Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Things You Need To Know About the Middle East, December 2010

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By Barry Rubin

The Egyptian government so arranged the parliamentary elections that the share of seats held by the opposition declined from 20 percent for Muslim Brotherhood supporters alone to only 3 percent for all of the half-dozen opposition parties put together. In other words, the regime didn't just steal the election--which it does regularly--it over-stole the balloting. One can sympathize with the idea of the current government of President Husni Mubarak not wanting to let the revolutionary Islamists take power, and one can understand how the regime wants a nice stable situation for the succession next year presumably to Husni's son Gamal.

But they overdid it.

What is worrisome here is that by showing the Muslim Brotherhood that even if it bows its head to repression (with 1,000 members arrested in the days leading up to the election) it won't even get the tiniest crumbs from the government. And that seems to mean--judging from Supreme Guide Muhammad Badi's hardline statements even earlier (see here and here)--that the group may step up efforts to overthrow the regime. There's no question of violence in the near-term, but what about four or six or eight years down the road, especially if Gamal falters as president or the ruling elite splits in factional disputes.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that we've been told by some that the Brotherhoods are really moderate and deserve to be engaged in dialogue, the Jordanian branch has now called on Arab governments to send their armies to Afghanistan in a Jihad to kill Americans and other NATO forces there . When one actually looks at the materials in Arabic of the Egyptian or Jordanian Brotherhoods or their sister organization Hamas, one finds an extremist rhetoric not that much different from al-Qaida's ideology, though not that group's tactics...yet.

And speaking of false moderates, check out the latest issue of the Palestinian Authority's newspaper, Al-Hayat al-Jadida, which tells readers that Israel is "a country whose aim is destruction and ruin of humanity...which disseminates destruction, ruin and weapons in the world...which acts to kill nations, to threaten them and to occupy their land...[and] which acts to disseminate the culture of hatred and racism among human beings."

The fact that this is in an article about sports symbolizes the unending and comprehensive "culture of hatred" disseminated by the PA among its own people, thus making real peace somewhere between incredibly unlikely and impossible.

Here's something worth checking out if you have any interest in Muslim communities in Europe, a serious effort to provide figures for the size of the population in different countries done by Pew.

To use the example of the UK, the Pew study estimates Muslims there at 2.9 million (4.6 percent of the population) while the previous British government estimate was 1.6 million in the 2001 census. This constitutes a 74 percent increase in nine years. The largest communities are in Germany (4.1 million) and France (almost 3.6 million). By percentages, the largest proportion of Muslims are in Belgium, France, Austria and Switzerland (almost 6 percent). The Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany are about 5 percent. And of course these numbers are rising rapidly.

Meanwhile, 200 Jewish families have left Belgium, with increasing emigration also from Holland, and presumably other countries. The situation is also deteriorating in the Netherlands where a sympathetic leading politician has said that recognizable Jews will probably not be able to remain in the country. One factor there is very hostile media coverage of Israel, including the echoing of demonizing stories and Hamas' propaganda. Here's Melanie Phillips on the situation in the UK regarding Islamism and these issues.

Finally, few have noticed that in September 2008 the Iranian parliament passed a law making conversion away from Islam punishable by death for men and life imprisonment for women. For information on repression of Christians in Iran, see the following sites:

http://payvand.com/blog/blog/2010/05/29/amnesty-international-report-2010-on-iran
http://www.zenit.org/rssenglish-29426
http://www.rferl.org/content/Two_Iranian_Christians_May_Face_Execution_For_Apostasy/1779217.htML
http://www.worthynews.com/9337-iranian-christians-threatened-by-death-penalty
http://www.persecution.net/ir-2010-12-09.htm
http://www.iranpresswatch.org/post/2074
http://www.opendoorsuk.org/resources/iran/background.php

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

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