The Future of Democracy in the Islamic World: Anwar Ibrahim, Nathan Brown, Shibley Telhami


On February 11th, I had the privilege of chairing this address sponsored by the New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force by former Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and panel discussion with the University of Maryland & Brookings/Saban Center’s Shibley Telhami and George Washington University’s Nathan Brown.
Anwar Ibrahim now heads the Opposition in the Malaysian Parliament — and is one of the leading figures that Muslim opposition leaders throughout the Middle East have been calling for counsel.
I think that this was a very important talk — and hope you find it useful.

— Steve Clemons


24 comments on “The Future of Democracy in the Islamic World: Anwar Ibrahim, Nathan Brown, Shibley Telhami

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I see Nadine’s comment, that prompted my 11:49 post, has been removed. Kinda leaves my comment wafting in midair, with no apparent launching point.
    Curious that Nadine’s comment made it through the moderation scanner, but was removed after boarding.
    Call it “Mood Moderation”. I suspect the cook got Steve’s egg yolks perfect for breakfast, but over-cooked his steak at lunch time.


  2. JohnH says:

    “Regionally, Israel is the biggest loser. It has put all its eggs into the basket of Arab dictators and autocrats, like Egypt’s deposed Hosni Mubarak. Israel fought tooth and nail to support Mr Mubarak, who played a key role in tightening the siege of Gaza and the noose around Hamas’s neck.”


  3. questions says:

    Right after the FETUS TESTIFIES in the Ohio legislature (I’m not kidding!), perhaps they’ll conjure up someone who died for lack of decent Medicaid benefits — that’d be something to see — not that we could see it on camera since ghosties don’t appear on camera!
    Or maybe they could get some kids to testify about how Kasich’s budget is going to screw them over.


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Its kinda interesting to note the kinds of comments that are being excised from the discussions, while noting the the kind of underhanded and despicable attack on our host, such as we see above, are allowed.
    One of the most sleazily despicable kind of ad hominem I’ve seen here is the using of Steve’s openly expressed homosexuality to drive home a point. And it is a tactic used often by Pearlman and Nadine.
    And Nadine expressing the opinion that someone has “selective moral outrage” is the very pinnacle of hypocricy.


  5. DonS says:

    What Kervick said at 12:18: “More character assassination and smearing ad hominems” from the right wing bigots. It’s not working. Pleas for civility don’t work where the agenda is to destroy reason and civility, subtly or aggressively. Tolerance for the odious only emboldens the odious while disarming the rest. It has pretty much destroyed the positive vibe here and left the field to the haters, as if they didn’t have enough megaphones.


  6. questions says:

    Wow! Obama is going to run a defragging program on the hard drive of the US gov’t:
    “Reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could potentially save billions of taxpayer dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services,” the GAO said. Merging or terminating operations as recommended in the report could save up to several billion dollars.
    And just like when I defrag my hard drive, nothing seems to change! But iTunes is all stored adjacent to itself and Word is back together…..
    And then it scatters again because the scattering is part of the functioning of the system.
    Give up all hope ye who enter!


  7. questions says:

    Here’s another issue for democracy — what do we do about buyers’ remorse?
    For a crappy computer, you can return it. For moldy food, you can return it.
    For a crappy governor?
    He’s losing Republicans, he’s losing independents, and any dems dumb enough to have voted for them, well, that’s pretty obvious.
    Walker backed himself into a corner. Recall undoes a legit election. There’s real tension here that has to be worked out. But Walker has so overstepped….. Re-election concerns are supposed to be a check on this kind of overstepping.
    Tyrants don’t have this problem, or maybe they suddenly do. And wars are starting to seem an overreach, and other gov’t crises. Maybe our politicians need to figure out how not to overreach, as the worldwide tolerance for overreach seems to be greatly diminished for now.


