DOIU – From ‘Spring’ to an obscure season in the Middle East

From ‘Spring’ to an obscure season in the Middle EastThe landmark of the beginning of the so-called andldquoArab Springandrdquo was a street fruit seller burning himself to death as a protest against the Tunisian dictatorship. The event triggered a revolutionary tide against Middle Eastern tyrannies that had frozen democracy and development despite the fact that colonialism had long ended.

Most people rejoiced, expecting that the era of despotic states would give way to popular rule. However, the andquotArab Springandquot did not evolve into a summer except in TunisiaA study of revolutions would reveal that three things are needed for a revolution to succeed: an accepted leadership, an organized society and an ideology that would both mobilize the people and carry the seeds of tomorrowand#39s vision — the post-revolutionary society.

Most of these were missing in the Arab world.Countries in which the revolution began turned into a winter, with new oppressive governments, as in Egypt, or governments that did not hesitate to butcher their peoples in order to stay in power, as in Syria, or chaos took over, as in Libya This outcome led to massive carnage, the destruction of whole countries, the displacement of millions and the emergence of radical elements.

With the dissolution of national armies, radicals acting under the pretex of religion began attracting disillusioned and disgruntled Muslims from all over the world to fulfill their dreams, like that of an Islamic caliphate and a purely Muslim state.The ensuing chaos and bloodshed once again have proven that without the ingredients mentioned above, resurrections cannot turn into revolutions.

Democracy is still a utopia in the Arab-Islamic geography. Its people have been conditioned to be ruled to such a degree that they have hardly developed the skills to rule and make laws by themselves.

This vacuum is filled by small, organized groups with arms who can impose their will on the others, or religion is called upon as a reference for good conduct and governance.Those groups who combine these two qualities have seized control.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is one of them It can impose its will on the people and enforce a kind of Shariah law that is a product of its own interpretation.The only successful example that emerged out of the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East is TunisiaFour years after the people took to the streets in protest of the dictatorship, the andldquoArab Springandrdquo needs to be analyzed as follows:A lack of guiding elites.

Middle Eastern societies are deeply divided along religious, ethnic and class lines. Leaders that can bridge these lines are rare.

National figures hardly emerge from such divided societies. Economically, most elites have ties with the existing power structure (ancien regime).

Civil society is unorganized and powerless. Personal and communal relations are more effective than voluntary relations, leading to the formation of NGOs that knit the fabric of modern society.

Rather than voluntary and free associations, people come into contact in traditional-communal organizations. Tradition provides the basis of their association.

At the core of traditionalism lies religion. Religion — not secular values and practices — largely forms the basis of social interaction and formations in the Middle East.

Political Islam — or better, Islam as a political and legal reference — has filled the gap of secular governments that have failed.As secular governments that were not held accountable and that were tyrannical have failed to provide good governance, radicals use religion to rule and bring justice and fair governments to traditional masses.

This claim has been based on both persuasion for the believers and physical force upon those who have resisted.A wave of militant Islam looking for territory to control and people to govern has emerged in the Islamic world.

Failing states, such as Syria, Iraq and Libya, have become their breeding ground.Militant Islam (jihad) does not manifest itself with only hatred of the West, which it sees as the colonizer and the scion of the Crusaders, but all other forms of Islam as a deviance from the word of God and the practice of the Prophet.

They call themselves Salafis, meaning followers of Muhammad.Jihadists rule by terror Well-crafted public relations stunts with extreme violence mesmerize the masses, proving their power and the righteousness of their cause.

The Western design of the Middle East after the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire did not take into account the ethnic and denominational divides that existed in the region. Todayand#39s divisions are appearing on these fault lines.

The Shiite-Sunni divide and the Arab-non-Arab divide will have long-lasting effects until secular, non-ethnic states appear which look beyond cultural differences and with more emphasis on individual rights and freedoms and deliberate democracy. This seems to be a far-fetched hope for the time being.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman