and debate at the intersection of human rights and Islam, globalization, transnational advocacy, and the politics of key states such as Egypt, Morocco, and Yemen.
Hamas’s recent victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections highlights the deep crisis of secular Arabs. In today’s Arab politics, secular parties have either degenerated into marginal forces with no broad popular support or become gatekeepers of repressive regimes.
For decades, Arab regimes have used scare tactics to encourage the United States and Europe to support their repressive measures toward Islamist movements by invoking the image of anti-Western fanatics taking power through the ballot box. However, today’s moderate Islamists no longer match this nightmare.
Drawing on the insights of some twenty-five leading Western and Middle Eastern scholars, Islam and Democracy in the Middle East highlights the dualistic and often contradictory nature of political liberalization. Political liberalization—as managed by the state—not only opens new spaces for debate and criticism, but is also used as a deliberate tactic to avoid genuine democratization.
Before the United States can determine whether its gradualist approach to democratic reform in the Middle East is the best remedy, we must first understand how Arab autocracies actually work. In particular, we must understand how the "liberalized autocracies" of the region endure despite frequent prediction of their imminent death.
It is important to have partners in the war on terrorism, Carnegie's Robert Kagan writes, but a unilateral determination to act invariably precedes a policy of effective multilateralism.