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Saeed Rahnema Dr. Saeed Rahnema is an award-winning professor of political science and equity studies, now retired, from York University. He was the founding Director of York’s School of Public Policy and Administration. In his homeland Iran, he taught and worked as a member of the executive of the Industrial Management Institute in Tehran. He has also served as an officer of the UNDP, as a Director of the Middle East Economic Association (MEEA), and as a member of editorial boards of several journals. He is a frequent commentator in Canadian and international media on issues related to the Middle East and Islam. He is the author of several books and numerous articles in English and Persian on topics such religious fundamentalism, secularism, diaspora, and multiculturalism.

Netanyahu and Khamenei’s political tango

| October 8, 2015
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a right-wing rally in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square

On the surface it appears that no other two political leaders hate each other more than Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel. However, while no love is lost between these two fellows who would want to bring harm to each other’s nation, both have discovered that they badly need each other to cover up the messes they have created in their own respective countries and in the region. More …

Refugee Crisis: Are those most responsible the least affected?

| September 8, 2015

The tragic photo of the Syrian little boy washed ashore in the Mediterranean is truly shocking. So are the video clips of the mass of asylum seekers and immigrants from the Middle East and Africa in Budapest’s central train station, and young people cutting through barbed wires, barriers and walls that have been erected to keep them away from Europe. More …

Rethinking the idea of an ‘Arab Awakening’

| July 2, 2015
Women shout slogans against the government and members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists during a protest against the absence of a women parliamentary quota in the constitution and to demand more women rights in front of the Shura Council in Cairo November 13, 2013. According to a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll on 22 Arab states, Egypt emerged as the worst country to be a woman in the Arab world today, followed closely by Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Egypt scored badly in almost every category, including gender violence, reproductive rights, treatment of women in the family and their inclusion in politics and the economy. The banner reads, "No Brotherhood and Salafists, We are the revolutionary legitimacy." To match Analysis ARAB-WOMEN/SPRING REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany  (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTX15BQ5

Following the amazing upheavals in much of the Arab world that came to be known as Arab Spring, some media and scholars began using the term ‘Arab Awakening.’ Many still do. I have had problems digesting this title, what it implies and the narrative it reinforces.

The immediate thing that comes to mind is that it implies over 400 million people in 22 countries had been politically dormant and are now ‘awakening.’ I am not a scholar of Arab history and am not an Arab myself, but I have sufficient knowledge of the region to know that a large number of Arab intellectuals — Muslims, Christians, Jews and non-religious — have over a century been struggling for rights and justice in opposition to the colonial/imperial dominance, as well as the local despots/dictators and obscurantist religious leaders. More …

Jerusalem: A city on edge

| November 11, 2014

With recent violent unrest, Jerusalem is once again in turmoil. It is a most amazing and craziest city in the world. In the labyrinthine bazaars of the old city in East Jerusalem, ultra-orthodox Jews with their long, braided hairs hurriedly pass by the fully veiled Muslim women, while some Christians carry a large cross on their shoulders to experience the sufferings of Jesus. It is a city of contrasts and contradictions.

The old city of Jerusalem is the singularly most contested city in human history. Early pagans built their monuments there. Then came the Jews, twice building their temple on the same location, only to be ruined by Babylonians and then Romans. At the dawn of Christianity, Christ challenged the Roman authorities and was crucified there, and later Christians built the holy Church of Sepulcher close to the ruins of the temple. With the emergence of Islam, Prophet Mohammad is believed to have used the location for his night journey to heaven. Then Arab Muslims came and built the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque on top of the compound that Jews call Temple Mount, and named it the Noble Sanctuary.

Why all the wise prophets chose this location originally is beside the point. What is important is that claims placed on this most historical real estate, have lead to so many wars, crusades, and occupations. More …

Gaza and the West Bank: Israel’s two approaches and Palestinians’ two bleak choices

| October 6, 2014

The areas now known as the West Bank and Gaza, despite geographic differences, were once similar in social, cultural and economic terms. But through a long process of one occupation after another, they were set apart and differentiated.

Israel’s recent incursion in Gaza follows a pattern of harsher policies of suppression, compared to its counterpart to the East, after the two territories were created in 1948.

Since their establishment, Gaza has often been more underdeveloped, and its residents less educated, more impoverished and more reliant on foreign donations, compared to those in the West Bank. How has this different reality and treatment come to be? To understand the military action earlier this year, we need to understand the historical background that has defined the status of Gaza, the divisions between the two Palestinian regions, and Israeli policies towards them. More …

An Unjust Appointment

| August 28, 2013

In the closing screens of the movie A Fish Called Wanda, the character Otto West, a repulsive American criminal, migrates to apartheid-era South Africa where he becomes the Minister of Justice. There is a disturbing echo of this Hollywood comedy in the real-life political tragedy of today’s Iran, where an individual formerly involved in crimes against humanity, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, has been named Minister of Justice by the new President, Hassan Rouhani. Otto West’s character was a stupid short-tempered hitman who claimed to have killed for the CIA. Pourmohammadi is a hardcore zealot cleric responsible for numerous real killings and assassinations. More …

Election Illusions and Realities in Iran

| June 19, 2013

A salient message released in Iran – one of many numerous satirical dispatches released during last week’s presidential elections – said, “In other countries people go to the poll booths to elect their favourite candidate; in Iran we line up to vote in order to prevent a particular candidate from winning.” This indeed reflects the attitude and reaction of Iranians to an ‘engineered’ electoral process. More …

The Politics Behind the Bazaar Demonstrations

| October 9, 2012
On one side of a rift

The demonstrations that erupted on Oct. 2 in front of the Tehran bazaar were in reaction to the growing economic crisis and continued currency plunge in Iran (the rial has lost more than two-thirds of its value in the past year). They also reflect the deep political crisis and the associated tensions that are escalating among the ruling clique.

Those in power in the Islamic Republic of Iran, calling themselves “Principlists,” belong to the same hardline clerical-military-industrial oligarchy. However, after eliminating the so-called “reformists” of the regime, they have now split into several factions: the “traditional Principlists” are mostly Friday prayer imams and have strong links with the merchants of the mighty bazaar; the “United Front of the Principlists” is powerful in the Islamic Majlis (parliament); and the “Paydari Front” controls the presidency and the government. More …