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Optimism or Pessimism? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Those who have been critical about democracy in the Arab world, considered it an American creation and an attempt by the West to surround the region in order to control it once again, are the ones to have benefited; they are now victorious.

Some have reached the gates power, others gained legislative powers while another group became legitimate through the ballot box. We have seen this in Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, even if only in municipal elections, and finally with Hamas in Palestine. Therefore, everyone who was critical has been victorious, at a time when Washington claimed that one of the reasons for extremism in the Arab world is the absence of democracy, which will undoubtedly bring about moderates to power.

However, the opposite has happened. Extremists have come to power and political Islam has returned to the scene, this time not through cassettes or publications or outlawed groups but through the ballot box. Those in the Arab world who used to falsely claim that these currents did not seek power have been proven wrong. These groups have seized power as the first winds of democracy swept the region, following the September 11 attacks.

Do events in Palestine and elsewhere call for pessimism or optimism? I am convinced that the situation requires hope. From now on, we will see if victorious Islamic groups in the Arab world concern themselves with cleaning their cities? What about education? How will they manage the interests of those who elected them and provide them with wages and a comfortable life? What will their attitude be towards women? How will they interact with a media they flocked to when they were in search of a place on the political map, in their respective countries? I ask because, as someone said, democracy begins after the ballots are cast.

We shall see whether those who used the motto Islam is the solution will be able to carry out their numerous slogans and realize the promises they made. Of course, those who believed them will not hold them accountable. The real test has only just begun. Building is much harder than firing slogans. How they will deal with what they used to bar politicians from, ever since they exploited religious edicts and abused them? Citizens will undoubtedly be observing them closely now. They will become embroiled in a media war just as politicians across the region were before them.

I feel optimistic because the cover, or at least the scared halo, will be removed from those who fought with slogans… not because of the media or any incitement from politicians but because they are now on at a critical stage with their own voters and supporters. Their meat has yet to rot. Hamas has crushed the Palestinian Authority. We heard from officials inside and outside the PA and elsewhere that its defeat was caused by corruption. We used to be attacked for such talk and get accused of plotting and destroying the PA at a critical time in the sacred struggle! The illusion has faded. We are now awaiting the winners in order for another illusion to fade

This optimism is accompanied by pain because all this is happening against the passage of time. In each election, the winners emerge victorious but, in every instance, we discover that the biggest losers are the people.

I write this from Hong Kong , wondering how this city was built and surpassed the capital Beijing , which is rapidly catching up with Hong Kong , where the colonizers departed a few years ago, without any suicide operations, bombings or fires occurring. Yes, I am optimistic that the deception will be exposed but not that development and progress will take place… This is a luxury that exceeds some of the winners.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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