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Thread: Arab Revolutions & Revolutionary Islam - futures

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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Arab Revolutions & Revolutionary Islam - futures

    This is based on a comment I saw from an ME expert. If someone has seen any articles that speak to what I'm discussing please post them. Below are just some observations that may or may not be factually correct or supportable. please chip in any useful comments.

    The issue here is the broader impact of these revolutions on the idea of radical Islam as an agent of revolution in the muslim world.

    Since the late 1970s a revolutionary brand of Islam has been increasingly successful in selling itself as the answer to the problems of Islamic societies. The failure of secular nationalist/leftist governments to provide freedom & prosperity to most in the muslim world and the collapse of Communism left the field open for a differnt revolutionary ideology - revolutionary Islam. It has been so succesful that even people who might not normally be disposed to support its radical ideas have become co-opted.

    It seems that the current moment in the Arab world provies a potential counter to that idea. A series of essentially secular nationalist uprisings have already unseated 2 dictators & may be about to do in a third. Others have been forced into compromise. In a few short weeks these relatively disorganised secular revolutionaries have achievements that nearly rival those of three decades of violent islamic relolutionaries, but with a fraction the cost. Suddenly the 'al-Qaeda' option is not the only option on the table for those seeking to battle tyrants & radically transform their societies.

    Revolutionary Islam certainly isn't going to slink away & die. It is here to stay, but now it has competition. Can these movements undermine the appeal of revolutionary islam in the longer term? Can the new crop of young heroes supplant the likes of OBL among those hoping to transform their societies?

    I am going to take the optimistic line & say that this can be a transformative moment. There is a caveat, however. It was the failure of the nationalists of the 50s-70s that opened the way for islamic revolutionaries. if these revolutions are co-opted by the powerful, if the hopes for democracy fail, if these societies go the way of Belarus or Russia (or god forbid Yugoslavia) rather than Poland or the former Czecholsovakia then I see a huge new opportunity for AQ & friends. If this hope turns bitter then the current problems we have with Islamic radicalism will look like a kids party.

    Lets hope western governments put aside 'realpolitik' & America stops viewing the ME through the Israel lens in favour of ensuring that freedom flourishes. Our governmetns have to accept that in the long term a troublesome democracy is much preferable to a friendly dictatorship. In this respect I fear the influence of China. The last thing we need is Beijing supporting a new crop of autocrats in an attempt to extend its influence.

    Lets hope that in 10 or 20 years time we look back on this moment as the start of something positive, rather than a lost opportunity.
    Last edited by Bigfella; 27 Feb 11, at 09:01.


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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    You know I heard this same line of thinking on dateline BBC yesterday and for now its seems compelling.

    Revolutionary Islam was just socialist revolutionary ideas repackaged for a muslim world. Its supposed to offer a similar utopia. Class warfare by other means and by any possible. Where has it ever delivered in reality ? nowhere. It just keeps getting asserted and thats about it. In all likellihood it will deliver yet another stream of dictatorships. What did the posterchild 9-11 of this movement deliver ? more war. What will more 9-11's do, same.

    But what we've seen in the last few months is an alternative maybe even a refutation of this idea. For once the ppl themselves are asking for secular ideas without being told from outside what to do. This is literally poison for revolutionary Islam. If ppl are free to choose what they want then what sort of escape do revolutionary ideas provide, very little. Maybe only for a disaffected vocal fringe which exists anywhere, besides the Arab world.

    Looking at these revolutions through lenses tinted with yesterdays ideas isn't productive and may even be harmful. I say give the people the benefit of the doubt for now.

    These countries are looking for an economical transformation, one that will redistribute wealth they inherently possess more equitably. They have a lot of young and need to generate a hundred million jobs within the coming decade. How sucessfully this task is handled will determine where things go in the Arab world. Its been long coming, the people of these countries can easily be much richer than they are today with better mananagement. They have to get on the gravy train and fast. That these movements suddenly erupted is testament to the fact that these countries should have liberalised their economies decades ago. But things were held back because it was seen as more stable to prop up dictatorships. This stability allowed everybody else to get richer, well the time for that has come and gone.