  8. Cee says:

    A spokesman for a Libyan rebel group says his organization does not want foreign governments to intervene in their struggle against Moammar Gaddafi


  9. questions says:

    By the fruits of their labor ye shall know them (does that make any sense at all?)
    Oh, no Mr. Bill……,0,4037826.story
    A charter school is renewed. It has high test scores. It let the students study from the actual tests to be given. Smart school. Smart students. See, only the scores matter, not how you got them.
    Mr. Bill, the more the data matter, the more you’ll see fudging on those very data. (I didn’t come up with this idea, by the way. It’s a meme based on a quip, or a sort of Peter Principle or Murphy’s Law.)
    You won’t get the truth from measuring. For all sorts of statistical reasons, and for all sorts of quite human reasons, the truth does not come from metrics.
    Education just isn’t what you think it is.
    Read Rousseau’s Emile, Plato’s Republic, and, I dunno, some Paolo Freire or something. Go teach in a classroom. Talk to Tony Danza. Investigate Michelle Rhee. See what it is you’re trying to sell us to make your next 50 billion — maybe you could just deliver all the computerized lectures k-12, all subjects, “The Gates Method for Fractions,” “The Gates Method for 4th Grade Grammar,” “Bill Gates’s Favorite Science Fair Projects that Need No Supplies, Supervision, Creativity, or Thought,” sell the drugs that keep the kids parked in front of their Microsoft Brand Computers, running Microsoft Brand Software, listening to the CEO and Founding Father of Microsoft America ™ — and all will be saved and you’ll get rich, finally! Cuz that Carlos Slim dude and that Hosni guy seem to be a little bit ahead of you!


  10. questions says:

