Challenges for Middle Eastern Democracy
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 27th June, 2008
Baroness (Kishwer) Falkner and I were the guests on Nile TV’s Politics Show recorded this afternoon (for broadcasting tomorrow), on challenges for democracy in the Middle East and the wider Islamic world. In a wide-ranging discussion, moderated by presenter Nihal Saad, we covered a wide spectrum of issues from poverty and education to authoritarianism and the attitude to women’s role in society among some conservative Muslim groups, not least in the Arabian Gulf. Kishwer worked as the International Relations Officer of the Liberal Democrats and then for the Commonwealth Secretariat in London before being elevated to the House of Lords, where she speaks on home and justice issues, among other things. Having been born in Pakistan and having spent substantial time in Arab countries as varied as Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, she was a well-informed and sometimes quite provocative (in the positive sense of the word) co-debater.
Both on the TV show and in conversations with others during the day here in Cairo, I’ve been struck even more than ever by how agrieved people even in a country such as Egypt feel about certain aspects of Western policy, not just the unjust and illegal Iraq War, but also matters such as double standards on Israel-Palestine and concerns about the difficulty of obtaining visas and the perceived wariness of both Europeans and North Americans vis-a-vis Arabs since 9/11. Kishwer (who describes herself as a ‘secular Muslim’) rightly pointed to an excessive tendency among some Muslims to see themselves as victims. But in certain instances, that’s what they really are.