Thursday, April 21, 2016

"The so-called Arab Spring has been most often described as a revolt of Westernized, secularized youth, the latest instance of the democratic wave which toppled authoritarian regimes in southern Europe in 1970s, southern cone in 1980s, Eastern Europe in 1990s. This explanation is very popular among Western and Westoxicated audiences. For them the pictures on CNN and BBC–showing young people in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, wearing jeans, using social media, seemingly captivated by the appeal of Western prosperity and democracy–was very seductive. This representation confirms for Westerners and the Westoxicated that the West is the ultimate source of liberation. Such beliefs are based on the assumption that liberation can only be achieved by imitating the West. Alas, for the rest of us on this planet, things are far-less clear-cut. Outside Eastern Europe, most of the people of the world have not experienced the West as the vanguard of emancipation; rather they have been the subjects of Western empires and exploitation. After all, almost ninety per cent of the people ruled by London, Paris, and Amsterdam had virtually no political rights.
The idea that the Arab Spring was secular is based on a rather confused idea about what Islamism is and what secularism is. Even Western coverage of protests would wonder aloud at how big the crowds would be after Jummah prayers. So clearly, the signifier of Islam was present in the Arab Spring. Wearing jeans or using social media are not very useful markers of working out the political orientation of those who opposed the tyrannies of Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, and Bahrain. Like any popular eruption, the Arab Spring contained many disparate elements, who created a common front through opposition to what were Kemalist dictatorships. These mass gatherings included hundreds and thousands of people who then went on to vote for Islamist-type parties. They also included, in some cases, many liberals and secularists who cheered as the Kemalist deep state launched its coup in Egypt.
The Sisi regime has sought to liquidate the Muslim Brotherhood. In this endeavor it has been supported or at least not opposed by large swathes of so-called liberal and secular opinion in Egypt. The Arab Spring was not hijacked by Islamism rather it was crushed by the Kemalist reaction. The Arab Spring and continuing upheavals associated with it are a product of structural changes in the international system. These include the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Mukhabarat states, and the deepening decolonization within the Islamicate networks." — Salman Sayyid

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