    The future of Education in the American World, A “Dialogue” between Bill Gates, Billionaire-at-Large and questions, anonymous-poster-limited:
    “Over the past four decades, the per-student cost of running our K-12 schools has more than doubled, while our student achievement has remained virtually flat. ”
    questions replies:
    Over the past four decades, the cost of a postage kinda went up. Just googled — it was 6 cents!!! And now it’s like 44 cents. All the distances are the same and FUCK it takes a ton more money to send my fucking electric bill across town. WTF.
    How could this be? I’m telling you, it’s the overpaid and undertrained US Postal Service. Geeze, if the price of computer memory could go DOWN between 1970 and now, why don’t all labor costs go down just as much? Why isn’t food cheaper? Why isn’t everything cheaper? Why don’t we just have slave laborers who die on the job, a dollar a day on the days they are alive? Gosh, Mr. Gates, your billions are bigger than the fortunes people collected back in 1970…. Maybe you could figure this out…..
    Billy writes:
    “Meanwhile, other countries have raced ahead. ”
    Ok, I’m not in the mood to pull out the data, BUT, when you exclude the most impoverished students from the international tests he’s vaguely referring to, you find that the US does quite well shoving HUGE amounts of crap into the brains of middle class already-primed children. Bad teachers can shovel it in, good teachers can pour it in. The kids are receptive. They aren’t hungry. They’ve been read to since they were babies. They have future expectations. When they fuck up big time with pot, coke, Koch-style libertarianism, there’s a whole family to bail them out. There’s a house that stays in the same place for long stretches. There’s a bedroom and a stereo (or iPod and speakers) that works for walling off the world. There are no homeless bums or drug dealers to pass on the way to “Go” and there’s always $200 to collect.
    And besides, there’s no race, no outdoing. There’s just taking care of what needs to be taken care of.
    Sometimes there’s enough. Calculus at one point was a college class. Now there are many many many 11th graders, some number of 10th graders and the occasional 8th grader taking BC calc. Whatcha bitchin’ about?
    There’s more history in AP US to cover now since 1970 — like, umm, an extra 40 years or so to shove in.
    There are computer skills to shove in. That wasn’t happening in 1970.
    The world is complicated, families are collapsing, the economy is not booming, kids are coping, parents are coping, teachers are coping. And you, Mr. Gates, are pretty fucking comfortable.
    Mistah Gates writes:
    “To build a dynamic 21st-century economy and offer every American a high-quality education, we need to flip the curve. For more than 30 years, spending has risen while performance stayed relatively flat. Now we need to raise performance without spending a lot more.”
    questions replies: What does this crap even mean?? Oh, got it. Billy is a Billy-onaire and he don’t wanna spend a penny of profit to pay the fuckin’ teachers another red cent. And he don’t wanna spend on welfare or foodfare or safe streetsfare or comfortfare to help kids. He don’t wanna invest in early childhood educationfare. Nope, he just wants unpaid teachers to shove information into kids who might prefer to play around on the fucking computers on which he’s made his billions (all 57 of them)!!!!!
    Billy Boy writes:
    “In K-12, we know more about what works.
    We know that of all the variables under a school’s control, the single most decisive factor in student achievement is excellent teaching. It is astonishing what great teachers can do for their students. ”
    questions replies:
    I call bullshit!!!!!!! Note the “in the school’s control” part — the biggest part of all is the parents who either police homework or don’t, who either talk to the kids or don’t, who either feed the kids or don’t, who either have a place to live or don’t, who either can afford school supplies or can’t……
    Teacher quality is unmeasurable. One kid’s hated 3rd grade teacher is another kid’s savior. Don’t turn teachers into a monocultured crop. It’s a bad idea for crops, a bad idea in genetics, and a super bad idea for human society. Diversity good, monocropping BAD.
    And by the way, we precisely don’t know what works in k-8 or we’d be doing it already.
    Small schools didn’t work, Mr. Gates!!!! The constructivist math curricula didn’t work either. Nor did “new math” or old math…. If kids aren’t primed to learn, there’s a limit to what they’ll learn.
    You wanna fix it all? Slow down the early grades, move kids without using grade level/age level markers, let natural curiosity bloom and fuck the fixed time-on-task part of school in the earliest grades.
    And do something about hormones. They really get in the way starting about 4th or 5th or 6th grade. And then the pre-hormonal 8th and 9th graders really have problems because they lag behind the hormone infused set.
    Fix hormones. Fix childhood. Fix poverty. Fix families. Fix child development. And you’ll fix the schools! For free!!!!!
    Bill-O writes:
    “To flip the curve, we have to identify great teachers, find out what makes them so effective and transfer those skills to others so more students can enjoy top teachers and high achievement. ”
    questions feels ill but manages to scrawl: Effective teachers have the following qualities: non-hungry students, reasonable classroom dynamics, support and supplies such that creative moments can be seized. They might be energetic or lethargic, they might be Harvard PhDs or dumb as fuck, but they somehow manage to relate to teh emotions of the age, or they bulldoze over emotions and still force all kinds of shit into kids’ heads.
    THE MOST ineffective teachers generally leave teaching pretty quickly as they can’t control the little monsters they’re in charge of, or they get beaten up and quit. So these are easy to find and get rid of. The system already does that.
    Anyone not at the bottom will likely have good years and bad years just like in any other profession. You’re not likely to find very many teachers at all whose students year after year get their charges from the 13th percentile to 90% scoring above the 90th percentile (that was Michelle Rhee’s claim!!!!!!!!!!) Yeah right.
    Billdude writes:
    “farmers, engineers, computer programmers, even athletes. These professionals are more advanced than their predecessors”
    questions is going to the hospital for anti-nausea meds!
    How many of these professions get a different group of 25-35 children at completely different developmental levels from one another and from the previous year? The 2009-2010 third grade class from Mid-level Elementary might have been mostly June birthdays, so they are young and tearful while the 2010-2011 third grade class could be mostly September birthdays, so the early hormones are hitting and they are nasty as they wanna be! How can you compare year to year. Last year’s class clown gives way to this year’s autistic mainstreaming and ADD and ADHD kids. You can’t compare. Last year’s great weather gives way to this years 8 snow days. Last year’s international tragedy that fucked over the heads of half the kids gives way to this year’s local sports team success. Good lord, Mr. Gates, these are people NOT machines.
    And finally, no, shoving 5 more students into a class of 30 does not help the teacher individuate or get grading done. It does not help the shy kids in the back feel more comfortable talking in class. It does not guarantee anything except that labor costs will go down a tad.
    Some things do not scale well, Mr. Gates. Some things are not like the others.
    Education is not a computer software company that grows by buying other people’s ingenuity and then scaling it up.
    Education is individual, labor intensive, and needs receptive kids, stable families, no poverty, interesting curricula, fewer standardized tests, less measuring, and far more humanity.
    Mistah Gates, you have it all completely wrong. Completely and totally wrong. Again.
    Go spend 5 years in a classroom. See what it’s like! You’ll be amazed.


  11. sanitychecker says:

    Nadine: Are you trying to tell us the Muslim Brotherhood are as bad as Shas?
    Clemons: I am glad Paul Wolfowitz was in the audience. I bet everyone felt so much better.


  12. The Pessimist says:

    So the UN Security Council can vote 15-0 to condemn Qaddafi for his human rights abuses against Libyan citizens yet the exact same abuses directed by Netanyahu against Palestinian citizens in their own territory sees only a 14-1 vote for condemnation.
    Absolute hypocrisy on behalf of the Obama Administration. What transparent hacks they are.
    Simply despicable.
    Flail away with your predictable distortions and lies nadine. It wouldn


  13. The Pessimist says:

    So the UN Security Council can vote 15-0 to condemn Qaddafi for his human rights abuses against Egyptian citizens yet the exact same abuses directed by Netanyahu against Palestinian citizens in their own territory sees only a 14-1 vote for condemnation.
    Absolute hypocrisy on behalf of the Obama Administration. What transparent hacks they are.
    Simply despicable.
    Flail away with your predictable distortions and lies nadine. It wouldn


  14. Warren Metzler says:

    I was not willing to watch the whole program, but watched the first half an hour. And one thing in particular struck me, that Paul Wolfowitz was present, recognized by Steve, and several comments made about Wolfowitz’s supposed expertise on the Middle East.
    I am clear, and do not understand how any intelligent person can’t be clear, that this man is patently evil, significantly destructive, significantly greedy (had girl friend assigned to the State Department with a higher salary then the Secretary of State), and a prevaricator of a very high degree.
    He was one of the main manipulators of truth, in the Bush administration’s deliberate misleading of the American people to get them to support the war in Iraq; all done, I am certain, with all the senior people in that administration knowing that what was being presented was totally fabricated information. This man should be banned for the rest of his life from ever being recognized in any academic, or official government, discussion of world events. That the New America Foundation enthusiastically embraces his presence at one of their meetings is evidence that organization has no interest in truth.
    I fail to understand, how in the US people who have been known to be fraudulent are continued to be lauded and treated as honorable people. This aspect of our country is truly despicable.


  15. Paul Norheim says:

    Interesting discussion, Steve.
    As for the prospect of democracy in Egypt, the most
    encouraging thing said in the discussion was, in my view, what
    Nathan Brown mentioned about the development in the
    Egyptian printing press. Brown said that during the last 10-15
    years, the newspapers have been consistently focusing on
    matters like the constitution, emergency laws, and other rather
    complicated matters that were fundamental conditions for
    democratic rule. By doing so, he implied that the printing press
    had made the broader public familiar with and cultivated an
    awareness of the conditions and actual impediments in a way
    that novel social media like Twitter and Facebook alone
    couldn’t have provided.
    While I’m a fan of short forms like maxims and aphorism and
    140 characters, I think Nathan Brown’s point is not only an
    academical point in future discussions about what kinds of IT
    instruments that made the revolution possible – but also a
    promising one for Egypt’s political future: Given that politics is
    discussed in every cafe in Egypt, and that the “dinosaur” press
    has prepared future voters by creating an in depth awareness
    of the complex but concrete issues and what is at stake, they
    have also diminished the risk that the Egyptian people will
    accept being cheated by the army or some majority party
    taking away what they risked their lives to achieve.
    Ten years ago I was an avid reader of some African
    newspapers. While the Ethiopian, Tanzanian, and Rwandese
    papers were highly censured mouthpieces for the governments,
    some of the various private papers in Kenya and Uganda were
    excellent, containing courageous reports on corruption, as well
    as lengthy and highly sophisticated articles on multiparty
    systems, constitutional issues, and other serious issues – to the
    detriment of the celebrity gossip that we’re so blessed with in
    Western newspapers.
    Combine that with the anti-conspirational al Jazeera
    broadcasting on every cafe in the cities, and you have created
    not only the conditions for a sophisticated use of Twitter and
    Facebook that was so crucial in the actual revolt – but also a
    broad and deep awareness of the complex issues at stake
    during and after the transition.
    Ok, I think I have to stop here – I have the feeling that I’ve
    written more than 144 characters.


