The Beginning of the End of Political Islam in the Region?
Al-Etihad, UAE, October 31
What is happening in the region – from the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia to the current anti-corruption demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon – should leave us asking: Will political Islam gradually disappear from our region? Egyptians are still traumatized by the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, under which financial mismanagement and political violence reached unprecedented levels. The fall of Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi sent shockwaves across the Arab world, particularly among proponents of political Islam such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party. Just as the Egyptian people confronted political Islam in Egypt, so did the people of Algeria and Sudan in their own countries. The Algerian people endured hundreds of thousands of deaths during the 1990s at the hands of Islamist militias but did not lose hope. Eventually, sanity prevailed, and the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was forced to disarm and disband. In Sudan, demonstrators were able to sack their president, Gen. Omar al-Bashir, a sympathizer and ally of the National Islamic Front, after 30 years in power. There was also the secession of South Sudan. Even in Iraq, after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime and his Baath Party, demonstrations have revolved around opposition to a government backed by political parties of Islam. Even in Lebanon, for the first time, the Lebanese people realized that their main enemy was the enemy from within, which did not provide them with a decent life and minimal well being. Protesters have shown a high degree of unity regardless of sectarian and political affiliation. For the first time since the formation of Hizbullah in the 1980s, Lebanese Shi’ites have turned against it. In Nabatiyeh, a Hizbullah stronghold, Shi’ite protesters burned the offices of Hizbullah leaders. In Tunisia, too, the recent elections reflected the decline of political Islam. In the first round of the presidential election, the candidate endorsed by the Ennahda movement, the local Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, came in third, making him ineligible for the final round. Tunisians have grown deeply distrustful of Ennahda, especially after revelations of the party’s involvement in the establishment of a spy network targeting citizens, politicians and security personnel. The end of political Islam depends on the adoption of an alternative project by national leaders. Leaders of the Arab world must promote policies that meet the needs of their people and provide them with basic services, jobs and anti-corruption measures. They must also invest in economic development, especially among youth. The era of empty slogans is nearing its end. The time has come for real political accountability in the Middle East. – Najat Al-Saeed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)