Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Editor's Note

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

The Middle East sometimes seems unchanging. The seeming intractability of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the moment, and the persistent problems of poverty, population growth, and a history of authoritarianism can easily lead one to assume that the region is somehow immune to historical process.

Yet change does occur. In May, Bahrain and Algeria held competitive elections. While democratization still has an uphill battle in most of the region, there are occasional reminders that change is not impossible, and that, in fact, small and incremental changes are occurring.

This issue of The Middle East Journal reminds us of some of those aspects of the region which the crisis managers often neglect or simply do not realize exist. Issues of democratization, education, narcotics control, and even historical preservation are dealt with by this issue's authors. So is the emergence of the Wasat political movement in Egypt.

These may not seem like headline-making articles, but the headlines pass, and today's crisis becomes just one more in a long list of crises which have wracked the area. This issue is an attempt to look at the building-blocks of change.

Professor Sheila Carapico of the University of Richmond has been studying (in part as a Visiting Scholar at the Middle East Institute last year) the impact of foreign assistance on democratization projects in the Arab world. That has become a controversial issue in some countries, and the prosecution of Sa'd al-Din Ibrahim in Egypt reminds us that democracy activists who have taken grants from abroad may face serious problems at home. Prof. Carapico offers an overview of her data and draws some conclusions of interest.

Since the events of September 11, 2001, we have heard many critiques of the educational system in the Arab world, and particularly in Saudi Arabia. As Ambassador William Rugh notes in his article, the sort of data needed really to draw firm conclusions on any alleged links between the educational system and the growth of terrorism are simply not yet available. But some broad characteristics of education, both at the primary/secondary levels and in the post-secondary field, can be described. Ambassador Rugh, who is currently President of AMIDEAST and thus deals with Middle Eastern educational systems on a daily basis, offers us that description.

Many in the West have long been looking for "moderate Islamists," those who combine the yearning for applying Islam to modern society with a desire to do so within the framework of democratization and modernity. …

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