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Last week’s protests in front of the American embassies in Cairo, San’a, Tunis, Amman, and in other European capitals clearly indicate that:
a) the new governments run by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya were caught in the middle – between the need to respond to the popular mood and outrage against the anti-Islamic film, Innocence of Muslim, and the need to maintain strong diplomatic and economic relations with the West. It was clear in the first couple of days that Washington was not entirely convinced that this new democratic leadership had got the balance quite right. However, the intervention by Khairet el-Shater, a leading Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader – and the publication of his letter in the New York Times – indicated that Cairo had eventually got the message;
b) a number of governments in the middle east still do not have full control over their country, which means that extremist groups may be able to operate with impunity. This is clear with the case in Egyptian Sinai as extremists gained foothold on the Egyptian-Israel border,
c) whilst tightening up security within these countries is an important and necessary part of the solution – since these countries needs stability and foreign investment if they are to revive their fragile economies, the strongest antidote to extremists is to establish strong and cohesive civic institutions, and embed a culture of peaceful civic activism – ‘denounce without anger’.