Trying to Understand the Arab Spring


As a non-expert on the Arab world, how is one to understand the different clashes taking place in North Africa and the Middle East? Perhaps the easiest answer would be to say that each scene of rebellion, discontent and uprising is very different and highly contextual. Each country has its own history; Tunisia is not Egypt, Egypt is not Syria, Syria is not Libya, Libya is not Yemen. Yet, outbreaks have taken place across the region, with striking similarities beyond the obvious. Autocratic rulers have been removed; others are being challenged with varying degrees of success and violence. There is something going on here that is profound.

Can we in the West understand? One wishes to say that a new wave of modernization if not democratization is sweeping the region. Having been exposed via technology to advancements in the West and perhaps even the idealism of Barack Obama's famous Cairo speech, the Arab world is demanding the same kinds of freedoms we enjoy. Chauvinism would lead us to say that the Arab world is now trying to follow our democratic/free market example. That would be a wishful thought since there is a great deal of anti-Western antagonism shown by many demonstrators as well as keen observations about the economic catastrophes witnessed in many Western if not European countries. Would anyone really want to follow the economic examples of Greece, Iceland and Portugal with national bankruptcies barely avoided? (Notice I politely exclude the United States debt problem here.) Would anyone really want to follow the democratic examples of Finland or France with the rise of extreme right-wing parties? (Notice I politely exclude the Swiss minaret problem here.)

I certainly does not help our understanding that a religious belief outside the Judeo/Christian tradition is playing a prominent role in much of the region. Is Islam compatible with democratization and modernity, if not a modern state system? This question has been debated and will continue to be debated within European countries, but it is now coming to the fore in the Maghreb and Middle East. Turkey is being frequently cited as the best example of a solution. Our secular societies are firmly based on the separation of Church and State, besides some obvious references in Constitutions and on dollar bills. Easter, like Christmas, has become more a holiday than a religious celebration.

We observe what is going on; we try to understand. Perhaps we even try to interfere to save lives or to help a group that is favorable to us. But, for the moment, we are watching waves of activity that are like a tsunami causing huge destruction, and hoping that when the wave recedes the reconstruction will have something better than what was there before. It may even be more satisfying to ponder the tsunami "over there" than examine the potential earthquake ready to shake our economic basis at home.

April 26, 2011



Lien permanent Catégories : Arab World 4 commentaires


  • On se souvient des frasques du colonel Kadhafi, reçu en grandes pompes à l’Elysée, après avoir imposé l’installation de sa tente de bédouin dans le parc du palais de Marigny. La ministre Rama Yade avait été choquée et avait cru devoir préciser que la France n’était pas un « paillasson sur lequel on pouvait s’essuyer ». Elle avait montré alors beaucoup de dignité au moment où Nicolas Sarkozy était pourtant au firmament des sondages.

    Il s’agissait bien d’un courage politique que l’inconscience ou, plutôt, la jeunesse pouvait permettre. C’était en d’autres temps, du temps où la France espérait placer 10 milliards de matériel alors qu’au final, elle n’a signé que 200 millions d’euros de contrats restés impayés et à la charge des contribuables français !

    Mais le temps passe et en d’autres cieux, le président libyen du CNT (Conseil National de Transition), Moustapha Abdeljalil, vient d’être reçu par le chef de l'Etat français et il a demandé à la France d'intensifier ses frappes contre les forces du colonel Kadhafi et d'accroitre son aide humanitaire. Cette personnalité libyenne, qui s’affiche au devant de l’actualité et sur les marches de l’Elysée, a eu pourtant un parcours ne manquant pas d’originalité.

    Mais la diplomatie française ne s’embarrasse ni de morale et ni de souvenirs. Nicolas Sarkozy, qui fait face à sa propre expérience militaire avec un risque de désastre, a mis les pieds dans le bourbier libyen qui pourrait devenir, pour lui, un petit Afghanistan.

