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Why don't you benefit yourself? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Arab Spring began with campaigns of intimidation and character assassinations against whoever dared to criticize it. Now we are moving on to an extortion stage. Notable cases of this can be found in the Gulf region, specifically among Muslim Brotherhood affiliates as well as others who like to call themselves activists, and the most blatant example is what is happening in Kuwait.

Against the backdrop of the disturbing events in Kuwait and the insolence shown towards the ruling Emir – an act prohibited by the constitution – Kuwaiti opposition MP Waleed al-Tabatabai came out to criticize his government’s handling of the opposition’s newfound mobility, saying that “the Kuwaiti government has failed to benefit from the events of the Arab Spring”. This is an interesting remark, because the real question that should be asked is: Why haven’t the opposition, activists, and anyone else adored with such titles that have nothing to do with reform in reality, benefitted from the Arab Spring? If reform, democracy and greater openness are the true objectives of al-Tabatabai and others, then in which Arab Spring states have these goals been achieved? Which Arab Spring states have managed to draw up a constitution that even comes close to the one drafted by Kuwait in the 1960s? Which Arab Spring state can we now say respects freedom, with laws preserving a political balance, guaranteeing economic and intellectual openness, maintaining women’s rights and enshrining a free press?

Here someone might say: “Hold on, do you know enough about Waleed al-Tabatabai to ask him such questions?” The answer is certainly yes. Here we come to the crux of the matter: What model of governance does al-Tabatabai want Kuwait to imitate? One like the Taliban, Gaza or Sudan? If this is his intention then he must say so explicitly so that everyone in Kuwait, as well as in the wider Gulf region, is aware that this is his “reform project”, and hence it would be disastrous to support him. Yet if al-Tabatabai, along with others who call for Kuwait to “benefit from the Arab Spring events”, want actual reform and democracy, then they must tell us which Arab Spring example deserves to be replicated?

In a similar vein to my colleague Mshari Al-Zaydi’s article published last week, entitled “An incident on the Brotherhood’s train”, my intention here is not to criticize the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood or an opposition figure like Waleed al-Tabatabai, nor is it to reject the principle of reform or argue that we are not in dire need of it politically, economically, educationally and in the media. Rather I am saying that we should not tear down the building whilst it is still occupied, or take a step backwards. It is strange today – as we enter the stage of Arab Spring extortion – that everyone seems to have lost their memory. With the stroke of a pen some have now transformed into reformers and democrats, whilst in the past they had branded anyone demanding reform, openness, women’s rights, political representation, or even for the English language to be taught to children in schools, as being Westernized liberals. Today we find people like Dr. Salman al-Ouda warning of the consequences of extremism in Syria, in a statement to the New York Times. We also find others such as Waleed al-Tabatabai calling on the Kuwaiti government to benefit from the Arab Spring events!

It is an astounding situation and one can only recall the famous line of Arabic poetry that reads:

“O ye who teaches others, will you not educate yourself?”

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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