Middle Eastern Governments: An Annotated Bibliography

Middle East Solution

“Muslim societies in general, particularly those in the Middle East, are marked by diversity. The example of Iraq, which is a mosaic of Arab, Kurdish, and Turkoman ethnic groups as well as Sunni, Shi 'ah, and other religious groups, suffices to prove this point.” (Bican Sahin, “Toleration, Political Liberalism, and Peaceful Coexistance in the Muslim world”) As this so eloquently puts it, the so-called “Muslim” people are actually a very varied group of people—all of whom have different interests and, to an extent, different beliefs. This is the main place where American attempts at diplomacy always falter. They cannot seem to understand that there is a very large difference between different kinds of Muslims, just like there is between different kinds of Americans. America has always considered itself the melting pot, but it seems that more than just America has many kinds of beliefs.

The main problem with American attempts at diplomacy is that, instead of trying to make intelligent deicions, we continue the same foolish procedure of drawing boundary line after boundary line without knowing what they mean for the people who live there. One could say that different beliefes coexist easily in our country, but their beliefs aren’t just those of religion—they believe fundamentally different things about government as well, and don’t have the resources to travel from place to place—don’t have any way of mobilizing to the country they want to live in—the country with their beliefs. We try to force a constitution onto them, but it must be left up to them to determine their own constitution, on and in their own time, not earlier—a forced or hurried constitution will only increase instability in the region—something that can not be afforded. After all, our interference only makes it harder for them to develop something they are likely to use—something compatible with their interests instead of ours. US force in any way related to the issue also has the unfortunate side effect of making the people of the region feel like we see them as children, unable to solve their own problems, while the improving situation in Iran proves us wrong—showing that we shouldn’t be there. This is the source of no small amount of the ire other countries hold for us. The climate in Iran proves that the people of these countries are more than willing to reform themselves—that they don’t need or want US aid. The actions of the United States and their subsequent aftershocks in Iraq and Afganistan also serve to prove that such aid has profoundly negative effects.

These arbitrary lines look, seem, and in many ways, are unfair to everyone involved. After World War II we made a large number of mistakes in dividing land, resulting in the states of chaos in Africa and the Middle East. While Africa is a very serious problem, the Middle East is still a transient region, and can be re-divided properly. But it will take a hands off approach, not the hands on approach we have been using. There are times where it is better for the world for America to stop representing its own interests and allow other countries the time and space they need to develop and grow.

I chose the sources that I chose were selected very carefully. I had to make sure to pick sources with repute, so that I could not be attacked on the basis of my facts, as there are many ways to attack me on the basis of the theories put forth. If their grounding was not very solid, they could not support their weight. I had to pick sources not only from the present day Middle East, but also from the Middle East of years ago, in order to show how much it has changed politically. Many of my articles merely present facts, while a few merely put forth ideas for change, I took these two elements and put them together such that the facts justified the ideas. The focus of the article was Iran, as it was my focus country, and most specifically between the time of the Iatolla and now, as it was a time which was easy to show the changes that have taken place.

Annotated Bibliography

"Constitutional Court Proposes Synchronization of Islamic Laws and Constitution." Antara (Indonesia) March 30 2007.

This newspaper article talks about Indonesian reconciliation of Islamic law and their secular constitution seems unrelated at first, but upon closer examination, is a powerful testament to the ability of nations to reconcile Islam and Constitutions. The fact that another country with less turmoil than the erratic Middle Eastern countries who claim this is impossible to do is considering synchronizing their constitution with the Islamic law is very powerful evidence that it can be done, despite opinions to the contrary. Not only is it positive that Indonesia is taking these actions, but they can be an inspiration to the Muslim world that they too could achieve such a synchonrization. It might take a long time, but this article shows that waiting with progress is better than working for none.

"Taliban Constitution made Public." Upi September 29 2007.

This article describes the problems that the Middle Eastern countries will have to overcome, such as the continued presence of the Taliban in the Middle Eastern region. We must be careful to resist the urge to interfere in these affairs, lest we create an even bigger international mess, but to allow the Muslim people of Afganistan to deal with this problem. Our entry to the region will only create more reasons for the violent anger of the Muslim people to side with the Taliban. They feel angry because the US interferes in all their problems like they are children, and this article shows one of the problems that the Afgans will have to solve for themselves. If the United States attempts to interfere, it will only rally more supporters behind this constitution. This article only reports a fact, and doesn’t need to validate its opinion because it doesn’t profess one.

"Islamists Want Iraqi Kurdish Constitution to Define Status of Islam." BBC Monitoring International Reports October 3 2006.

This newpaper article describes the formulation of the Kurdish constitution and one reporter’s thoughts on it. It is imporant to consider that there are many forces in the nations of the Middle East pushing for more extreme mentions of Islam, and more extreme enforcement of the laws of Islam in the country, but as of the time of this publication, those sentiments remain moderated in language, which shows a very position motion away from capitulating to religious demands simply because they were religious demands, and starting to understand the rationality behind them. It does, however, raise the issue that in a zeal to preserve the rights of the secular folk who have been forced to live under Islamic law, those who believe in Islamic law are also treated and represented fairly.

"Iran Press: Political Group Opposes Electoral System Bill." BBC Monitoring Middle East - Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring November 10 2006.

This newpaper article, by E'temad-e Melli comes from the BBC, so it is probably very reliable. This article, which discusses political activism in Iran is very important. It shows that, unlike many stereotypes of the area, the Iranis are also capable of talking out their problems and exercising their opinion through the correct channels. It goes a long way to show that Iranis do not, like others might think, declare Jihad immediately, or always resort to violence to solve their problems. They prove time and time again that, when left alone, they can, like anyone else, raise a positive and fair government for their people.

Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World. Ed. Richard C. Martin. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. p463-465.

This article discusses the matter of whether having a constitution makes you a constitutional state. While literally, it is true that these the former causes the latter, in spirit, it doesn’t seem to be so in spirit. Many countries have constitutions which are just nearly strict rewrites of Islamic law. Constitutionalism is the idea that a higher order of law can protest people from the legislation of the mob. It doesn’t seem to serve its purpose when it reinforces the same oppression and laws that are so perfectly in the interest of the mob, while labeling everyone else as a heretic. This article accurately identifies the current problem in so many Muslim countries—a misunderstanding of what the term Constitutionalism means. It provides many examples to establish credibility, such as the constitutions of Turkey and Iran to prove its point.

Arjomand, Saïd Amir. "Majlis." Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World. Ed. Richard C. Martin. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004.

Majlis, meaning assembly, is a very important word. In large parts of the Middle East, they have many proper and well constructed governments. The parts of the area devoid of US instrusion have a very balanced and proper economic system—the parts where the United States has shown up and attempted to help are considerably further behind. This article talks about countries like Egypt, which keep pace with the times very effectively, and manage to continue to provide basic rights to all of their citizens, and to avoid keeping anyone oppressed. It is quick to mention, however,that very few of these Majlis have been able to counteract the power of their bloated executive branches, but this article shows that there is hope for the future, and that many Muslim nations are taking steps in the correct direction without being forced to do so. This article has a large amount of credibility as it is the historical article about Majlis written by an Arab about Arabic politics and published in an Arabic Encyclopedia.

"Women's Rights Act Challenged again in Pakistan Supreme Court." BBC Monitoring South Asia - Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring December 15 2006.

This news article from the BBC also talks about how Iranis have been using the system to challenge that which they don’t believe in. Even though what these people want, the repealing of an act providing woman’s rights, is quite regressive, their tactics are very modern. They are using the court system to try to get their rulings they don’t agree with overturned. This piece is also work towards proving that the people of these countries are capable of designing and maintaining their own highly effective governments. It seems that we just need to give Afganistan and Iraq, countries with far better reputations than Iran in the global arena, with the same kind of peace we’ve given Iran, and they too, will develop in the correct way.

"News Summary." New York Times (1/1/1985 to present) (2005): 2.

This summary talks about all of the input given by the Shi’ite Parliament. Most of this article is more of the same, but there is one very important part. Interspersed with the same Shi’ite claim that the constitution should endorse Islam is a request that the United States not take part in the drafting of the constitution. This verbalization of what everyone knows proves that the United States really does need to leave these countries alone in order for them to do what they are going to do. If the US does decide to draft the constitution for the people, they won’t accept it. This further proves the point that the United States must back off and allow the people of these countries to sort things out for themselves, or else the solutions are meaningless. It is also important to realize that they are able to put into place a Shi’ite majority to represent the countries interests better, as opposed to oppression by a Bathist dictatorship. Such an important paper as the New York Times has been trusted for a long time as a provider of objective news is very credible.

"The People Against the Mullahs. (Cover Story)." Economist 354.8158 (2000): 26-8.

This article focuses on Iran’s attempts to balance a strict interpretation of Islamic law with a democratic government. This is a very important article because it provides even more support for the ability of the people of the region to sort out their problems on their own. Under the President at the time, Muhammad Khatami, without any major change in policy, the country had become a more open and free place—just because of the choice of a different President—not even with a Constitutional or even legal change. And the people of the country are aiming to continue that by electing more liberal candidates for the Irani leadership. This means that at some point, these ideals will lead to amendments or rewrites of the constitution—without any outside help from other countries, but simply through the will of the people. The article says it will be a long and hard road, fighting against the religious right every step of the way, but the reformers are frustrated with the religious right that they are finally willing to utilize the system to fight back.

Mwakimako, H. (2004). In Martin R. C. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of islam and the muslim world; material culture. New York: Macmillan Reference USA.

