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The Snowball Effect - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Ousted Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has left his hometown of Sousse (meaning ‘weevil’ in Arabic). However, Tunisians have quickly discovered that the real weevil was in fact the President’s entourage. During Ben Ali’s extended rule, an influential mob was created, exploiting the country’s economy via a network of accomplices and supporters, who monopolized all Tunisian walks of life, enforcing the president’s autocracy. Such autocracy always breeds corruption.

Thus the departure of the President was in fact bittersweet. The chapters of the Tunisian scene continue to unfold. Today there are concentrated attempts to destroy the ruling party and bury its icons, just like what happened to the notorious Baath party in Iraq, and the Arab Socialist Union in Egypt, and what seems will happen soon in Sudan and Yemen. As political score settling takes on its familiar form, lessons still need to be learnt from Tunisia.

The Tunisian snowball continues to roll. Some preachers and clerics have tried to capitalize on the current scene, but instead have stuttered in confusion. They have stood divided between blessing Mohammed Bouazzi’s self-immolation as a selfless act that sparked the revolution, and condemning the deed as suicide. Yet it was these preachers and clerics who justified, hailed, and glorified suicide attacks years ago. Up until this day, we are still paying in blood for their endorsement of such action.

Committing suicide is the same in every case, regardless of the motive. A sin is a sin no matter how much someone tries to embellish it. There can be no justification, just as those who try to consolidate and institutionalize social discrimination within society cannot be justified. They are expressing views and issuing fatwas akin to the Nazi ideology, rather than Islam. Unfortunately, such acts are committed in the name of religion as a result of ignorance and radicalism.

[Away from Tunisia] the secession of Southern Sudan is officially underway, via an internationally-observed referendum, yet al-Bashir remains in power. As the referendum was being conducted, his troops sought to eliminate the military presence of all factions in Darfur. Thus al-Bashir exploited the referendum period to temporarily gain an advantage in Darfur, as being in power is more important than peace!

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal recently sounded his famous warning about the division of Lebanon, (just as he previously forewarned of foreign parties embarking on ‘small adventures’ within the country), and has predicted forthcoming dangers. It is ironic today that the Lebanese issue lies in the hands of Michel Aoun and Walid Jumblatt. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this!

Yemen is now witnessing new signs of civil unrest and rebellion, which have surfaced recently. The government is trying to hold fresh rounds of dialogue, but there is a clear lack of trust between the parties involved, and negotiations will therefore be an impossible task.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has washed its hands of the whole Lebanese affair. I personally believe that the time was right to do so. Let the Lebanese deal with their own issues for a while, for they have worn us out extensively.

Thus the Arabs wake up every day in a state of anxiety and suspicion, with only one question on their minds: Where will the next incident occur today?

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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