Critical Dialogue Between Islamists, Leftists and Liberals in the Arab World_ Threats to National Cohesion and Stability , Closing Session

epa000524760 An anti-government Kefeya (Enough) Movement demonstrator holds a sign that reads "Enough" as several hundred protestors took to the streets in downtown Cairo Saturday 10 September 2005 to show their opposition to the election results that showed incumbent President Hosni Mubarak receiving an overwhelming 88 percent of the vote. Nour who came in second with 7.5 percent contents there were election irregularities and fraud. EPA/MIKE NELSON

The threats to the cohesion of national entities and ways of dealing with them are the subject of the fourth and closing session of the research program “Critical dialogue between islamists, leftists and liberals in the Arab world”, launched two years ago.

It was started with the study of the processes and outcomes of the alliances built in 2004 and 2005 in several Arab countries (Kifaya in Egypt, October 18 in Tunisia, the Damascus declaration, the Common Alliance in Yemen). The aim in studying these experiences, before broadening the scope to all countries and movements, was to identify common grounds of consensus and to act remaining points of divergence in order to focus on major issues such as the need for state neutrality, the peaceful management of disagreements among political forces within built alliances or without. Other issues of debate include criteria and terms of reference for control; is there a need for a censorship body or should litigation before the law be the rule; the freedom of the media; positions on legal equality for women; the explosive problems of minorities and their right to equal citizenship; and the issues of personal freedoms and their definition.

All of these issues were discussed during three previous sessions by a work group of 22 scholars representing various intellectual and political trends from different parts of the Arab world who wrote papers to be published in a book.

The project has now come to its fourth and final session dedicated to the threats on national entities (state cohesion and social stability) starting with the cases of Yemen and Sudan. The introducers are Dr Haydar Ibrahim, director of the Center for Sudanese Studies (member of the ARI network), and Dr Muhamad Mikhlafi for Yemen. Both cases can be seen as extreme, but their specificity could be taken as patterns for the countries of the region.

The second session will focus on areas of ambiguity and questions in need of further discussion, to finally come out with how to benefit from the dialogue process, and proposals on how to move forward.