This week's editor

Alex Sakalis, Editor

Alex Sakalis is associate editor of openDemocracy and co-edits the Can Europe Make It? page.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

The liberal dilemma: integration or vilification?

The origins of the infamous Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed do not lie in an attempt to offer contemporary comment, let alone satire, but the desire to illustrate a childrens' book. While such pictures would have been distasteful to many Muslims – hence why no illustrator could be found – the cartoons are in an entirely different league of offence. They are all unfriendly to Islam and Muslims and the most notorious implicate the prophet with terrorism. If the message was meant to be that non-Muslims have the right to draw Mohammed, it has come out very differently: that the prophet of Islam was a terrorist.

Why Hamas won

The Palestinian election result is not a surprise if read through the prism of Arab political history and culture, says Jim Lederman.

The electoral victory of the militant Islamist movement Hamas in the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) on 25 January 2006 sent shockwaves through western capitals.

The right to caricature God!and his prophets

Believers in free speech must resist Islamist attempts to enforce theocratic censorship, says Doug Ireland.

A carnival of stupidity

The conflagration over Danish cartoons of Islam's prophet reveals that Europe's balance of freedom, mutuality and coexistence is at a trigger-charge moment, says Neal Ascherson.

Muslims and Europe: a cartoon confrontation

The row over the publication of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed raises profound tensions – between freedom of speech and mutual respect, ethics of satire and sacrality, shared values and coexistence, perceived western arrogance and Muslim victimhood. openDemocracy writers respond to the dispute and seek ways forward.

The SWISH Report (5)


In the early part of 2004 you commissioned us to undertake an independent analysis of the progress of your campaign. We reported back to you on 15 July 2004 and were subsequently asked to complete a further assessment that was presented to you on 13 January 2005. You have now asked us to report further and we are gratified that you find our work of use.

We are particularly pleased that you have sufficient confidence in us, bearing in mind that we have since completed reports on a similar theme for the International Security Policy Group attached to the prime minister's office at 10 Downing Street, London (19 May 2005) and the Strategic Advisory Group at the United States state department in Washington (1 September 2005).

Human rights: can we afford them?

The defence of human-rights principles, procedures and conventions is essential to the security of citizens in democratic states fearful of terrorism, says Geoffrey Bindman.

Hamas and political reform in the middle east

The lesson of Palestine's election is that the international community should become more serious and sophisticated about political reform in the middle east, says David Mepham of the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Hamas's stunning victory in the 25 January elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council raises three critical questions for international policymakers:

The Baluchi battlefront

Is Pakistan's western region of Baluchistan burning? Are its bitterly contested gasfields aflame? Are fuel supplies to Pakistani cities, which rely wholly on the national Sui gas grid, being cut off?

After Hamas: a time for politics

The electoral earthquake in Palestine has produced a new political landscape which Palestinians, Israelis and the international community all now have to face, says Eóin Murray.

On Friday night, 27 January, the taxi I was travelling in through Gaza city turned a corner and drove directly into the head of a march by supporters of the Fatah movement headed by Mahmoud Abbas. They were walking towards the offices of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), supposedly to protest against the Fatah leadership.

A Palestinian choice

As Hamas sweeps to a democratic victory, Yasser Abu Moailek reports on the paradoxes of power in the Palestinian territories, and what the future may hold.

It was smooth, democratic and non-violent. This is how the Islamist resistance movement Hamas rose to power in the Palestinian territories after a decade of unilateral rule by the pragmatic, secular movement Fatah. The landslide win sent shockwaves not only through the Palestinian population, but across the world, as it brought to a sudden end the Palestinian National Liberation Movement's four decades in power.

The next Afghan war

The deployment of more British troops to Afghanistan underlines the seriousness of an escalating conflict.

A provisional Palestine: road to nowhere

A solution for the Palestinians that falls short of full statehood would be the height of political folly, argues Lindsay Talmud.

Palestinians' time of choice

The pressures of occupation and poverty are undiminished, but the Palestine election is an opportunity for activists to promote a vision of change, finds Eóin Murray.

Fatah's awkward 'independents'

The pressures on Palestine's ruling party come from within its own ranks as well as from its Hamas rivals, reports Yasser Abu Moailek.

