15 Middle East-related articles I read this week

As a new feature, every week or so I will be posting links to the most interesting or newsworthy articles on the Middle East that I read during this period.

Here are 15 or so from this past week. All worth reading, though some I disagree with and explain why:


(1)  Egypt and the End of the Secular Middle East

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This is a thoughtful article. However, it exaggerates the extent to which Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s was “Secular” by Western standards today.

More importantly, it overlooks the extent to which that somewhat “secular” period of Egyptian history was a deviation from the norm of overall strong religious conservatism by the vast majority of Egypt’s population over the course of history.

The article assumes that the Nasser period with it’s mild secularism was the starting point of Egyptian history.  In fact it was a momentary departure from the overall norm of strong religious conservatism by 90+ % of the population.

What has happened since the 1970s is an entirely predictable return to that non-Secular norm. It was basically inevitable once the Nasserist industrial project failed.

(2)  The Professor and the Jihadi

A truly excellent in-depth look at the French situation with radical Islam, via a profile of the distinguished scholar Gilles Keppel.

Sadly, I believe this is true:

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(3) Campaigners against rejecting young men at restaurants

This is one of those “Saudi is as Saudi is” articles that aren’t very dramatic so they don’t catch the attention of most Western correspondents but are “real World” issues of the type that preoccuppy people there:

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And there is definitely a social class issue here.  Any Saudi upper-middle class or higher is far less likely to have this problem.  In other words, they have more leeway to find other things to do, inside homes etc.

(4)   Christians, in an Epochal Shift, Are Leaving the Middle East

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And the problem of attacks on Christians is almost certainly going to get worse, not better, because the ISIS problem is just beginning. Which makes it critical for the issue of religious freedom to have an upgraded US diplomatic focus in the Middle East.

On that note, see this very good practical Op-Ed with policy recommendations:   Trump, Global religious freedom needs US ambassador to lead


(5)  “عائلات جهادية” أردنية! and  لماذا أصبحن “داعشيات”؟!

Two very good articles by a noted Jordanian scholar – on how the rise of kids and wives of families of Jihadists in Syria  shows how this is far more than just a security issue.  There is a real “Counter-culture” that has to be addressed socio-economically:

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(6)  Why Trump Will Disappoint the Saudis

I don’t think this is true.  There is no way that Riyadh thinks they will get 100% of what they want because that never happens.  But the bottom line is that on all of the really big issues, Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration are very much on the same page.

A better article from a Saudi perspective is here.


(7)   برنامج «الاتجاه المعاكس» هل أصبح من الماضي؟

Watching Al-Itijah Al-Muakiss in 2006 and 2007 and so on was a critical part of my Arabic learning experience.  I must have watched 100 episodes.  However, sadly, the show is past its prime.

(8) Learning Arabic by Matt Walker

Really good post about a fellow Arabic student’s journey

(9) Learning Arabic From Egypt’s Revolution

Truly excellent article

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(10) The Trump-Abbas Meeting: Issues, Constraints and Ways Forward

I went to this panel at WINEP – it was very very good. Filled with practical analysis of the situation as it is.

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