In contrast to my other source, who was very close, both emotionally and geographically to the events I am describing, this source is considerably further from the action. Mwakimako is a member of Zentrum Moderner Orient, the only German research institute performing studies on Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and most importantly, the Middle East. In 2007 he wrote a book entitled Mosques in Kenya. Muslim Opinions on Religion, Politics and Development—this indicates that he is still very much involved in research, and that his work is reliable. It also further underscores the point that the Muslim cultures are very much unique as displayed in their artwork, which varies between the cultures.

Nadirsyah, Hosen,. "In Search of Islamic Constitutionalism." American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 2004: 1-24.

The author of “In Search of Islamic Constitutionalism” talks about the obstacles presenting a constitution from cropping in the Middle East. The main problem is that Islam doesn’t provide a difference between Church and State as is established in the west, and they aren’t ready to endure that kind of tension between their religion and governments. The other side, the secular, thinks that Shari’ah shouldn’t be incorporated into their constitution, because it isn’t governmental, but religious. Rather, both sides say they can’t have a constitution because of their difference in belief on the Church and State issue. Nadirsyah Hosen says that the Shari’ah can provide a backbone for the constitution of Muslim—just as the constitutions of the West are based on the Bible. This means that there is a case for a stable system of government in the region. This is important, because there are very few completely secular constitutions—and even fewer constitutions that aren’t inspired at least slightly by religious ideals. The hope for a partially religious constitution is the same hope as that for a stable Middle Eastern region.

Rouleau, Eric. "Khomeini's Iran." Foreign Affairs 59.1 (1980): 1-20.

Eric Rouleau has proved his credibility by his wide number of papers on Middle Eastern topics such as this. In this article, he describes the conditions after Khomeini’s revolution. I used this article in order to establish a baseline for the changes in Iran during, before, and after Khomeini’s reign. This allows me to determine whether the liberties were in place before the recent changes, or if they are new. It also provides valuable evidence about how the people of this region are willing to lead their own revolutions, such as the one that put Khomeini in power. If the people of Iran were willing to take this kind of actions, there is no reason that the people of Iraq wouldn’t be willing to do, without the somewhat insulting US intervention.

Sahin, Bican. "Toleration, Political Liberalism, and Peaceful Coexistence in the Muslim World." American journal of Islamic Social Sciences Winter 2007: 1-24.

This journal article, written by Bican Sahin, has a lot to say about the interrelatedness of the Muslim cultures, but is also careful to point out that they are all distinct. The differences between Shi’ah and Sunni Muslims is nothing to scoff at. Neither is the racial differences between Arabs, Turkomans, and Kurds—all of whom live in very close proximity, and under the current governments, share many countries. He supports a liberalism as the solution to the problems facing the Muslim world, in the form of governments which, much like ours, don’t bring religion into the picture—they are simply organizations that provide a common solution to a common problem. This means that upon closer inspection of the region, regimes and boundaries have been drawn such that we have blocked this from happening successfully, and that we should step back and allow Liberalism and political evolution to take place.

Theodoulou, Michael. "Jews in Iran Describe a Life of Freedom Despite Anti-Israel Actions by Tehran." Christian Science Monitor 90.47 (1998): 7.

This is another article focusing on Iran, a country that is not controlled or influenced in its governmental decisions by the United States, which talks about the lives of minorities in the country. Another example of how these intolerant societies moderate themselves can be found here in this article. Despite being Jews, the Iranian government and people do not discriminate against the jews in Iran, seeing them as Iranians first. For all the criticism that Iran gets for its strict Islamic constitution and other positions worldwide, the country itself is surprisingly accepting of others. The Jews in Iran are even given representation in Parliament, and are allowed to observe all of their festivals and holidays. If a country like Iran, with such a reputation for intolerance, can moderate itself, then there is plenty of reason that other countries in the same position could do so as well. This source establishes its credibility because all of the claims are backed up by interviews with actual Jews in Iran.

Wilfried, Hofmann, Murad. "Has Islam Missed its Enlightenment?" American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 2002: 1-10.

The author of “Has Islam missed its Englightenment” asserts that the reason for a remarkable lack of rationality and inability to change comes from the fact they never had an Englightenment period much like that of 18th century Europe. The author, however, argues that even the most advanced of scientists eventually turn to religion, attempting to propose that the West took a winding route to get to where the Islamic nations are now. This article also goes to show you that even though they are different from us, they will end up in the same place eventually, but must be allowed to get there their own way—this echoes true not just for science, but also for government—meaning that all the interfering of the West (mostly the US) has been doing has only pushed them backwards, away from a permanent solution, not gotten them any closer to one than they were before. Such invasive actions as those perpetrated by the US give them a common enemy to focus on instead of working out their differences. Once the United States removes itself from such a position, the sooner there will be a stable region that the US could make peace with.
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