    There might be a historic opportunity here for Israel to resolve its issues once and for all if it plays its cards right. Craft policies in conjunction with the west that speak to the aspirations of the ppl there.

    Here is a leader article from the economist that echoes the same sentiment.

    Blood and oil-The Economist

    The lesson from the Arab awakening is an uplifting one. Hard-headed students of realpolitik like to think that only they see the world as it truly is, and that those who pursue human rights and democracy have their heads in the clouds. In their world, the Middle East was not ready for democracy, Arabs not interested in human rights, and the strongmen the only bulwark between the region and Islamic revolution. Yet after the wave of secular uprisings, it is the cynics who seem out of touch, and the idealists have turned out to be the realists.
    Last edited by Double Edge; 27 Feb 11, at 09:34.

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    Contributor 1980s's Avatar
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    Here's one:

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigfella View Post
    If someone has seen any articles that speak to what I'm discussing please post them.
    Clash of Civilizations Discredited
    Mahmood Delkhasteh
    Author, 'Islamic Discourses of Power and Freedom in the Iranian Revolution'
    Posted: February 26, 2011 03:07 PM

    Might we finally be able to dispel the myth of clashing civilizations to make room for new understandings of cultures of democracy? After the collapse of the Soviet Union and sudden vacuum of a political and ideological rival for 'the west,' some theorists predicted the end of history, or at least, of ideology. According to Francis Fukuyama, the triumph of liberal capitalism over communist authoritarianism concluded that the principles of human rights, liberal democracy and free markets would shape the destiny of the entire world. Others, however, argued otherwise. Samuel Huntington soon offered an alternative theory in the 'Clash of civilizations'.

    He argued that although the age of grand ideological struggles ended with the collapse of Soviet communism, the world had in fact regressed to a prior stage of development, which was based on the "normal" clashes that he said resulted from incommensurable forms of cultural difference. His cultural mapping of the world identified eight major civilizations. He argued that the west was naive to presume that democratic values and human rights were universal, and that attempts to impose these values in other cultures would lead to resentment and backlash. In effect, he argued that freedom and democratic principles are inherent only to western cultures, while being alien to others such as Chinese -- and primarily Islamic.

    This ultimate conclusion, and specifically Huntington's approach to Islam, is what made his theory so controversial, and what provided right-wingers in the west with a much-needed ideological enemy. Huntington perceived Islamic culture as inherently non-democratic, and thus that attempts to impose democratic values within it would anger the increasingly popular fundamentalist players within the Islamic world. "Islam," he said, "has bloody borders." In fact, he predicted that future wars would take erupt on fault lines primarily between Islamic and western civilizations: "the clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future." To support his argument, he noted major upheavals within Islamic world, and particularly the 1979 Iranian revolution.

    The theory, however, not only turned cultures into closed, timeless and space-less entities; it also disregarded obvious factors in the politics of these civilizations. For example, in the 1979 Iranian revolution, democracy was the dominant cultural currency. The revolution aimed to establish a political system that would honor democracy and human rights. Religious fundamentalist forces in the revolution were in such a minority that their candidate could not muster even 5% of the vote in the country's first presidential election, while Abolhassan Banisadr, representing the democratic front, secures more than 76%.

    The eventual victory of the fundamentalist faction came about through a conjunction of factors, including unfavourable international conditions. The prolonging of the Iran-Iraq war through Ronald Reagan's covert relationship with the Iranian fundamentalists (later exposed as the "October Surprise" and Iran-Gate scandal) played a major role. There was nothing inevitable about the dominance of fundamentalist forces over state and society. And while there was widespread resentment against western (mainly US) policies towards Iran, these were not rooted in a cultural belief that American civilization was democratic and Iranian civilization was not. They were grounded in an understanding that US policies towards Iran were antidemocratic. The 1953 American-British coup against the democratic prime minister Mohammad Mussadegh, and twenty-five years of support for the brutal dictatorship of the Shah, were the most obvious example of this. The US was resented not because it was culturally incommensurable or advocated human rights, but because it supported a despot who made it possible for the US to dominate oil interests in the Iranian economy. The "clash of civilizations" thesis was hollow, but powerful nevertheless.

