January 27, 2013
Arab Spring is Finally Here
Remember Wael Ghonim? He’s the Egyptian (ex) Google executive that rose as a leader during the Tahrir Square days. After his release from 12 days in jail, he broke into tears during an interview, and became one of the symbols of the revolution.
A symbol - yes, political force - not so much. Secular liberals such as Ghonim, loved in the West for good reasons, can be credited with igniting the revolution, but not for being the triumphant power - The real showdown in Arab Spring countries is between dictators (such as Mubarak) and Islamists (Muslim Brotherhood). This is an epic battle decades in the making: Mubarak and his predecessors had suppressed and crushed the Brotherhood in Egypt (just like Assad the father killed 30,000 when Syrian Islamists rebelled in 1982.)
Being a religious movement of god-fearing devotees It’s not surprising that the Muslim Brotherhood managed to emerge from years of persecution and repression organized, disciplined and numerous. Come election day, the Brotherhood won 37.5% of the vote and the Salafists another 27.8%, while 3 liberal parties won 20.3% combined. Elections being a numbers game, the liberals did not stand a chance, there’s simply too little of them.
There’s nothing springy about former dictatorships turning into Islamist countries. One of the most important distinctions of Islam is its political aspect: Muslims, as early as the days of Mohammed himself, formed not only a religious community, but a political entity as well - the Caliphate - an inspiration and destiny for today’s Islamists, Muslim Brotherhood included. The Caliphate, among other strictly non-progressive characteristics, will be ruled by the unchangeable divine law, the Sharia - a clearly un-democratic idea.
This is not the first time an un-democratic ideology rises to power democratically. One doesn’t need to go all the way to Hitler - though one definitely may. Being a numbers game, Democracy has no solution to this problem. And indeed, since assuming office on June 30th 2012, Morsi had pulled a few aggressive move asserting himself, and pushed an Islamic-dominated constitution down seculars’ throats.
That’s why it’s so exciting to witness the liberals take the streets this past week. “Back to the squares without the Muslim Brothers and the Salafists” read Al-Ahram’s front page Friday. The Arab Spring is finally here. Two years into the revolution and coinciding with enormous anger in Port Said over last year’s soccer disaster verdicts, they got scared. The list of demands presented by the united opposition clearly reflects their fear of becoming citizens of an Islamist state. Google executives don’t live under Sharia.
It’s unclear what their chances are at resisting the Islamists. Regardless, this is where the battle against radical Islam and political Islam will be won: by Muslims rejecting Islamist ideologies and choosing progressive lives instead. Islamists thrive on grievances and the idea of “Resistance”, it’ll be interesting to see how the Brotherhood handles the crisis from a position of power. It’s not over in Egypt.
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