Showing posts from October, 2016

Under pressure, Egyptian president promises change

By James M. Dorsey
Faced with a drop in popularity, intermittent protests against rising prices, and calls for a mass anti-government demonstration, Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, is seeking to appease the country’s youth, soccer fans and activists with promises of change.
Mr. Al-Sisi’s efforts that include a one-time lifting of a ban on spectators attending soccer matches and promises of revisions of Egypt’s draconic anti-protest law as well as a review of the cases of youth detained without trial and monthly meetings with young people to follow up on resolutions of a national youth conference held earlier this month have however provoked sharp criticism even before they got off the ground.
An Egyptian poll reported this month that Mr. Al-Sisi’s popularity had dropped 14 percent.
Writing in Al Masry Al Youm newspaper, journalist Omar Hadi rejected Mr. Al-Sisi’s addressing youth as his sons and daughters, insisting that the country’s youth were citizens with…

Pushing the envelope: The World Cup and Arab revolts drive change

By James M. Dorsey
Pressured by human rights and trade union activists leveraging Qatar's exposure as a World Cup host and influenced by subtle changes sparked by popular Arab revolts in recent years, young Qataris are pushing the envelope, broaching publicly hitherto taboo subjects like homosexuality, women's dress codes, and citizenship.
The pushing of the envelope may be the most marked in Qatar because the prospect of the World Cup in the Guf state has focussed attention on how it will deal with the expected influx of large numbers of soccer fans from less conservative and non-Muslim societies. It is nonetheless reflective of a wider trend in the region in which youth and women are seeking to broaden norms of public and social behaviour.
The trend is further driven by the winds of change sweeping the Gulf as the region’s oil-rich nations unable to continue offering cradle-to-grave security and guaranteed public sector employment are forced to rewrite their social contracts …

Threat of widespread protests justifies continued closure of Egyptian stadia

By James M Dorsey
Egyptian-general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's failed economic policies are prompting protests and widespread expressions of discontent.
While the grumbling is unlikely to mushroom any time soon into a popular revolt similar to the one that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, it goes a long way to explain why Mr. Al-Sisi has refrained from lifting the ban on spectators attending Egyptian soccer league matches. The ban has been in place for much of the last five years.
With an anti-government protest scheduled for November 11 and sporadic ones already occurring, Mr. Al-Sisi fears that like in 2011, stadia, if opened, could again become rallying points for the discontented and disaffected.
Militant, politicized, and street battle-hardened soccer fans played a key role in the walk-up to the 2011 revolt, the protests on Tahrir Square that forced Mr. Mubarak out of office, and subsequent demonstrations against successive governments.
A Facebook page titled T…

Blasphemy case highlights devastating impact of Saudi ultra-conservatism on Pakistani society

By James M. Dorsey
This week’s decision by Pakistan’s Supreme Court to delay ruling on an appeal in the country’s most notorious blasphemy case and the thousands of security personnel deployed in its capital, Islamabad, in anticipation of a verdict, lay bare the degree to which Saudi supported ultra-conservative worldviews abetted by successive Pakistani governments have changed the very nature of Pakistani society.
At stake in the court case is more than only the life of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian mother of five who has been on death row since 2010 when she was convicted of insulting the prophet Mohammed in a bad-tempered argument with Muslim women.
The court has yet to set a new date for the appeal, but ultimately its decision on Ms. Bibi’s fate will serve as an indication of Pakistan’s willingness and ability to reverse more than four decades of Saudi-backed policies, including support for militant Islamist and jihadist groups that have woven ultra-conservative worldviews i…

A study in soft power strategy: Iceland 1, Qatar -1

By James M Dorsey
The soccer soft power contrast between Qatar and Iceland speaks volumes. A comparison of the strategies of both countries demonstrates that it takes more than money to leverage soccer to create political, geopolitical and economic opportunity.
Money and world soccer body FIFA’s desire to take one of the world’s foremost sporting events beyond Europe and the Americas helped Qatar win the right to host the 2022 World Cup. Six years after the awarding, Qatar is a nation under fire by human rights and labour activists for its controversial labour regime, has yet to convincingly counter widespread suspicions of wrongdoing in its campaign to win its hosting rights, and is suspected by pro-Israeli circles, Christian conservatives and Arab detractors of supporting militant Islamist groups.
Iceland is a nation that is emerging from virtual bankruptcy in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. It lacked the funds to mount the kind of high-profile, flashy sports diplomacy that …

Siria, entre bombas, sueña con el Mundial (JMD quoted in El Economista)

Esperanza. Sueñan con estar en un Mundial. Foto: Especial MÁS DE 200 FUTBOLISTAS HAN ABANDONADO EL PAÍS ÁRABE Siria, entre bombas, sueña con el Mundial La nación, que está en guerra, únicamente convoca a su selección a quienes apoyan al régimen, el resto se ha ido o unido a las fuerzas rebeldes. Aquí la historia. EDUARDO HERNÁNDEZ CASTRO OCT 4, 2016 | 20:03 COMPARTIR FACEBOOK TWITTER LINKEDIN ENVIAR IMPRIMIR Archivado en: Deportes Conflicto En Siria Futbol Mundial Impreso Siria DXT Esperanza. Sueñan con estar en un Mundial. Foto: Especial

Rare agreement between Saudi and Iranian Islamic scholars: soccer poses a threat

By James M. Dorsey
Sunni scholars in Saudi Arabia and their Shiite counterparts in Iran may be at war over who is a Muslim, but there is one thing they agree on: soccer detracts from religious obligations. Iran, in the latest skirmish between soccer and Islam, is debating the propriety of playing a 2018 World Cup qualifier against South Korea on October 11, the day Shiites celebrate Tasua, the 9th day of the month of Moharram, one of the holiest days in the Shiite calendar on which the faithful commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad.
The Iranian debate erupted six years after Saudi clerics parked flatbed trucks in front of Internet cafés to persuade fans to break away from watching matches being played in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa at prayer time. Imams rolled out red carpets to entice fans to pray.
The incident highlighted the concern of conservative men of the cloth irrespective of what branch of Islam they adhere to who see soccer as …