    Interestingly enough, fundamentalist forces within Islamic countries also tried to use this theory to justify their own anti-western geopolitics. Hizb-al-Tahrir, for example, argued that the "clash of civilizations" was inevitable. Right-wing forces in the west found their counterparts within the Islamic world, and were soon provided "proof" of their thesis in the attacks of September 11, 2001. In the years that followed, a bold new narrative of the "clash of civilizations" was crafted. It had become so embedded in international relations, popular culture and public consciousnesses that it was difficult to imagine what might be able to unravel it.

    Democratic movements in Islamic societies might. The sudden explosion of popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and just prior to it the Green Movement in Iran, have begun to more seriously expose the shallowness of the "clash of civilizations" theory. These movements all share characteristics in the non-violence of revolutionary methods, the insignificance of fundamentalist elements, and democratic goals. The early victories of democratic forces in Tunisia and Egypt and the total isolation of fundamentalist sections of society in these countries, as well as the fragile situation of fundamentalism in Iran, demonstrate that democracy is not the monopoly of the west. Nor can it be a reason for some epic "clash of civilizations." The multiple roots of democratic governance can be traced back not only to the ancient Greeks, but over a thousand years before, also to Sumaria. This history challenges the long-held belief rarely now spoken aloud, but undoubtedly still working in silence, that as Orientalist scholars like Vatikiotis argued, "Islam does not develop, and neither do Muslims; they are merely are." We see in front of our eyes: Islam does develop, and enters into dialogue within itself and other belief systems. It is not hard to think that demands for the separation of religion and state in Egypt and Tunisia have partly developed through observing the disastrous consequences of conflating state with religion in Iran.

    Now, these two ongoing revolutions and the spread of revolutionary energies to other Islamic countries are providing evidence that discredits the basic principles of the theory of the "clash of civilizations." As one Egyptian explained, the reason for his participation in the revolution was, "I want to be counted." If there is anything essential in human beings, surely, it is this need to be counted, to count. The counting of the unaccountable is not the monopoly of certain cultures; it is what makes us human -- and it is what Jacques Rancière says is the foundation of all politics. Or in other words, as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "there is something in the soul that cries out for freedom". That something is deeply rooted in our humanity; it is what makes us universal. The bloody fault lines of conflict today are mapped out not between democratic and undemocratic civilizations, but between global forces of antidemocratic power and human struggles for freedom in every culture.

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigfella
    There is a caveat, however. It was the failure of the nationalists of the 50s-70s that opened the way for islamic revolutionaries. if these revolutions are co-opted by the powerful, if the hopes for democracy fail, if these societies go the way of Belarus or Russia (or god forbid Yugoslavia) rather than Poland or the former Czecholsovakia then I see a huge new opportunity for AQ & friends. If this hope turns bitter then the current problems we have with Islamic radicalism will look like a kids party.
    Does this imply then that the problems everybody fears are 20-30 years away ?

    Time enough for the present crop of nationalists to fail.

    Wolfowitz had a few good lines on Fareed's show today.

    WOLFOWITZ: Look, I - I think there's too much attempt to put foreign policy views in - in right/left terms. The view that I would like to associate with is the one I think of as Harry Truman and John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, who believed that support for freedom, support for democracy is not only something that is morally important for the United States but equally is strategically important, and a freer, more democratic world is good for us.
    and this cracker

    WOLFOWITZ: Look, there's a - there's a dangerous argument, I think, that almost says if - if you're a Muslim and you're not an extremist, then you're not a good Muslim, and it's coming from people who aren't Muslims at all.
    Last edited by Double Edge; 27 Feb 11, at 23:54.

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    Banned tankie's Avatar
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    Cameron is now talking Military action against Gaddafi ?? Its a shame the Yanks never got him when they bombed him .
    Last edited by tankie; 28 Feb 11, at 19:43.

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    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
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    Humanitarian intervention is back??So far there is nothing to justify sending forces there.It's chaos,everybody has an agenda and everyone is trying to manipulate.The extent of the repression is unclear and many of the killing(btw,we have no real idea how many these are) could be the work of the rebels or gangsters,not the job of the regime.
    Until better intel is available,I'll say it's better to stand down.

