Title

What Drives Diffusion? Anti-Terrorism Legislation in the Arab Middle East and North Africa

Author Information

Maria Josua

Date of Publication

2021 12:00 AM

Security Theme

Violent Extremism

Keywords

counterterrorism, Arab world, law, authoritarianism, diffusion, policy convergence

Description

Since 9/11 most Arab states in the Middle East and North Africa have introduced anti-terror laws. Are they part of the global-diffusion processes that have spread anti-terrorism legislation worldwide? This paper studies the drivers of anti-terrorism legislation in these Arab states, contributing to the emerging research on authoritarian diffusion. The analysis demonstrates that regional and domestic explanations, rather than diffusion from the international level, are key. This is evident from the chronological order in which anti-terror legislation has appeared, the regionally inspired definitions of terrorism, and the immediate drivers behind such laws. The past few decades have seen two temporal clusters of new anti-terrorism legislation in the Arab world. In the first decade of the new millennium, mainly domestic terror attacks drove the adoption of anti-terror laws. Meanwhile, regional efforts to comply with international counterterrorism efforts after the 9/11 attacks played a subordinate role. In a second wave following the Arab uprisings of 2011, anti-terror legislation was driven increasingly by authoritarian governments’ desire to penalize dissent, as they sought to inhibit the spread of protests on the regional level. A systematic overview of the terrorism definitions contained in the new laws offers evidence for policy convergence. Instead of adhering to internationally recognized understandings of terrorism, the definitions in Arab legislation follow regional examples. The vague definitions of terrorism featured in the new laws allow for repressive measures being taken against challengers of authoritarian rule.

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Jan 1st, 12:00 AM

What Drives Diffusion? Anti-Terrorism Legislation in the Arab Middle East and North Africa

Since 9/11 most Arab states in the Middle East and North Africa have introduced anti-terror laws. Are they part of the global-diffusion processes that have spread anti-terrorism legislation worldwide? This paper studies the drivers of anti-terrorism legislation in these Arab states, contributing to the emerging research on authoritarian diffusion. The analysis demonstrates that regional and domestic explanations, rather than diffusion from the international level, are key. This is evident from the chronological order in which anti-terror legislation has appeared, the regionally inspired definitions of terrorism, and the immediate drivers behind such laws. The past few decades have seen two temporal clusters of new anti-terrorism legislation in the Arab world. In the first decade of the new millennium, mainly domestic terror attacks drove the adoption of anti-terror laws. Meanwhile, regional efforts to comply with international counterterrorism efforts after the 9/11 attacks played a subordinate role. In a second wave following the Arab uprisings of 2011, anti-terror legislation was driven increasingly by authoritarian governments’ desire to penalize dissent, as they sought to inhibit the spread of protests on the regional level. A systematic overview of the terrorism definitions contained in the new laws offers evidence for policy convergence. Instead of adhering to internationally recognized understandings of terrorism, the definitions in Arab legislation follow regional examples. The vague definitions of terrorism featured in the new laws allow for repressive measures being taken against challengers of authoritarian rule.