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Markets, Civil Society, and Democratic Change in the Middle East

The authoritarian nature of many past and present regimes governing predominantly Muslim populations has resulted in the suppression of robust private enterprise, democratic reforms, and civil society in these states. Moreover, regime leaders’ protectionist policies, support for monopolistic practices of the well-connected, and tight grip on political activities has further stifled liberal reforms.

Recently, however, a trend towards free markets and democratic governance is underway with some Arab Spring countries now experiencing unprecedented political and social change. As this potential long-term economic and social transformation roils the Middle East and North Africa, the stakes remain high for millions—particularly for the large youth populations in these countries who want a better life and also for U.S. security interests.

Today, the people in the Islamic world face a choice: Will the aftermath of these historic changes lead to a break from the economic, social, and political stagnation of the past or an enduring embrace of the ideals found in economically flourishing Islamic countries such as Turkey, Indonesia, and Malaysia?

To discuss these issues, Hudson Institute hosted a discussion moderated by Husain Haqqani, Hudson Senior Fellow and Director for South & Central Asia programs, on the role free-market oriented and civil society groups can play in promoting freer societies in the Islamic world.

Husain Haqqani, Moderator

Hudson Senior Fellow and Director, for South & Central Asia programs

Abdul Wahab Al Kebsi, Panel One

Center for International Private Enterprise

Isobel Coleman, Panel One

Council on Foreign Relations

Carl Gershman, Panel Two, Keynote Speaker

National Endowment for Democracy

Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz, Panel Two

Associate Professor of Political Science at Fatih University, Istanbul, Turkey

Sam Tadros, Panel Two

Hudson Research Fellow, Center for Religious Freedom

Tamara Wittes, Panel Two

Saban Center at Brookings Institution

Hudson Experts

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