Reactions to the Pope’s Resignation in the Arab World

Ilsussidiario.it (the subsidiary) 12 February 2013 Pope Benedict XVI announced that he will be stepping down at the end of month. Many news outlets have begun to discuss this pope’s relations with Muslims as well as how a future pope may interact with the Muslim faith. The Subsidiary published an overview of the Pope’s interactions with Muslims and the Muslim world understandings of the Pope. Egyptian professor, Wael Farouq is interviewed. According to Dr. Farouq the first reaction in the Arab world to the Pope’s resignation has been primarily silence. Many felt the pope was promulgating a very different and violent understanding of Islam particularly in his Regensburg speech. Also according to the article Dr. Farouq feels the Pope did not sufficiently create an open inter-faith dialogue.

ANSAmed 13 February 2013 also published a story on the Pope’s resignation primarily focusing on the Al Azhar campus and Muslim youth’s reactions to the Pope—which are not positive. The article explains that though many did not know of the resignation all agreed that the following pope needs to show respect for the Muslim faith.

Waiting for an Arab Spring of Ideas

By Tariq Ramadan

DURING a recent visit to the United States, I was asked by intellectuals and journalists: Were we misled, during the Arab awakening, into thinking that Muslims could actually embrace democratic ideals?

The short answer is no. Participants in the recent violent demonstrations over an Islamophobic video were a tiny minority. Their violence was unacceptable. They do not represent the millions of Muslims who have taken to the streets since 2010 in a disciplined, nonviolent manner to bring down dictatorships.

Many Americans were nonetheless shocked by the chaos and bloodshed across Muslim countries, believing that they had come generously to the aid of the Arab peoples during the uprisings. But Arabs, and Muslims in general, have a longer memory and a broader view. Their mistrust is fueled by America’s decades-long support for dictators who accommodated its economic and security interests; by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan; by the humiliating treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay; and by America’s seemingly permanent and unconditional support for Israel.

The timeworn dichotomy of “Islam versus the West” is giving way to an era of multipolar relations. The world’s economic center of gravity is shifting eastward. But the growing prominence of China, India and Russia, and of emerging powers like Brazil, South Africa and Turkey, does not automatically guarantee more justice and more democracy. Some Muslims are too quick to rejoice at the decline of American power. They seem unaware that what might replace it could well lead to a regression in social and human rights and to new forms of international dependency.

The Arab world has shaken itself out of its lethargy after decades of apparent resignation and silence. But the uprisings do not yet amount to a revolution. The Arab world must confront its historical demons and tackle its infirmities and its contradictions: when it turns to the task, the awakening will truly have begun.

Artist Lalla Essaydi challenges stereotypes of women in Islamic cultures

The young girl growing up in a harem in Morocco is sitting alone in an abandoned house surrounded by olive trees. For one month, the girl will speak to no one and be spoken to by no one. This is her punishment for “stepping outside the permissible space” and rebelling against rules that give her brothers more freedom.

Confined to this lovely but deteriorating house, attended only by servants, a young Lalla Essaydi begins to think about the private spaces that women in the Arab world must inhabit. It is this place of punishment to which Essaydi will return decades later to understand the artist she has become. Her work, she says, will become haunted by spaces she inhabited as a child.

Essaydi, who has risen to international fame for her stunning portraits of women in Islamic cultures, questions the barriers imposed on Arab women and challenges stereotypical Western depictions of women who live in harems.

Occupy Wall Street Meets Tahrir Square

At the risk of being obvious, let us list the ways that Occupy Wall Street is not like Tahrir Square: no protesters have been killed, there have been no demands for the president to step down and no crowds swelling above six figures. The protesters are in far less danger, and seem to pose far less danger to the powerful, than in Egypt.

BUT it’s worth pausing for a moment on this point: Here in Lower Manhattan, and around the country, protesters have embraced a movement springing from the Arab world as a model of freedom, democracy and nonviolence.

“Are you ready for a Tahrir moment?” an initial call to action demanded. Now, newcomers to Zuccotti Park are given leaflets explicitly connecting the movements: “We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring occupation tactics to achieve our ends and we encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.”

Two blocks from ground zero — the same distance, though in a different direction, as the proposed Muslim community center and mosque that raised a ruckus last year — a subtle change in the Arab world’s image, wrought by the events of recent months, is on display.
In a place so sensitized, the big news, perhaps, is that the Tahrir references are taken almost for granted. A movement born in a Muslim country is seen neither as threatening nor as exotic but simply as universal.

“I think Tahrir is an Arabic word, but that doesn’t make it a particularly Arab or Muslim thing,” said Daniel Kurfirst, a musician, after Muslims held Friday prayers in the park for the first time last week.
Progressive Muslim activists, many of them born in New York, have been coming to the park from the beginning. They said they hoped the prayers, organized by the Muslim Leadership Council of New York, would get more Muslims interested in the movement.

But they face ambivalence from their parents’ generation, from immigrants like Mr. Sami, the falafel chef.
It’s good to see Americans recognize that poverty is a problem, he said. But while Tahrir could be summed up in a few words — “Mubarak, leave!” — he found Occupy’s diffuse causes “confusing.” His coworker, who did not want to give his name, said the protesters were “not serious.”

Welcome to the Counter-Jihad

The Arab world is poised for an era of political and cultural renewal. In dramatic succession, popular uprisings have toppled long-reigning dictators even as others cling to power. Amid these momentous events, scholars, journalists and politicians are scrambling to explain how these revolutions came about after years of political stagnation and dashed attempts at reform.

Robin Wright’s “Rock the Casbah,” though it was mainly reported before this year’s convulsions, tackles these questions directly. Wright, a veteran foreign correspondent, argues that the Arab world’s younger generation is at the vanguard of a sweeping and seductive cultural revolution. Setting out to challenge the lazy trope that Islam is incompatible with modernity and democracy, she traveled across the Middle East — with forays into the wider Muslim world — to profile hip-hop artists, poets, playwrights, feminists, human rights activists, TV imams, comic book creators and comedians.

French police arrest Tunisian migrants

AFP – April 27, 2011
French police arrested 60 mostly Tunisian immigrants in Paris accusing them of entering the country illegally, as France pushes to tighten the EU’s open-border rules. A Paris police source said the suspects, who included some Egyptians, Libyans and Algerians, were in custody after being arrested in Paris and Pantin, a suburb of the capital, for “breaking the residency laws”.
The turbulence in the Arab world has driven a wave of migrants to seek refuge in Europe, with thousands landing in Italy in recent weeks. Many French-speaking Tunisians hope to reach France which has close ties to its former colony.
France has taken a tough line on the spillover, however, voicing annoyance with Italy for issuing temporary residency permits to migrants that enable them to travel on to France under the EU’s open-borders pact.

Swiss minaret ban a setback for Middle East diplomacy

Switzerland recently passed a controversial referendum to ban minarets in the country, provoking uproar, intense debate and even protest. The move is regarded by many as “deeply divisive,” says UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, as well as a major setback for American and European public diplomacy in the Arab world.

Sweden, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, commented that the United Nations “should reconsider its presence in Geneva,” according to an Associated Press article. “Even if this is Switzerland, it sends a very unfortunate signal to large parts of the rest of the world about attitudes and prejudices in Europe,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on his blog. He continued to observe that the ban is a “poor act of diplomacy” from the Swiss, whose neutrality on globally divisive issues is renowned.

Analysts and commentators are also pointing to the ban as a serious complication for dialogue with Muslims around the world, even among those who are non-practicing, because the minaret is largely seen as a symbol of Arab and Muslim identity.