DiscoverThe Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer
The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer

The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer

Author: James M. Dorsey

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Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the New Books in Middle Eastern Studies podcast. James is the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title as well as Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa.
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The contrast could not be starker. As Israel plays a dangerous game of US politics by restricting or banning visits by controversial Democratic members of Congress to seemingly please President Donald J. Trump’s prejudiced electoral instincts, the owner of a notorious Jerusalem soccer club draws a line in the sand in confronting his racist fan base.
What do a planned US$15 billion Saudi investment in petroleum-related Indian businesses and a controversial boxing championship have in common?Both reflect a world in which power and economics drive policy, politics and business at the expense of fundamental rights.
In Changing Saudi Arabia, Art, Culture and Society in the Kingdom (Lynne Rienner, 2019), Sean Foley offers eye-opening insights into a changing society that is under the international magnifying glass. Using the prism of an exploding arts scene populated by artists, comedians, actors, directors and masters of new media from diverse backgrounds, Foley paints a granular picture of a country that figures prominently in global geopolitics. Breaking with the traditional geopolitical, political and economic paradigm that dominates scholarship and analysis of a kingdom widely viewed as increasingly autocratic and brutal under de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Foley illustrates the margins within which the arts scene seeks to stimulate conversations on often taboo subjects and express criticism by couching it in constructive rather than explicitly critical terms. It involves a balancing act in which artists are forced to be critical and supportive of the regime at the same time. In describing the evolution of the arts scene, Foley also paints a much more layered picture of Prince Mohammed whose reputation as a reformer has been sullied by his crackdown on dissent and the killing in 2018 of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. The evolution of a non-traditional arts scene is as much organic as it is a reflection of the generational transition in the kingdom’s absolute monarchical rule and an instinctive understanding that survival in the 21st century rests on a more complex set of factors than it did in the last century. With his well-written and erudite analysis, Foley has made a significant contribution to the literature and understanding of the dynamics that are changing the kingdom for better or for worse.
India’s decision to deprive Kashmir of its autonomy, alongside a clampdown in the troubled north-western Chinese province of Xinjiang and US-backed Israeli annexation of Arab land, is the latest indication of what a new world order led by civilizational leaders may look like.
Ablikim Yusuf, a 53-year old Uyghur Muslim seeking a safe haven from potential Chinese persecution, landed this week in the United States, his new home.But Mr. Yusuf’s perilous search that took him from Pakistan to Qatar to Bosnia Herzegovina where was refused entry and back to Qatar highlighted China’s inability to enforce its depiction of the brutal clampdown on Turkic Muslims in its troubled, north-western province of Xinjiang as a purely domestic matter.
Russia, backed by China, hoping to exploit mounting doubts in the Gulf about the reliability of the United States as the region’s sole security guarantor, is proposing a radical overhaul of the security architecture in an area that is home to massive oil and gas reserves and some of the world’s most strategic waterways.
The rise of a critical mass of world leaders including Donald J. Trump, Xi Jinping and others In Europe, Asia and Latin America who are bent on shaping a new world order in their authoritarian and civilizationalist mould, has given 1984, George Orwell’s prophetic novel, published 70 years ago, renewed relevance.
A recent ban on a militant, Iranian-backed Shiite group raised the spectre of the Saudi Iranian rivalry spilling onto Nigerian streets as security forces launched a manhunt to find the alleged Boko Haram operatives who killed 65 people attending a funeral.
Thought that sectarianism was a pillar of the Saud Iranian rivalry? Think again, think Kashmir where the two countries’ geopolitical rivalry and Turkish ambitions cross sectarian lines.
China and Russia are as much allies as they are rivals.
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