Al-Qaida, globalisation and Islam: a response to Faisal Devji

A deliberate ambiguity between the spiritual and the political fuels the symbolic power of the elusive Islamist network, says James Howarth, the translator of Osama bin Laden's "messages to the world".

Endless war

In Afghanistan and Iraq, the opening weeks of 2006 highlight the future direction of United States military strategy.

Undefeated despair

John Berger and his family went to organise painting and drawing workshops for children in Ramallah in November 2005. Here are his reflections.

The United States, nuclear weapons, and Iran

The United States and its British ally are planning to modernise their nuclear-weapons arsenal while castigating Iran for its nuclear-power programme.

Ariel Sharon and Israel's unique democracy

The question of who succeeds Ariel Sharon as Israeli prime minister is less important than to understand what the Israeli polity has become - a new form of democratic governance, says Jim Lederman.

Life after Sharon: Palestinian prospects

What does Ariel Sharon’s sudden departure from politics mean for Palestinians? Jane Kinninmont assesses the outlook for the West Bank and Gaza.

Nepal's folly: talking absolutes at high altitude

The breakdown of the Maoist ceasefire has made for a grim start to 2006 in Nepal. But this is only a symptom of a flawed political culture, says Dharma Adhikari, who appeals for a middle way.

As 2006 dawns, Nepal is at a crossroads. A unilateral ceasefire, declared by the Maoist rebels last year, has broken down and the country is torn between unattractive political alternatives.

A change in the weather

What will happen in 2006? The blinkered logic of United States and British policy on security and the environment offers more fear than hope.

Kashmir Diary

After the immediate shock of the earthquake that hit the Kashmir regions of Pakistan and India, killing nearly 75,000, the approach of winter poses a second deadly threat to the survivors. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy sends a diary full of tragedy, despair and heroism from a Cuban medical camp in the mountains.

Bissian (12 km from Balakot), Pakistan.

Monday December 12th 2005

A new struggle for Afghanistan

A Taliban revival, drawing on exchanges of military expertise with Iraqi insurgents, promises to make 2006 a difficult year for the United States and its Nato allies in Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden's message to the world

Osama bin Laden’s urgent attempt to reconstruct a unified and global Islam from its increasing fragmentation is only one form of a wider global predicament, says Faisal Devji, author of “Landscapes of the Jihad”.

In his address to the American people on 29 October 2004, days before they went to the polls in a bitterly contested presidential election, Osama bin Laden spoke of the profound similarities between the Muslim world and the United States.

Diversity in question

2005 has been a bad year for multiculturalism. Does it need to be reformed or replaced? Reena Bhavnani, Max Farrar, Judith Squires, and Sami Zubaida joined an openDemocracy / Open University panel to discuss living with difference. Sarah Lindon summarises a rich discussion which you can watch by webcast.

Victory in Iraq

The Washington neo-conservatives’ new mantra for counter-insurgency efforts in Iraq - “clear, hold, build” – ignores the facts on the ground.

The day Iraqis have waited for

Amidst violence and insecurity, the vote for a new parliament is the most important event of the year in Iraq, says Zaid Al-Ali.

South Africa and Iraq: the missing example

The successful transition to democracy in South Africa could be an inspiration to Iraqis struggling with their own legacy of violence and dictatorship, says David Mikhail.

Muslims in Britain after 7/7: the problem of the few

The July bombs in London have dominated discussion of British Muslims in 2005. But, says Tahir Abbas, even more important than the social problems of young Muslims is the quality and character of Muslim leadership.

Syria and Lebanon: keeping it in the family

The imperial ambition that drives Syria’s claim to hegemony in Lebanon belies the rhetoric of “sisterhood” employed by Damascus, says Hazem Saghieh.

Iran in Israel's firing-range

The likelihood of an Israeli attack on Iran is increasing.

The CIA archipelago

Europe’s belated shock and outrage at news of America’s transfer of “secret prisoners” may have lasting political effects, says Michael Naumann.

The Arab Gulf states: fighting terror lawfully

Arab as well as western states are introducing new laws for an age of terrorism. Mohamed Al Roken, professor of public law at UAE University, evaluates the counter-terrorist laws passed in two Gulf states in 2004 in light of historical and modern international experience.
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