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The recent and ongoing spate of decisions by several Arab governments to dissolve and ban certain political groups (mostly Sunni or Shiite Islamists) is a reflection of two dynamics that need to be reviewed together: rising sectarian, political and ideological tensions across the region, alongside continuing structural inabilities in every Arab country, except Tunisia to date, to accommodate a range of differing political views in a legitimate governance system.It is perplexing to see Arab governments today continue to use this same approach to resolving serious, homegrown political struggles. The latest examples include the banning of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the designation of Hezbollah as a banned terrorist group in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries and, a few days ago, Bahrain's dissolution of the main Shiite opposition group Al-Wefaq. In these and other similar cases, governments ban such groups because they feel they are engaged in activities that are a threat to national security, cohesion and well-being, or they promote terrorism and sectarian divisions, often allegedly with the assistance of third-party foreign powers.Banning them is problematic because it does not appreciably reduce the followers of the banned groups; probably only pushes the movements to work underground; generates a greater sense of despair among other political organizations in the country about working in the existing political system; hardens the use of violence by other, more militant, groups (like the Daesh group in northern Sinai); and elicits public criticisms of the governments' moves among many international parties, including friendly governments.
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