  16. Kathleen says:

    Can anyone explain why Zareed Zakaria and other MSM talking heads have on the architects of the Iraq war like Paul Wolfowitz on. Do they really think all of us are complete numbskulls? Why in the world would Fareed choose one of the Bush administration’s main architects of the Iraq war who helped lie this nation into a immoral and unnecessary war in Iraq on to talk about the situation in the middle east right now? Are the directors and producers of these shows incapable or unwilling to bring more reliable individuals on to discuss the situation in the middle east. Why do we have to hear from the same warmongers who lied to the American public? Why not former Bush administration middle east analyst Flynt Leverett (website Race for Iran/ and a member of the New American Foundation) on Fareeds or MSNBC. Flynt quit the Bush administration right before the invasion because he disagreed with the bloody strategy. Why not have Professor Juan Cole over at Informed Comment who knows a great deal about the middle east. Steve Clemons over at Washington Note. Why do we have to have the same warmongers recycled on these news programs? Disgusting, dangerous, unreliable and just stupid.


  17. Kathleen says:

    I keep hearing people like Mr. Glassman on Washington Journal the other morning say this part of the world has not been ready for democracy. And then went onto say “the US has been preparing them for it” Total hooey
    This morning on Meet the Press
    I thought it was very interesting that David Gregory spent more time on what a few of the signs at the pro union protest said than what the majority of signs said. I attended the pro union protest in Columbus Ohio last Tuesday and I only saw a few signs that went over the top. One saying “Osama Bin Kasich” I said to some union folks that will be the one sign that Fox news focuses on while ignoring the the majority of signs that have relevant messages.
    Did not expect this out of David Gregory.
    Also thought it was telling that David Gregory completely COMPLETELY ignored Lawrence O’Donnells points about how the the real reasons that caused the recession are now being ignored. And how tax revenue that could have been collected on the “super rich” incomes and tax rates that are the same as they are for the middle class. Gregory blased right past O’Donnell’s relevant points and I believe went right back to the signs.
    Pathetic and telling


  18. Paul Norheim says:

    How inspiring, WigWag, to see that courage isn’t confined to
    the Arab street these days, but also extends to anonymous
    bloggers in Florida. Like in your brave post above, blaming a
    man who was jailed for “sodomy” in remote Indonesia for not
    criticizing the sodomy laws, only claiming his innocence!
    So why don’t you share your thoughts about all those cowards
    in Europe and America as well, who until recently were arrested
    accused of sodomy, and eventually convicted; and who, just
    like Anwar Ibrahim, refrained from criticizing the laws, and
    instead just claimed that they were innocent? Most of these
    men are dead now, but some are still alive. Wouldn’t you say
    that their past is “checkered” too, not because they were
    convicted as homosexuals, but in the sense that they didn’t
    question the laws that convicted them?
    Your attack on Anwar Ibrahim reminds me of the even more
    courageous Glenn Beck, not even using a moniker while – on
    the Kristallnacht anniversary – accusing multi-billionaire
    George Soros of nazi collaboration when he was 13!
    And how entertaining, dear WigWag, to see you – a well known
    (albeit anonymous) islamophobe engaged in a manichean war
    on Muslims en bloc – employing Eliza Grizwold as a proxy to
    lecture Steve Clemons on “nuance”!


  19. Dan Kervick says:

    More character assassination and smearing ad hominems by WigWag: 15-20 paragraphs that have zero of substance to say about the actual subject matter of Ibrahim’s address, either for against.
    I thought this was the kind of thing that had been banned here.


