The Muslim countries of the Middle East have a long tradition of winner-take-all politics that today hampers efforts to institute democratic practices. Yet, there is progress.
Jordan is a fairly liberal and a predominately Muslim country. Some parts of Jordan are even Western and cosmopolitan. However, Jordanians have a deep respect for their King and Islam, and are conservative at the same time as they are liberal. One thing you should remember when visiting the country is to dress modestly. Men should wear a suit and tie; women should wear a dress. It is also quite common for women and men to dine separately, especially when you are invited to a traditional person’s home for dinner.
Liberalism in Egypt dates back to the 19th century. Following the 2011 Revolution and election ofMuslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad Morsi to the presidency, the term “liberal” was usedby factions that rallied their opposition to Morsi and the 2012 constitution. On November 22 2012, Morsi had issued a decree granting himself “extraordinary, unquestioned authority”. He had also try to shove a new constitution through the constitutional assembly which included “expanded presidential powers, protections for the military, and a highly illiberal social agenda”. The constitution was passed in a December 2012 referendum with low 33% turnout.
Qatar is another one of the most liberal and one of the most safest countries in the world; the crime is very low so this is not something that you need to worry about if you are planning to starta business in Qatar. Another reason that Qatar is such a safe place is that it is a very wealthy country and the citizens are well taken care of. While some business people in Qatar wear traditional Arab business dress, the high proportion of international businesses operating there means most people are wearing western clothing. Qataris are also very relaxed on punctuality, so while it’s best to turn up on time for meetings, don’t necessarily expect the same from your contacts. Be, however, mindful of your body language as pointing with your finger and showing the soles of your shoes can both be considered rude.
The UAE’s liberal philosophy towards foreign involvement, investment and modernization has prompted the country to have extensive diplomatic and commercial relations with other countries. It is a major player in OPEC and the UN, and is one of the founding members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The Emirates have also maintained close working relations with Egypt and remain the highest investor in the country from among the rest of the Arab world. Pakistan was the first to formally recognize the UAE upon its formation and continues to be one of its major economic and trading partners with about 400,000 expatriates receiving employment in the UAE.
The Arab Spring first arose here in 2011. This is the only country of predominately Muslims to be able to achieve success in Arab Spring. Egypt has reverted to military rule after the unpopularadministration of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi. Libya remains unstable. Syria is still engulfed in a civil war. But Tunisia, where the upheavals began with the suicide of a deeply frustrated vegetable cart vendor, was able to adopt one of the more liberal constitutions in the Middle East. The country’s National Constituent Assembly supported the new constitution by a strong majority of 200 to 12, with just four votes abstaining.
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