Arab awakening: Qatar’s controversial alliance with Arab Islamists

From Open Democracy:

Secular activists and politicians in Egypt and officials in Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – each for their own reasons – have watched with alarm as the Gulf state, Qatar, and its pan-Arab media arm Al Jazeera have promoted the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and allied Islamist groups such as Ennahda in Tunisia. Continue reading Arab awakening: Qatar’s controversial alliance with Arab Islamists

Saudi Succession Struggle: One Man Down

The news on Sunday that the deputy Saudi defence minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan had been removed from his post comes after a series of position changes among senior Saudi princes that have sped up in recent months as King Abdullah closes in on 90 years old, if he isn’t already there. Things began to heat up in earnest from 2009 when veteran interior minister Prince Nayef, like Abdullah, one of the first generation of sons of the modern state’s founder King Abdulaziz, was made second deputy prime minister, a surprise move from a king who was known not to get on with a powerful half-brother seen as the real strongman on the ground. Nayef died last year, since which time the jockeying among the sons of the main sons of Abdulaziz – Abdullah, Fahd, Nayef, Salman, Sultan – has intensified dramatically, or at least what we might call dramatic in the Saudi context. Continue reading Saudi Succession Struggle: One Man Down

Inside Doha: A City as Empty Canvas

doha1In a seminal work published in 1970, writer Alvin Toffler managed to capture the sense of a world of such immense change at the physical, economic, political and social level that all were afflicted in one way or another by what he termed “future shock“. In his book of the same name Toffler identified a key phenomenon of the times, the stress and alienation of modern Western living; realizing the omnipotent and ominous role of media in the psycho drama of “super-industrial” societies, he also coined the phrase “information overload”. Continue reading Inside Doha: A City as Empty Canvas

Why Doha isn’t about to give up the Brotherhood

It has become rather fashionable in some circles to predict the imminent demise of Qatar’s alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Brotherhood calques around the Arab world. I don’t see it happening, and here’s why: Continue reading Why Doha isn’t about to give up the Brotherhood

When East doesn’t meet West at an art auction

farhad_moshiri_untitled_d5665810hMixing East and West has become such a cliche that first mention of it is enough to shut down interest in any given context. EastWest-ism is still doing well in the art world, though. One of celebrated Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri’s works, an untitled oil and acrylic on canvas that is part of his Numeral series, was unnecessarily subjected to it in the catalogue for the Christie’s Dubai auction this week. Lines of numerals are set against a background of shades of green that suggest the texture of unearthed artefacts from the past. As Christie’s notes, the numbers have a graffiti-like, Pop Art appearance but on a canvas skilfully manipulated by Moshiri to give an antique effect. But that alone seems to have led the authors to conclude baldly: “This example subtly melds Eastern and Western concepts.” It seems that Moshiri’s binary of the past and the contemporary has been liberally redefined as “east (past), west (present)”. The notes for another in the Numeral series from 2011 suggested more usefully: “the almost military alignment of the stylized numbers is visually overwhelming and inevitably raises questions on their role: do we live in a world ruled by numbers? Is history simply a long string of successive dates?” Continue reading When East doesn’t meet West at an art auction

The Human Touch in Jeddah: A Saudi Film

Ahd Kamel’s Sanctity was a real surprise at the Gulf Film Festival. Saudi cinema has taken off in recent years despite a multitude of obtacles – an informal ban on public cinema houses and state funding of cinema, and frequent interference from the religious police in attempts to promote cinema such as the Jeddah film festival that began in 2007. Individuals such as Saudi director Haifaa Mansour have, however, represented a beacon of hope for budding directors, with a series of works that have been well-received in international film forums, including last year’s WadjdaContinue reading The Human Touch in Jeddah: A Saudi Film

On Analysts’ Mea Culpa: The Brotherhood Is In This To Win

Many Egyptian social media activists and analysts opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood have taken a sharp line against Western analysts who appeared to be bigging up the Brotherhood during the latter period of the Mubarak years. You thought the Brotherhood were a cuddly bunch of moderate Islamists who would key to creating a new, more balanced, at-one-with-itself Egyptian political order after the brutality and stultification of Mubarak’s police state, they argue. Some of those analysts, of course, have continued to defend the Brotherhood in the post-Jan 25 political landscape, with a discourse that appears to complement the positive approach of the U.S. government, but the major part of the debate has focussed on the wider picture: did specialists misread the Islamist movement? Continue reading On Analysts’ Mea Culpa: The Brotherhood Is In This To Win

Homogenising the Middle East

The destruction of a synagogue in Damascus is the latest manifestation of a fundamental, and troubling, shift going on in the Middle East. The Jobar Synagogue, thought to be 2,000 years old, was looted and burned to the ground. Both the government and the Islamist-dominated rebels are denying they were behind it, but either way the incident appears to have been a deliberate act. It’s not the first time historical sites have been damaged in the suicidal violence of the Syrian civil war, nor the first time that minorities have been targetted. Continue reading Homogenising the Middle East