Former New York Times Middle East correspondent Youssef M. Ibrahim, writing in The Washington Post:
Regardless of Bush’s intentions — which many Arabs and Muslims still view with suspicion — the U.S. president and his neoconservative crowd are helping to spawn a spirit of reform and a new vigor to confront dynastic dictatorships and other assorted ills. It’s enough for someone like me, who has felt that Bush’s attitude toward the Mideast has been all wrong, to wonder whether his idea of setting the Muslim house in order is right.
The din of democracy talk has been amplified by satellite television, the Internet and cell phones, and that is a new wrinkle for autocratic regimes experienced at quiet repression.
The intensity of it all has drowned out, at least for now, the usual noise about alleged Israeli conspiracies, neoconservative plots and America’s misadventures in Iraq.
Instead, more people are baring their souls, with little apparent fear. On Tuesday an all-women’s program on al-Jazeera featured a verbal wrestling match between a veiled advocate of multiple marriages and male supremacy in Islam and several other women who swatted down her views. Even the infamous religious authority Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar — whose edicts range from legitimizing wife beating to the killing of foreigners in Iraq to the shunning of Christians and Jews — has been remarkably demure on his TV show.
A cartoon that appeared March 3 in a Jordanian newspaper, al-Ghad, captured the sense that the age of autocracy may be drawing to a close. Political cartoonist Emad Hajjaj drew four statues on pedestals. The one furthest to the right, Saddam Hussein, is cracking at the knees and toppling into an almost identical statue of Syrian leader Bashir Assad, which is teetering into a statue of Mubarak, who is falling into a statue whose face can’t be seen.