The Impacts of the Arab Revolution:
The 2011 Arab revolutions are best described as uprisings for democracy and dignity. They are democratic in the sense that they are driven by a deep-rooted hunger for political empowerment on a mass level, specifically the replacement of elite rule with popular sovereignty. They are also about dignity in that the protesters are rejecting the humiliation and degradation that has accompanied decades of authoritarian rule. The indignity brought on by massive corruption, nepotism, the absence of the rule of law and political transparency, and the rampant abuse of power. This is what has produced these protests. The increasingly educated, globalized and young segments of society – who are the driving force behind these revolts – are particularly motivated by the indignity of their political and economic context coupled with a demand to be respected by political leadership; a respect that can only be generated by democratic rule. The Arab Revolution of 2011:
Reflections on Religion and Politics:
The democratic uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have been widely celebrated but in the West they have generated concern and apprehension. Most of this concern involves the future role religion in the politics of the Arab world. In this essay, I make two broad observations. First, concern in the West about the rise of mainstream Islamist parties is partly based not on the illiberal orientation of these groups but the fact that they are politically independent actors who challenge Western geo-strategic interests in the region. Second, the role of religion in government has never been democratically negotiated in masses in the Arab world. To assume that this issue has been resolved and a broad consensus exists is to project a Western understanding of religion-state relations on the Arab-Islamic world. Doing so is both erroneous and analytically distorted. The battles over the role of religion in politics have yet to begin in the Arab world. While these uprisings have been widely celebrated around the world, in the West they have also been received with considerable anxiety and apprehension. It is reasonable to wonder what will emerge from these transformative events when the dust settles. Do the uprisings represent another 1989 Berlin Wall moment, or are they a prelude to a democratic transformation across an entire region, or perhaps a replay of the dramatic 1979 Revolution in Tehran, the landmark event that placed the issue of Islamic fundamentalism squarely on the international agenda? Much of the concern about the future of the Arab world has focused on the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and to a lesser extent on the Al-Nahda organization in Tunisia. What role have these groups played in the uprisings? How much popular support do they genuinely enjoy and what are the political consequences for regional stability and international security if they should emerge triumphant in the aftermath of these revolutions? While these questions are all legitimate, to date the mainstream public and policy debate in the West has ignored some basic sociological, historical and ethical questions on political development in the Arab world that I seek to comment on in this essay. Specially, I will make two observations: the first on the anxiety surrounding the role of political Islam in the Arab world; the second on the coming conflict over religion-state relations. A central trope of the criticism against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt runs as follows: it is a deeply illiberal organization whose commitment to pluralist democracy is as shaky as its commitment to women’s rights and minority rights. The centrality of Sharia law to its political platform is often cited as evidence. More recently, one can point to the 2007 draft political platform of the Muslim Brothers that called for an Iranian-style religious advisory council to review legislation for its conformity with Islamic law. In the same...
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