There so much clutter in the news concerning developments in the Middle East. How do you find out what really matters? Tune in to Powell History Recommends! Each week, I’ll be monitoring the news for historically significant events in the region’s major countries, and passing them on to you, with brief commentary about why these events deserve your attention. Here’s my first roundup:
Islamists and conservative clerics are fighting proposed legislation in the Egyptian parliament that would criminalize female circumcision and raise the minimum age of when a girl can marry. The Islamists view the bill as an affront to Sharia law…(Full article here.)
Historical significance: Egypt is a society deeply divided. The debate over the issue of female circumcision — imposed on as many as 70% of Egyptian girls — is indicative of the divide. The Muslim population is alienated from the Mubarak regime and its partly Westernized elite. And Mubarak hasn’t got long to live. When he’s gone, Egypt will become an Islamist regime within a generation. (Find out more by hearing my upcoming lecture on Egypt, as part of the Islamist Entanglement. Individual lectures in the series are available for only $20.)
Turkey’s constitutional court has decided unanimously that it can hear a case aimed at closing down the country’s governing AK Party. The chief prosecutor earlier filed a petition calling for the party to be banned for “anti-secular activities” (Full article here.)
Historical significance: As reported here on PHR, Turkey — the Middle East’s most secular country — is in serious jeopardy of reverting to Islamism. After decades of benevolent secular dictatorship, initiated by Mustafa Kemal, Turkey has gradually become more democratic. However, because most of the population remains deeply Muslim, secularism is constantly under threat. (Learn more, by hearing my lecture on modern Turkey, available separately or as part of the Islamist Entanglement series.)
Iraq: Nothing Defining
Although President Bush claimed that the Iraqi government’s latest attempt to crack down on violence in Basra was a “defining moment,” nothing of significance happened in Iraq this week. In other words, nothing happened this week that tells us anything new about the Iraq situation, nor indicates that its primary actors are going to do anything to prevent Iraq from disintegrating into civil war when the US leaves. The militias in Basra will continue to operate and continue to receive support from Iran. US forces will continue to try to help the Iraqi government stand on its own, but they won’t attack Iran — the known supplier of those same militias. As the French like to say, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” — the more it changes, the more it stays the same.
It isn’t necessarily news, but it is an op-ed that clarifies important issues about how the Iranian “democracy” functions. Ahmedinejad may indeed be on the way out, but that won’t mean that Iran will be changing direction in terms of its regional aspirations.