Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Read it in the NYT in 2006 or from cutting edge scholars in 1996 and earlier

Good for Thomas Friedman, he reached the same conclusions that the Civil Society in the Middle East program reached in the mid-1990s. Of course, he exaggerates the poverty of associational life in several Arab countries, but the regimes' penchant for the weakening secular oppositionis certainly accurate. The result is that public space is de-politicized leaving a vacuum in which Islamists political forces have been able to move without too many obstructions.

Addicted to Oil - New York Times:
"Why? Because once you sweep away the dictator or king at the top of any Middle East state, you go into free fall until you hit the mosque--as the U.S.discovered in Iraq. There is nothing between the ruling palace and the mosque. The secular autocratic regimes, like those in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Iraq, never allowed anything to grow under their feet. They never allowed the emergence of any truly independent judiciary, media, progressive secular parties or civil society groups--from women's organizations to trade associations. The mosque became an alternative power center because it was the only place the government's iron fist could not fully penetrate. As such, it became a placewhere people were able to associate freely, incubate local leaders and generate a shared opposition ideology."

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