Has the Arab Spring, once full of hopes and dreams for a better future in which dignity and rights would be maintained, transformed into a dark destructive winter where reactionism and anarchy prevail in the name of religious extremism? How can we comprehend the “commotion” now taking place in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt – states ruled by currents adhering to political Islam – especially when we see groups emerging to outbid these ruling currents, renouncing loyalty to the country’s leaders, and deciding to enforce God’s Shariaa with their “own hands”, in a chaotic, savage and bloodthirsty manner that has cost many innocent people their lives? Here we see the Islamic ruler Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the ruling Ennahda movement in Tunisia, warning of “extremism” and the danger it poses to Tunisia. In Libya, there is an extremely clear and explicit accusation being launched against al-Qaeda, claiming that it is confronting the new regime in Libya by means of arms and chaos. In Egypt, Salafi jihadist groups in Sinai have announced that they no longer adhere to President Mohammed Mursi’s governance, declaring that he is not a legitimate president and attacking the state’s army and police headquarters. All these events put forth a hearty meal of evidence for those seeking to promote conspiracy theories, accusations of foreign intervention as well as external and hidden agendas.
In recent days, I have read three studies conducted between the 1980s through to the early 21st century, all highlighting new developments in the Arab world today. They all focused on the theme of ideological, sectarian and border disputes, and the potential for establishing new states with new boundaries. Significantly, all these studies were carried out in “neo-conservative” decision making centers, a right wing trend known for its affiliations with Israel and Zionism. The oldest study was a report issued by Israel itself in the 1980s, authored by Oded Yinon and translated by Israel Shahak, a highly renowned Israeli politician and historian. In this report, the researcher highlights the significance of breaking down the Arab states into smaller entities, for example in Syria: an Alawite state along the Mediterranean coast, a Druze state encompassing the Druze Mountain in Syria and perhaps part of the Golan Heights, and two (antagonistic) Sunni states; one in Damascus and one Aleppo. The report also touches upon Israel’s endeavor to establish minor states for the Berbers in Northern Africa – Morocco, Algeria and Libya – and to create separate Kurdish states. There is also an Israeli obsession with regaining Sinai by any means possible, for the Israelis are convinced that Sadat deceived them when he retook a major part of “Greater Israel”.
All these studies, schemes and aspirations could never succeed unless there was a solid base of corruption, abuse, despotism, tyranny, reactionism, hatred and racism, to form fertile ground to plant all sorts of seditions, conspiracies and devilish plots. The Arabs’ fundamental defect is an internal one that enemies exploit for their own advantage in order to protect their interests and consolidate their trends. The major problem lies in the Arab Spring states continuing to ignore the main issue and failing to acknowledge its existence. Defects such as extremism and ignorance are labeled with euphemisms such as “acceptable moderation”, and systems of autocracy and injustice as “ideal political regimes”, whilst the Arab states’ demands for freedom and dignity are deemed “foreign conspiracies”.
The Arab Spring resulted from the ambitions of the people who came out of the lamp all at once and sought to better their lives. Now winter has come to remind those very people that they still have an appointment to confront darkness, abuse and ignorance in the name of religion, in the same manner that they once confronted autocracy. Religion has been hijacked by a radical minority who justify their behavior through books and fatwas, and the Islamic world is yet to expose them. This phenomenon needs to be rectified so that the Islamic world does not continue to drink the same poison every now and then.
The journey is still long and the winter seems to be getting colder and harsher.