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  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 07-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Having come into existence by virtue of Iranian military and financial patronage, Hizballah has used massive Iranian support to transform itself from a purely military group into an armed political party that has had an enduring impact on Lebanese political life and served as an outpost of Islamic fundamentalism in the region.
  • Topic: Economics, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iran, Lebanon
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 06-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Acting Lebanese interior minister Ahmad Fatfat arrived in Washington June 20 for his first official visit in his new capacity. The U.S. trip comes one month after a radical Sunni Islamist organization was legalized in Lebanon, and just weeks after thousands of Shiite Hizballah supporters rioted in Beirut after the broadcast on LBC television of a comedy skit satirizing Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah. These developments highlight growing tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in Lebanon. Unchecked, this dynamic could lead to a resumption of the type of conflict that has long plagued Lebanon and threaten the gains of the Cedar Revolution.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Development, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay
  • Publication Date: 05-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On May 17, a gunman chanting Islamist slogans attacked the Turkish Council of State (the Danistay, or high court for administrative affairs) in Ankara. The gunman killed one judge and wounded four others who were sitting in the Council's second chamber, which has recently upheld Turkey's ban on “turbans” in schools. In accordance with the European and Turkish notion of secularism (laïcité in French) as freedom from religious symbols in the public sphere, Turkey bans public officials and school students wearing turbans—a specific style of women's headcover that emerged in the mid 1980s and that the courts consider an Islamist political symbol. (Turbans are distinct from traditional headscarves, which are not banned.) Photographs of the judges had earlier been published in Islamist newspapers with headlines targeting them.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 05-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On April 18, the Jordanian government announced it had discovered a cache of weapons -- including rockets, C-4 explosives, and small arms -- in a northern Jordanian town. Jordanian authorities said the weapons belonged to Hamas and had entered Jordan from Syria. Subsequently, Jordan arrested ten Hamas militants and cancelled a scheduled visit by Palestinian Authority (PA) foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas leader. While the discovery of these weapons underscores Hamas's continuing efforts to prepare for terrorist acts even while it proclaims a tahdiya (period of calm), it also has important implications for internal Jordanian politics and the rising influence of Jordan's own Islamist movement.
  • Topic: Government, Religion, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, Syria, Jordan
  • Author: Michael Young
  • Publication Date: 01-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: When Shiite ministers recently “suspended” their participation in the Lebanese cabinet, though without resigning, it highlighted an increasingly apparent reality in post-Syria Lebanon: Two powerful camps coexist today. One, led by Hizballah, in alliance with the Amal movement, sits atop a Shiite community generally, though not unanimously, supporting their positions. The other reflects a cross-communal parliamentary majority, the cornerstone of which is the Sunni-led Future Movement of Saad Hariri, son of the murdered former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Ben Fishman, Mohammed Yaghi
  • Publication Date: 01-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On Wednesday, January 25, Palestinian voters will elect a new Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) for the first time since the initial PLC was elected ten years ago. The participation of Hamas in the elections marks a turning point in Palestinian politics; the group boycotted the original 1996 ballots as part of its rejection of the Oslo process. Ensuring a smooth transition from elections to the seating of the new PLC will require passing several hurdles, not the least of which is protecting balloting and vote-counting from violent disruptions. Assuming election day proceeds without incident—no small matter given the level of domestic lawlessness over the last several weeks—Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas will then face the challenge of selecting a prime minister to form the next government. What remains unknown is precisely how well Hamas will finish in relation to Abbas' own Fatah party, and whether a tight race will lead Abbas to include Hamas as an active partner in the next Palestinian government—or, indeed, whether a poor Fatah showing might prompt Abbas to resign.
  • Topic: Development, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine
  • Author: Joseph Chinyong Liow
  • Publication Date: 09-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Both Thailand and the Philippines are home to Muslim minorities which have been engaged in persistent, at times virulent, conflict with the central Thai and Philippine governments for decades. While these drawn-out internal conflicts have primarily been ethno-nationalist in character, they appear to be taking on a more explicit religious dimension as a result of a range of factors. These include the failure of secular nationalism in achieving the ends of the respective rebellions, the resultant search for alternative (and presumably more effective) ideological impetus, the role of exogenous stimuli and catalysts such as the radicalization of local mujahideen volunteers involved in the international jihad waged in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation, and the impact of post-9/11 events on Muslim worldviews. Against the backdrop of ongoing international concern for Islamic terrorism, which is increasingly manifesting itself as a transnational phenomenon built on collaboration between jihadi terrorist and militant groups that capitalize on grievances throughout the Ummah, interest in the religious character of local conflicts, such as those under scrutiny in this monograph, have, not surprisingly, taken on greater urgency. Accordingly, what was not previously seen to be conflicts with decidedly religious contents are today being increasingly portrayed and understood in numerous policy, media, and security studies circles as a phenomenon driven and defined by Muslim radicalism, militancy, and international jihadi terrorism.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Government, Religion
  • Political Geography: Thailand, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Nichole Argo
  • Publication Date: 04-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: MIT Center for International Studies
  • Abstract: Suicide terror has become a daily news staple. Who are these human bombs, and why are they willing to die in order to kill? Many observers turn to Islam for an explanation. They cite the pre-ponderance of Muslim bombers today, indoctrination by extremist institutions, and the language used in jihadi statements.
  • Topic: Security, Politics, Religion, Terrorism
  • Author: Amr Hamzawy
  • Publication Date: 07-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Before any significant political reform can take place in the Arab world, the United States and Europe need to begin engaging moderate Islamists, an action less thorny than it might seem because Islamists have embraced democratic procedures and have shown a strong commitment to the rule of law. For a long time Arab regimes have frightened the United States and Europe into supporting regimes' repressive measures toward Islamist movements by invoking the nightmare of anti-Western fanatics taking power through the ballot box. However, today's moderate Islamists—while illiberal in many important respects—no longer match the nightmare. Excluding them from the political sphere weakens the chances of democratic reform and increases the likelihood that eventually they will resort to violence.
  • Topic: International Relations, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Instead of healing the growing divisions between Iraq's three principal communities -- Shiites, Kurds and Sunni Arabs -- a rushed constitutional process has deepened rifts and hardened feelings. Without a strong U.S.-led initiative to assuage Sunni Arab concerns, the constitution is likely to fuel rather than dampen the insurgency, encourage ethnic and sectarian violence, and hasten the country's violent break-up.
  • Topic: Government, Religion, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries, Kurdistan