In The Name Of God The Most Merciful, Most Compassionate

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The belief is that the Muslim Brotherhood, after 85 years in the wings, finally stands on the brink of power. The idea of an Islamic party running such an influential and strategically important nation is viewed with horror in the West. Commentators talk of the Taliban, or remind us how the optimism of the Iranian revolution was dashed by repressive theocrats.

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Egyptians have started casting their ballots in the first parliamentary elections since former president Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising earlier this year.

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Binyamin Netanyahu has launched a scathing attack on the uprisings in the Middle East, saying that Arab countries are “moving not forward, but backward” and support from the US and European countries was naive.The Israeli prime minister said the Arab spring was becoming an “Islamic, anti-western, anti-liberal, anti-Israeli, undemocratic wave”.

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Activists in Egypt have called for a mass demonstration in Cairo, a day after the cabinet offered its resignation to the ruling military council following clashes that have left at least 33 people dead and hundreds injured.

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After a weekend of violent clashes, protesters have occupied Tahrir Square, in central Cairo, and vowed to stay put until the military authorities are removed. Many said they were ready to die for the revolution, which began in late January as an anti-Mubarak movement, but is now targeting the army generals of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scaf) who replaced him.

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Concerns that the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year was really a coup that the military rode into power on the coattails of the popular uprising now appear to be proven correct.

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The Arab League’s move against Syria on the weekend to suspend it, may signal its transformation from a sleepy bastion for potentates and strongmen to a more dynamic regional alliance. Once a wellspring of Arab pride and nationalism, Syria is confronting the changing dynamics of the region as old alliances fade and new brokers emerge.

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Al Jazeera is loved by some and hated by others – like George W Bush who wanted to bomb their headquarters in Qatar until convinced it wasn’t such a good idea by Tony Blair. From small beginnings, the Qatar-based channel has now become the world’s best-known – and most influential – source of news from the Middle East.

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This year’s Arab Spring has meant tough times for the tourism industry across North Africa and the Middle East. With popular uprisings leading to regime change in Egypt and Tunisia, popular beach resorts such as Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh were left deserted in the early part of the year, as holiday companies evacuated European tourists.

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More democracy is bringing more political Islam in the countries of the Arab Spring, but Islamist statements about sharia or religion in politics are only rough indicators of what the real effect might be.

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