Ed Husain

The Arab Street

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

Something Foul in Cairo

by Ed Husain Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Head of Egypt's ruling military council Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi in Cairo September 13, 2011 (Amr Nabil/Courtesy Reuters).

This week, Egypt’s SCAF announced that parliamentary elections will now begin on November 28. Putting aside complaints about the repeatedly postponed, complex, and months-long election process being unleashed on a nation that has high illiteracy rates and little experience of democracy—why is Field Marshall Tantawi suddenly out shaking hands in the streets of Cairo?

In a widely circulated video on YouTube, heavily criticized by Egyptians on Twitter and Facebook, Tantawi is seen in civilian clothing and ostensibly popular on the Arab street.

Is this Tantawi testing Egypt’s political waters? Although there is speculation that the video may be several years old, it is nonetheless causing quite a stir. Egyptian state television commentators went out of their way to praise Tantawi’s appearance as that of a leader. Will he become a presidential candidate for the forthcoming elections? If so, this will be a game changer not just for Egypt, but Washington, DC, too.
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Women in Saudi Arabia: Too Little, Too Late

by Ed Husain Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud attends a Shura assembly on September 25, 2011 in Riyadh, where he announced that Saudi Arabia will allow women to stand for election and vote (Fahad Shaheed/Courtesy Reuters).

It tells us much about the modern media and blogosphere when we get excited about news from Saudi Arabia that essentially means very little. Can women in Saudi Arabia run for office in this Thursday’s municipal elections? No. Can they vote? No. But a post-dated political check by an ailing monarch has made global headlines. And yet, a woman sentenced to ten lashes today in Jeddah for violating a driving ban has received no media attention (thus far).
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Welcome to “The Arab Street”

by Ed Husain Monday, September 26, 2011

Thousands of Egyptian Muslims perform prayers at the Laylat al-Qadr service during the holy month of Ramadan in the street outside an Alexandria, Egypt mosque on August 27, 2011 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Where next for the Arab world?

This was asked when Arab revolutions broke out in the middle of the last century, when army officers squandered popular goodwill and gave their people decades of dictatorship. As now, there was hope in the air. Then, the ideological underwriting for tyrants was pan-Arabism and Arab socialism. Today, the ideology of radical Islamism and the lack of mobilized, political alternatives threaten the street uprisings of young Arabs.

Googlers, Facebookers, and the Twitterati may have helped overthrow military dictators, but these elite, urban youth do not possess political alternatives, constituencies, movements, and trust in parts of their countries where social media has no presence. This mismatch helps explain, for example, why they lost the referendum on changes to the Egyptian constitution in March of this year. The critical mass in most Arab countries is still mobilized by the Muslim Brotherhood and its various offshoots through mosques, organizational networks, trade unions, schools, and even businesses.
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