• Article // Dec 09, 2014
    Ahmed Benchemsi
    Is there such a thing as Arab liberalism? Judging by U.S. mainstream media coverage, the answer is no. Out of ten stories on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), chances are that nine cover terrorism and sectarian violence—and the tenth, government abuse. What is true for media is even truer for other circles of knowledge production. Washington’s MENA-oriented think tanks are transfixed by ISIS-like fanatic groups and focus what is left of their attention on Muslim Brother-type Islamists (though these lost much currency after the popular uprising and military removal of them in Egypt in 2013) as well as on the varieties of despotic regimes ruling the Arab world. Very little space, if any, is devoted to whatever is in between authoritarian establishments and their religious opponents—namely democratic, secular, liberal civil society actors. It is as if they don’t exist—or don’t count.
  • In a region historically dominated by autocratic regimes, calls for increased levels of democratic participation in government have long been a source of contention between local rulers and their critics.