For years the Western political elites and their Arab allies have claimed that the Arab people, against all historical evidence, are politically lethargic. They have postulated that Arabs neither have the interest nor ability to compel their authoritarian regimes to carry out democratic reforms. But when millions of Egyptians (then Yemenies and Bahrainies), inspired by their Tunisians counterparts, defied tanks and bullets to oust a dictator, there was a disturbing murmur of hesitation and muted fear that the uprising in Egypt and elsewhere would develop into an ‘Islamist revolution’—something similar to what happened in the Iran of 1979.
Arab Revolts: Islamists aren’t Coming!
There has been strong concern about the direction of the current revolts in the Middle East. The fear has been that the revolts may result in the Iranian-style Islamic revolutions in the Arab countries. This commentary questions the empirical validity of such claims, showing that the Arab revolts differ considerably from the Islamic revolution in ideology and trajectory. It suggests that we are witnessing the coming of a post-Islamist Middle East, in which the prevailing popular movements assume a post-national, post-ideological, civil, and democratic character. It is, therefore, argued that we are entering a new era in the region where Islamism—undermined by a crisis of legitimacy for ignoring and violating people’s democratic rights—is giving way to a different kind of religious polity, which takes democracy seriously while wishing to promote pious sensibilities in society.
The largely civil, peaceful, and jubilant mood of the protesters and their demands reminded one of the democratic revolutions of the Eastern Europe of the 1990s.
Already have an account? Sign In.