Arab Middle East

The Fourth Wave

Alexis de Tocqueville once wrote that all the great events of the past 700 years—from the Crusades and English wars that decimated the nobles, to the discovery of firearms and the art of printing, to the rise of Protestantism and the discovery of America—had the ineluctable effect of advancing the principle of equality. Political scientist Samuel Huntington went further and identified several historical waves of democratization. The First Wave began with our own revolution in 1776, which was quickly followed by the French Revolution.

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The Reality of Revolution

In both the euphoria and the apprehension that have accompanied the popular uprisings in the Arab Middle East that, no matter who succeeds them, have already resulted in the fall of two tyrants and the first credible threats to several more, there has been much talk about freedom and democracy and about secularism versus Islamism. Predictably, if also dishearteningly, there has been an avalanche of the usual cyber-utopian techno-babble about the emancipatory potential of the Bluetooth devices and Twitter feeds for which authoritarian tyrannies are said to be no match.

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Clerical Terror

If we needed reminding, the carnage in Mumbai proved yet again that South Asia is home to some of the world's deadliest Islamist terrorists. Usually missing from press coverage, though, is any sense of the origin of these movements, which are often assumed to be tied to the grievances of the Arab Middle East and the fate of Jerusalem. That is a misconception. Historically, the roots of radical Islam belong at least as much in South Asia as in the Middle East. And one individual, wholly unfamiliar to most Westerners, played an indispensable role in founding and shaping that movement.

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