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The Future of Democracy in the Islamic World

Scholars Anwar Ibrahim, Shibley Telhami, and Nathan Brown offered an engaging analysis of the revolution occurring in Egypt and how events unfolding there could affect other states in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Ibrahim offered a candid take on the many shortcomings of the Mubarak regime. Egyptians have been resigned to the traditional rule of Pharaohs, but all segments of the population have been emboldened to demand democratic reform, economic justice, as well as the fundamental freedoms of expression and faith. According to Ibrahim, the uprising-turned-revolution in Egypt epitomizes how the people have overcome a politically fatalistic attitude and finally mobilized to demand accountability and justice.

Telhami, who has done extensive polling of Arab and Muslim populations, concludes that the revolution taking place in Egypt is not one based on food or jobs but on dignity. Like Ibrahim, Telhami highlights how the Egyptian people no longer resign themselves to an autocratic leadership that has humiliated and intimidated them for nearly three decades. Telhami goes a step further in analyzing the United States’ effect on democratization in the Middle East. Telhami suggests that Arab populations do not trust America’s commitment to democracy in the region, since the United States has sought to preserve a regional status quo and, in the process, to prop up autocratic rulers distrustful of their own populations. Lastly, he emphasizes the critical role that the information revolution is playing in the Middle East: governments no longer exercise a monopoly over information, and the Arab masses can now interact with others who share their grievances, engage in political mobilization, and seek empowerment.

Nathan Brown spoke extensively about the role of Islamism in Egyptian politics, providing a poignant analysis of the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in Egyptian political life in the last five years. Brown suggested that ever since 2005 the Brotherhood has steadily retreated from politics and focused more on influencing Egyptian social life. Brown argues that rather than playing a central role in the current events, the Brotherhood represents a character in a larger political saga. Thought the Brotherhood is among the most politically organized groups in Egypt, the Egyptian masses have become more and more politically aware and have been more able to delineate alternative political visions.


featured speaker  
His Excellency Anwar Ibrahim
Former Deputy Prime Minister, Malaysia
Opposition Leader, Malaysian Parliament  

Shibley Telhami
Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development, University of Maryland
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Saban Center at Brookings

Nathan Brown
Professor, Political Science & International Affairs
George Washington University
Nonresident Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Steve Clemons
Senior Fellow, American Strategy Program
New America Foundation
Publisher, The Washington Note

Event Time and Location

Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 5:00pm - 6:30pm
New America Foundation
1899 L Street NW Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036

Event Materials

Event Photos

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