Arab youth want democracy, not theocracy
Danger over – American politicians fly to Egypt for a photo op in Tahrir Square
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission
Hosni Mubarak’s resignation resurrected a tsunami wave of articles and commentaries on whether Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood would now come to power. And yet, few have asked why the primary leaders of grassroots revolt in Egypt and across the Arab world curiously have not been Islamic organizations.
Authoritarian rulers in the Arab world, like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, have long justified their repressive governments by warning the United States and Europe that the alternative to their governments was “chaos” and an Islamist takeover.
The new generation of Arab youth and their supporters, however diverse and different, is united in its desire to topple entrenched autocrats and corrupt governments.
Having witnessed the failures of Islamist authoritarian regimes in Sudan, Iran, the Taliban’s Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, and the terror of the Bin Laden’s of the world, they are not interested in theocracy but democracy with its greater equality, pluralism, freedoms and opportunities.
But what about the Islamists, where are they?
The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic groups neither initiated nor have led pro-democracy protest movements. The uprisings have revealed a broad-based pro-democracy movement that is not driven by a single ideology or by religious extremists.
What has occurred is not an attempt at an Islamist takeover but a broad-based call for reforms…
As their signs, placards, statements, demands and the waving of flags not Islamist placards indicated, protesters want to reclaim their dignity, control of their lives and the right to determine their government; they demand government accountability and transparency, rule of law, an end to widespread corruption, and respect for human rights…
In contrast to radical extremists who want to seize power and impose their brand of an Islamic state, mainstream Islamic groups have competed and done well in elections and remained non-violent despite government limitations, harassment, repression, and rigged elections.
They have created effective NGOs that respond to the social and educational needs of their societies. They have come to appreciate diversity and pluralism in society and the need for democracy as the best system to manage this diversity. They have also been advocating many of the values of democracy, such as citizenship, rule of law, constitutionalism, separation of power, good governance and accountability…
I’m not certain how much of this analysis is wishful thinking by John Esposito. Certainly the currents he describes as mainstream, even predominant, have always been a force in the resistance to old-line dictators. Especially to the autocrats so often favored by the US and UK.
But, the youth wing of the Muslim Brotherhood did play a significant role in the overthrow of Mubarak. Without the direction of the traditional membership. They have changed many strategies of Islamist movements – they were bright enough to prevent hackneyed religious sloganeering during the uprising – they haven’t changed much on some individual issues. The most important, democratic participation of all parties is the most welcome change in their ideology.
I hope he’s right. RTFA for the details. He does have significantly more knowledge of the turf than your average politician or pundit.