Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

On the waiting list | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Everything that is happening in the Arab region is being put on the waiting list. Everything and everyone on said list has their own objectives, means, mechanisms and styles. These can differ markedly, yet the “wait” currently prevails over all dreams and aspirations in the Arab world.

Arab states across the region are on the waiting list for development, modernization and growth – whether politically, culturally or economically. Arab societies are on the waiting list to achieve their dreams of justice, equality, prosperity and happiness. Finally, the Arab citizen is on the waiting list for salvation, a goal he has often sought to fulfill with his spirit and passion, rather than his mind or intellect. The details differ between one country, society or individual to another, yet they all share the same element of “waiting”. Yes, everybody are waiting, but only a few are working hard at the same time and striving to achieve something worthwhile. The majority are doing nothing; perhaps they enjoy waiting, or they are satisfied with what they have.

The Arab Spring states are on the waiting list for stability, for the restoration of the state’s prestige, and for the establishment of security; this is all taking place in the midst of internal, regional and international disputes. Everyone wants to gain a foothold in their country’s future whereby they can look after their own interests. Some operate in such a manner overtly, whilst others are working underground, under a highly fertile soil where chaos and tension prevails. They realize that by the very nature of current events, at such a moment in the history of our nations and societies when the compass has gone missing, influence comes easily and in an affordable manner.

Arab societies, in their wait to fulfill their dreams, have been down every avenue except that of advancing their awareness and culture, rather than simply accumulating information, or spreading tolerance instead of mere coexistence. The information explosion that has come about as a result of technological advancement may add to the intellects of some, yet it is a destructive force for many. Therefore, these societies on the waiting list can’t get past their different ideologies and slogans. This is because the human voice is still louder and stronger than the power of thought, and the collective mindset is more prevalent than individual intellect. It is for this reason that we often see a mob mentality in these societies. Great aspirations of justice, equality, prosperity and happiness can only be achieved after a long process of suffering and fatigue. No society can expect them to come about via a single stroke of luck, or without the fundamental values that can transform such aspirations into achievable plans and genuine, accomplished projects.

An Arab individual is no more fortunate than his state or society. He lives in a forest of mazes; a backwards environment with no view on the horizon. The Arab citizen is immersed in the thick mud of sectarianism and lacks a greater awareness. There is no glimmer of hope for tolerance, let alone putting an end to racism and tribalism. The Arab individual also lacks an advanced education, social security or even employment to ensure his basic needs.

The entire region is anticipating the results of the US elections. We are waiting for America’s stance towards the Iranian nuclear project, towards the Wali al-Faqih [Guardian of the Jurists] state and its hostile policies in the region, and the subsequent ramifications this will have in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and some Gulf states. The real tragedy is that the Syrian crisis, with its countless deaths, injuries and displacements, is also on the waiting list. Many people are hopeful of a change in America’s slack policies towards the suffering of the Syrian people after the election result. In fact the entire region – regardless of whether the Democrat President Barack Obama or the Republican candidate Mitt Romney wins – is waiting for a change in US policy towards the Arab world in general. Yet despite recognizing America’s importance, its international weight and its ability to intervene in certain issues in a manner that surpasses international organizations, the post-election US will not provide a magic solution for all the region’s historical ills and geographic complexities.

The Arab civil movements and forces hoping for progress and prosperity – which have been on the waiting list for quite some time – are now facing an even longer delay these days. This is because fundamentalist groups have stepped in to fulfill their longstanding dreams of rising to power. These groups, whilst not dominating all joints of power in the Arab Spring states at this time, are now being forced to compromise between their deeply-rooted ideologies and the Machiavellian pragmatism necessitated by politics. Some of them have pursued their ideologies too far, whilst on the other hand, others have gone too far in their political opportunism. Everyone is watching these conflicting priorities of the fundamentalists, who prevail on the scene and dominate pubic debates at the expense of the civil movements.

Yet fundamentalism, by its very nature, is also on the waiting list. We are awaiting new results on the ground. For example, researchers are highlighting a new explosion in radical interpretations of religious texts. The result of an election is considered a victory for the “true believers”, the victory of some candidate is seen as the empowerment of the “most virtuous”, and the domination of a certain political movement in a certain county is interpreted as the fulfillment of God’s promise and the expansion of His rule. Despite the fact that these interpretations are absurd, this phenomenon suggests that we are at the beginning of a new fundamentalist era in the Arab world. It seems we will encounter a new phase of ideological domination carried out by violent factions of political Islam, and this phase will not be short by any means.

Everyone in the Arab region is on the waiting list to learn something. New ideological politicians in the Arab Spring states are learning how to manage their countries and understand the language of politics. On the other hand, the civil trends are learning about religious terms and their denotations, and when they are used in politics. Until both sides learn from one another, the dream of a modern state will remain on the waiting list forever.

The wait in the region can be evaluated in the short, medium or long term. There is a waiting list at the level of the state, the society and the individual, and there are also ideological and cultural factors to take into account.

The purpose of this article is not to display an overt sentiment of pessimism or optimism; rather it is an attempt to highlight aspects of the Arab region that have been neglected by others. If any corner of the scene is left in darkness, then the mirror cannot reflect the whole picture.