Friday 5 July 2013

Political Islam and change in Egypt and Syria

"Islam is the solution"
Arab revolutions breaking out since late 2010 were not expected to sail through as soon as power changed hands, says Lebanese affairs bureau chief of pan-Arab al-Hayat Walid Choucair.
Commenting on turbulent political change in Egypt and Syria, he writes in part:
Forsaking authoritarian regimes that spent decades stamping out the popular will and domesticating political life is always fraught with difficulties and pitfalls.
Uprisings against underdevelopment, marginalization, oppression, humiliation, the plunder of national wealth and the taming of state institutions are invariably harrowing.
Egypt’s Muslim Brothers were not the only ones to fail in worming their way to a new regime. Their kinfolk in Tunisia and Morocco and their ilk in Libya did not fair any better.
Their counterparts in Syria have yet to close ranks as they wrestle with the regime.
Egypt’s Muslim Brothers failed to seize the opportunity they got to address their country’s political, economic and social ills. Hence the alliances that ousted them, which brought together the military, religious and cultural establishments, opposition parties and the Tamarrud mass movement.
The irony is: (1) In Egypt, voters gave political Islam the opportunity to rule and then held it to account on public squares for its failures (2) In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad’s forces bombed the squares and the masses crowding them under the guise of fighting political Islam.
In his weekly column for the independent Beirut daily an-Nahar, senior analyst Jihad el-Zein reflects on the quick breakdown of domineering political Islam.
Ushered on by Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, it took fundamentalist Islam about 35 years to rise to power before starting to lose its shine. It noticeably went downhill with the outbreak of internecine strife between Shiite fundamentalism and its Sunni counterpart followed by its post-Arab Spring self-destruct in Tunisia and Egypt.
The slogan “Islam is the solution” championed in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies evaporated posthaste.
The second Egyptian revolution now underway killed off all political hope that Islamist political movements in the Arab world are capable of managing successfully the tough and complex issues facing a nation-state in the contemporary world.
“Islam is the solution” hit a brick wall when millions of Muslims – most of them devout – avowed in different ways in Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Iran and elsewhere that they do not want a “religious state” and differentiate between the fate of fundamentalist Islamic movements and Islam as the religion of 1.6 billion people on the planet.
“Globalization” gave rise to the strongest and most violent forms of political Islam.
In his essay “The Spirit of Terrorism,” the late French sociologist, philosopher and cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard characterized the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York as a reaction to the technological and political expansion of capitalist globalization rather than a clash between Islam and America.
The same globalization that instigated the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the first place is now knocking it down by various ways and means.
After overhearing some Cairo news coming from the radio in my car, an Egyptian worker at a gas station in [the Beirut district of] Ashrafiyeh, turned to me saying, “The Muslim Brothers strove for 80 years to take over in Egypt… They won’t give up easily.”
True, but the fact is the Brothers failed in their first year at the helm in Egypt because of the intricacies of running state affairs in modern times, especially when issues of state-building and development – including the economy, social welfare, public transport, gas prices and the environment – are for the most part independent of Islam.
Whereas Islam is prospering socially and culturally as a religion across the world, political Islam is in crisis and being challenged in Iran since 2009, Turkey this month and now Egypt.
The death bell is indeed tolling for the “religious state.”