  20. WigWag says:

    “On Feb 18, Yusuf Qurudawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, returned in triumph from Qatar and spoke to more than a million Egyptians in Tahrir Square. He said “the revolution is not over”, warned against “hypocrites” (that’s what Islamists call Muslims who disagree with them), and prayed that he would soon repeat his triumph by conquering the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The Egyptians cheered wildly and chanted that million martyrs would march on Jerusalem.” (Nadine)
    Yes, that is precisely correct and one of Qaradawi’s biggest fans is none other than Anwar Ibrahim.
    Like millions of Muslims, Ibrahim admits to being inspired by Yusuf al-Qaradawi and it takes about five seconds on google to find photographs of an obviously smitten Ibrahim standing next to Qaradawi. What is remarkable is that people who should know better insist that there


  21. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Sssssssshhhhhh, don’t tell anyone, but our puppet in Iraq is using lethal force to silence protest.
    BTW, if Kadafi gasses anyone, the canisters, undoubtedly, will be marked “Made in the ______”
    (Fill in the blank)
    And, uh, according to Eliot Abrams, we made a deal in 2003 that we would suck Kadafi off if he would turn over all his chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.
    So, I’m just a little curious. Where did Kadafi get this “gas” that the mainstream media is claiming he is about to use against his own people??? According to Abrams, all these kinds of weapons stockpiles are residing on a military base in the United States. Does Abrams have inside knowledge that the alleged “deal” with Kadafi is the kind of bullshit we have come to expect from the scum in Washington DC????


  22. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Watching Lieberman and McCain this morning on CNN’s “State of the Union”, it occurred to me, (not the first time), that these two pieces of shit will advocate for policies that they don’t actually believe in, wouldn’t actually institute, just to display opposition to what Obama is doing. Further, I think they would advocate policies they KNOW are against our best interests, just to paint Obama in an unfavorable light. Its easy to advocate military intervention when you aren’t the person that has to pull the trigger, or be responsible for the results and effects of your actions.
    I suspect that Wig-wag and Nadine employ the same strategy of debate more than occassionally. Anything to nurture division is A-OK.


  23. WigWag says:

    “On February 11th, I had the privilege of chairing this address sponsored by the New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force by former Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim…Anwar Ibrahim now heads the Opposition in the Malaysian Parliament — and is one of the leading figures that Muslim opposition leaders throughout the Middle East have been calling for counsel.” (Steve Clemons)
    Anwar Ibrahim’s past is checkered and it is unclear to me whether Steve Clemons should be extolling his supposed virtues. On the one hand Ibrahim was thrown in jail for sodomy, a crime he claimed to be innocent of. Ibrahim suggested that the accusations of sodomy were made against him because he was a political dissident and had become a critic of the regime that he had once been part of.
    Eventually Ibrahim was released but it says something about Malaysian society that sodomy is still a crime for which a jail sentence can be imposed (to be fair, sodomy was also against the law in several American states until recently). Ibrahim has never criticized the idea of jailing people convicted of sodomy; he has only claimed that he is personally innocent of the charge.
    Ibrahim also appears to be an opportunist. On the one hand he supposedly had many Jewish friends, something rather audacious for a leader of a Muslim nation to do. Former Prime Minister Mahathir has said that Ibrahim would be a good Prime Minister of Israel; Ibrahim tried to restore his “good name” by claiming that it was Israel that was controlling Malaysian foreign policy. Ibrahim has been condemned for making profoundly anti-Jewish remarks including the assertion that Jews control the worldwide banking system and media. The idea that Steve thinks highly of this man is troubling.
    But even more troubling is the idea that nations like Malaysia or Indonesia are considered to be moderate Islamic nations that could serve as models for the rest of the Islamic world; nothing is further from the truth. These nations are backwards, regressive and their politics are noxious.
    Steve doesn’t have to take my word for it. All he has to do is go down the hall and visit with Eliza Griswold who is now a fellow at the New America Foundation. Steve could have a chat with her in her office (which must be close to his) or her cubicle or if the New American Foundation doesn’t provide fellows with office space. If it


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