    Btw,if one really wants to mess the whole deal he will send troops in the oil&gas rich Libya.Ohh,the crapstorm.
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    Banned tankie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mihais View Post
    Humanitarian intervention is back??So far there is nothing to justify sending forces there.It's chaos,everybody has an agenda and everyone is trying to manipulate.The extent of the repression is unclear and many of the killing(btw,we have no real idea how many these are) could be the work of the rebels or gangsters,not the job of the regime.
    Until better intel is available,I'll say it's better to stand down.

    Btw,if one really wants to mess the whole deal he will send troops in the oil&gas rich Libya.Ohh,the crapstorm.

    I was just wondering where the troops are gonna come from , if/when he does .

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    Patron indus creed's Avatar
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    Thankfully up until now there has been no real charismatic leader from the extremist wing of Islam(like the Ayatullah Khomeini) to fill the current void. The bad news being, this could have been a great opportunity for moderate nationalists of these countries to take over and prove their mettle. Libya could well be the exception. Mercenaries could take over.

    Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.
    Last edited by indus creed; 02 Mar 11, at 00:00.

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tankie View Post
    Cameron is now talking Military action against Gaddafi ?? Its a shame the Yanks never got him when they bombed him .
    How much value would this have if it was just a bluff but a credible one ?

    In Gaddafi's mind, he's already constrained without NATO having to do anything

    But gaddafi isn't someone one can understand in the best of cases.

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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1980s View Post
    Now, these two ongoing revolutions and the spread of revolutionary energies to other Islamic countries are providing evidence that discredits the basic principles of the theory of the "clash of civilizations." As one Egyptian explained, the reason for his participation in the revolution was, "I want to be counted." If there is anything essential in human beings, surely, it is this need to be counted, to count. The counting of the unaccountable is not the monopoly of certain cultures; it is what makes us human -- and it is what Jacques Rancière says is the foundation of all politics. Or in other words, as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "there is something in the soul that cries out for freedom". That something is deeply rooted in our humanity; it is what makes us universal. The bloody fault lines of conflict today are mapped out not between democratic and undemocratic civilizations, but between global forces of antidemocratic power and human struggles for freedom in every culture.
    Thanks for that piece 1980s.

    It makes a good point & one that I have been on for a while - the 'all muzlinz are bad' crowd in the west & those who adhere most strongly to the 'clash of civilizations' idea actually do some of Bin Laden's work for him. They also sell people short & treat muslims as an undifferentiated mass in a way that we would never take seriously if the target were people we were more familiar with.


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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    Does this imply then that the problems everybody fears are 20-30 years away ?

    Time enough for the present crop of nationalists to fail.

    Wolfowitz had a few good lines on Fareed's show today.
    DE,

    That depends on what happens next. If the revolutions rapidly end up in the hands of a new set of dictators the problems will come a lot quicker than 20 years. If the failures are longer term then it depends on how & why they fail.

    Interesting quotes from Wolfowitz. This one:

    view that I would like to associate with is the one I think of as Harry Truman and John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, who believed that support for freedom, support for democracy is not only something that is morally important for the United States but equally is strategically important, and a freer, more democratic world is good for us.
    ....made me LOL & could only come from an American. I won't waste my time with a list of dictatorships that these guys actively supported, but it is lengthy.

    Look, there's a - there's a dangerous argument, I think, that almost says if - if you're a Muslim and you're not an extremist, then you're not a good Muslim, and it's coming from people who aren't Muslims at all.
    This one was on the mark, however.


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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigfella View Post
    That depends on what happens next. If the revolutions rapidly end up in the hands of a new set of dictators the problems will come a lot quicker than 20 years. If the failures are longer term then it depends on how & why they fail.
    You'll have to be patient until they put up the stream & transcript for the debate you want to see called...

    'This House believes that Arab revolutions will just produce different dictators'

    From the Doha Debates series. There were four speakers, two in support and two against with Tim Sebastian officiating as the host who plays a wicked devil's advocate

    Was lucky to catch it on BBC world, last sunday. These debates are sponsored by the Qatar foundation, so imma guess there won't be any unrest in that country.

    The house defeated the motion 3 to 1 and this one was held in Tunis, so this a small sample of what ppl in that country think.
    Last edited by Double Edge; 02 Mar 11, at 10:19.

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