    Il est donc prêt à toutes les compromissions, même celle d’oublier l’affaire des infirmières bulgares dénouée par sa précédente femme, Cécilia. Cette longue procédure diplomatique et judiciaire a eu lieu en Libye entre 1999 et 2007 et dans laquelle les inculpés, cinq infirmières bulgares et un médecin anesthésiste d’origine palestinienne naturalisé bulgare furent accusés sans preuves de plusieurs crimes.

    Les six inculpés ont été condamnés à mort après un procès douteux et un chantage odieux. Cette histoire doit être rappelée car le président du CNT libyen, Moustapha Abdeljalil, celui-là même qui veut remplacer aujourd’hui le colonel Kadhafi à la tête de la Libye, fut à son heure de gloire le Président de la Cour d'Appel.

    En cette qualité, il confirma notamment la condamnation à mort des cinq infirmières et du médecin bulgares, malgré le retentissement international de l’affaire. Il fut d’ailleurs récompensé en devenant, de 2007 à 2011, secrétaire du Comité général du peuple, autre intitulé de Ministre de la Justice. C’était en d’autres temps et en d’autres cieux.

  • Dear Daniel,

    Let me write namely to you, your are arising with those questions that no one can answer, of course these questions arises, but hopefully they have no response, even they have no resonances toward our understanding. Like in chemistry, you mix two ingredients and it become explosive, the first acknowledgment is that it's explodes, it will take many more years of studies to discovers some of the elements that may explain why !

    Too my point of vue, there is a kind of new crusade going on, a new religion invading the Muslim world, not the Christan one, but one of his derived byproduct, "the human right" belief.

    During 2'000 years on one side and 1'400 years on the other side, two currents went in two opposites ways, one running after the goodness, and the second after the stringency ! Both doesn't worth a cents without the other.

    Goodness and rigor has to be taken as one thing, perfection includes both, together ! One culture trying to ignore that both can be separated or us only one of them, is bound to be vanish, ans now, those two worlds are trying to be one through the destructive way.

    That's why, I don^t take this episode as serious, in the contrary it is pure misunderstanding ! ! !

  • So silent !

  • Dear ones,

    Having travelled around many different countries during my life, I have stopped many years ago, in some of the countries in the Arab world. These countries,after having lived for so many years under occupation, either under the English or French occupation in the Middle East for instance, once they have got their freedom, they fell under autocratic rulers, who preached to them, false democracy, but people were so happy to get freedom, that they believed false information and promises made by their new rulers, which of course at the beginning sounded very clear, but later it was a different song. The real and true problem has nothing to do with religion at all, the reality is that those autocratic rulers brought to poverty their people to an extent that some of the families just live with some bread and tea on a daily basis. I remember having seen the powdered milk sent but the UN sold into black markets. So comes in the Islamic and Christian churches with their different associations to help out the people who are starving, who are sick,so they occupied a blank field that was not occupied by the different governments. People needed to feed and help their families, they asked for help from these different associations, some of these, have asked the families to strictly follow the islamic rules which they of course did. When the people found out, that the governments were not doing their job by creating and developing social security help for them, they started to join the islamic or christian associations, but this has nothing to do with the radical associations. You should take into account that some christians in the middle east are also wearing the veil in some villages for instance. The problem is a social problem, not to my personal belief, a religious problem at all. When the governments in the Middle East, will take SERIOUSLY into account and in charge the social security rights in favour of the populations then the things might change, but unfortunately, we in Europe, are having the atittude of:"Let us wait and see, whats up next"? There is a real necessity for us to help out these new governments how to develop social security in their countries, because the people do pay a lot of taxes in comparison with their earnings, that is what we europeans can do to help out people in the Middle East, mainly is to stop the financial and economical crisis for the families to live a decent and minimum confortable life. The autocratic rulers distributed the richness of the countries upon their friends, families and those who supported them and not at all upon the public and the poor, so the balance is not made any more between the rich, the poor and those working for the governments. "Voilà,qui dit mieux"!

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