Ed Husain

The Arab Street

Husain examines politics, society, and radicalism in the greater Middle East.

The Week Ahead: Egypt’s Cabinet Reshuffle, UN Monitors in Syria, Lebanon’s Parliament

by Ed Husain Monday, April 30, 2012
Army soldiers and riot police stand in line as they block off a road leading to the Saudi Arabia Embassy during protests in Cairo (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). Army soldiers and riot police stand in line as they block off a road leading to the Saudi Arabia Embassy during protests in Cairo (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

Egypt. Bowing to continued pressure from the Islamist-dominated Egyptian parliament, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has agreed to reshuffle Egypt’s cabinet. Although the reshuffle is less than parliament leaders had previously demanded—dismissal of the entire cabinet—parliament speaker Saad el-Katatni has accepted the outcome as a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, following protests calling for the Saudi government to release Egyptian human rights lawyer Ahmed al-Gizawy and the subsequent closure of the Saudi embassy in Cairo as well as consulates in Suez and Alexandria, King Abdullah has assured SCAF it will consider reopening the Saudi embassy in the coming days. Read more »

Iran’s Man in Bahrain

by Ed Husain Friday, April 27, 2012
Bahrain's leading Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassem takes part in an anti-government rally in Budaiya on March 9, 2012 (Hamad I Mohammed/Courtesy Reuters). Bahrain's leading Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassem takes part in an anti-government rally in Budaiya on March 9, 2012 (Hamad I Mohammed/Courtesy Reuters).

The dominant narrative in the West, that Bahrain’s opposition figures are somehow deserving of unconditional support because they are opposing an unelected monarchy, deserves scrutiny—the situation on the ground is more complicated than many recognize. In an interview with CFR today, I explain some of the complications and the geopolitical implications of empowering the Bahraini opposition without them first rejecting sectarianism, embracing women’s rights, abandoning violence, distancing themselves from Iran, and returning to the negotiating table. Read more »

Taking the Political Temperature Inside Saudi Arabia

by Ed Husain Wednesday, April 25, 2012
The sun sets behind a minaret in the center of Riyadh (Ali Jarekji/Courtesy Reuters). The sun sets behind a minaret in the center of Riyadh (Ali Jarekji/Courtesy Reuters).

During my visit to Saudi Arabia last week, Saudi friends from various sectors of Saudi life were candid in expressing their sentiments toward government, society, and reforms. I do not wish to divulge their identities, and think that the quotes below from many conversations are self-explanatory about Saudi approaches to issues of domestic concern. While this is not a representative sample, the sentiments being expressed are reflective of one strand of sensitivities on the ground in Riyadh. I know from my own Saudi family members in Jeddah and Medina that their and their neighbors’ views are different from most of what appears below. Nevertheless, most of the quotes below are from English-speaking Saudi men who are educated at Western universities: Read more »

Iran Versus Saudi Arabia: Cold War in the Middle East

by Ed Husain Friday, April 20, 2012
Saudi security forces march during a parade in preparation for the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca (Mohammed Salem/Courtesy Reuters). Saudi security forces march during a parade in preparation for the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca (Mohammed Salem/Courtesy Reuters).

Three countries were on top of the agenda for the many Saudis I met with in Riyadh last week. Again and again, and in passionate terms, Saudi political leaders were keen to stress the importance of arming Syrian opposition players, bombing Iran’s alleged nuclear facilities, and unflinchingly supporting the al-Khalifa monarchy in Bahrain. In their minds, these are not political options, but rather realities on the ground that they worry Washington does not understand. Read more »

Blogging From Saudi Arabia

by Ed Husain Friday, April 13, 2012
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and his brothers, King Fahd and King Faisal, are seen in haj clothes in this picture displayed at a photo exhibition in Riyadh (Handout/Courtesy Reuters). Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and his brothers, King Fahd and King Faisal, are seen in haj clothes in this picture displayed at a photo exhibition in Riyadh (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

I write from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

I lived in Saudi Arabia when the current king came to the throne and I have several Saudi family members—it’s certainly good to be back. In a region engulfed in instability, the malls and mosques of Riyadh offer calm and continuity. But for how much longer? Read more »

What Qatar Can Learn From Pakistan

by Ed Husain Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Pakistan's President Zardari waves after offering prayers at the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in India (B Mathur/Courtesy Reuters). Pakistan's President Zardari waves after offering prayers at the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in India (B Mathur/Courtesy Reuters).

The emir of Qatar and the president of Pakistan were both in India this week. Both leaders hail from Muslim-majority countries in which literalist interpretations of Islam have enjoyed outsize influence on government. In different ways, both Pakistan and Qatar have allowed literalist Islamism of different hues to attempt to obliterate more mainstream expressions of, say, Sufi-influenced, popular Islam. Read more »

Where Next for Egypt’s Salafis?

by Ed Husain Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Supporters of Egyptian Salafi Hazem Abu Ismail, whose eligibility to run for president is being debated in Egyptian courts, display a banner of him during a gathering in Tahrir Square in Cairo (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). Supporters of Egyptian Salafi Hazem Abu Ismail, whose eligibility to run for president is being debated in Egyptian courts, display a banner of him during a gathering in Tahrir Square in Cairo (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

Egypt’s Salafi Islamists are a parting gift from the U.S.-backed Mubarak regime. He had bred Salafis as a counterweight to the more politically minded Muslim Brotherhood, but also as a means of fostering better relations with Saudi Arabia. Little wonder, then, that in the initial days of the Egyptian uprising against Mubarak the Salafi leaders followed the quintessential Saudi Wahhabi line that popular protests were “un-Islamic” and helped spread fitnah or dissension. Read more »

Washington’s Love Affair With Islamists

by Ed Husain Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Mohamed Mursi, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, talks during a news conference in Cairo in April 2011 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). Mohamed Mursi, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, talks during a news conference in Cairo in April 2011 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists from Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, and Libya are in Washington, DC, this week. Having advocated for over a year for issues-based engagement with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, I was delighted to host a delegation from their Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) for meetings at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and Washington. Read more »

Conversations Inside Political Islam

by Ed Husain Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Author Tariq Ramadan talks to the media after a conference at a mosque in France in April 2010 (Stephane Mahe/Courtesy Reuters). Author Tariq Ramadan talks to the media after a conference at a mosque in France in April 2010 (Stephane Mahe/Courtesy Reuters).

The debate inside global Islam about the relevance of religion in politics remains forever vibrant. In a new book written by Oxford University professor Tariq Ramadan, he responds to important questions being asked in Arab capitals by Islamists of different hues and their critics. Ramadan’s book is a timely but problematic contribution to this international conversation. I reviewed his book for the Financial Times here: Read more »

The Week Ahead: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Annan on Syria, Afghan Foreign Minister in Qatar

by Ed Husain Monday, April 2, 2012
Kofi Annan, joint special envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League, gestures during a news conference in Russia on March 26, 2012 (Denis Sinyakov/Courtesy Reuters). Kofi Annan, joint special envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League, gestures during a news conference in Russia on March 26, 2012 (Denis Sinyakov/Courtesy Reuters).

Egypt. A delegation of representatives from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) will visit the United States this week. In media appearances and meetings with civil society organizations, Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, Hussain el-Kazaz, Khaled Qazzaz, and Sondos Asem will explain the FJP’s vision for Egypt and this weekend’s announcement that leading Muslim Brotherhood member Khairat al-Shater will run for president. A spokesperson for the delegation has said they do not plan to meet with U.S. government officials on this trip. Read more »