...from the very first day of the Arab Spring, I was sure it was destined to be an Islamic Spring.
It is over a year since the beginning of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, which started as angry demonstrations in the streets of Tunisia. There is nothing new about street demonstrations in the Arab world; they have been happening for decades in all Arab countries with the exception of Saudi Arabia. The Arab streets usually see angry demonstrations against Israel and the West; anti-government demonstrations are not tolerated at all. Saudi Arabia goes one step further by not tolerating any demonstration at all, just in case it turns out against the government. The new thing about these demonstrations is their outcome. In the past, they used to be brutally crushed by the regimes before the outside world knew about them. In the past, civilians could never dare confronting armed tanks because of the fear of inevitable death. Nowadays, even a heavily armed tank becomes useless in the face of an unarmed civilian as long as cameras are around, and there are always cameras around.
The Tunisian demonstrations were a remarkable success that marked the speedy departure of the Tunisian president Zain Alabidin Bin Ali, who opted for an easy exit to continue his luxurious life in Saudi Arabia. The pro-western Tunisian president, who kept his country largely secular despite the increasing radicalization of his people, must have sensed that the rules of the game have changed and his services to the west were no longer required.
The easy success in Tunisia sent signals to the Arabs everywhere. The Egyptians, who also had enough of their long serving pro-western president, were next to the streets. President Mubarak was elected several times since 1982, but his popularity had a nosedive lately because of corruption claims and his unwillingness to turn his back to the “peace treaty” with Israel. In reality, President Mubarkak and Bin Ali were normal pro-secularism Arab leaders, who were keen to protect their countries from the creeping wave of Islamic radicalization, a battle they eventually lost. In fact, President Mubarak should be credited for warning the West several times about the dangerous western policy of providing refuge to radical Islamists, and that was in the early 1990s and long before the atrocities of 9/11. Until last year’s uprising, western media never described President Mubarak and Bin Ali as tyrants and never reported about their massive wealth, which the same media now estimates to be in tens of billions of dollars! This sudden change of heart remains a mystery to most of us. Is it simply a naive and stupid mistake or is it the West’s new policy to cooperate with the Islamists, the very people who seek their demise?
After the success in Tunisia, all Arab nations thought that their time has come to go to the streets and force a change. That included countries like Bahrain and, more interestingly, Saudi Arabia -- where the Shia Arabs went to the streets demanding reforms. From Morocco to Oman and Yemen, demonstrators went to the streets demanding political reforms, but only in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, where the old-style brutality of the regime came to life with minimal reporting by western media and Aljazeera TV. The Saudis did not only brutally crush the Shia demonstrations in their own eastern province, but also sent their army across the border to crush the Shia uprisings in Bahrain.
What happened in Libya was a completely different story, because of the involvement of NATO from the beginning to the end. Various western newspapers reports made no secret of the role of the air-strikes in crippling the regime as the British SAS, working on the ground, helped the rebels to capture Tripoli. Even the final chapter of capturing Gaddafi and brutally killing him in such a barbaric way was only made possible because of NATO’s help.
The role of Qatar
Qatar is a new player in world politics and is determined not only to make history but to change history. It is a small Gulf state with a native population of only 225,000. Thanks to natural gas and oil, Qatar is a very rich state and has more money than they can spend. When the potential wealth of Qatar came to light in the early 1990s, Sheikh Hamad, then son of the Emir, staged a palace coup and seized power. His deposed father, the original Emir, is now living in exile. Determined to shape the world to his liking, Sheikh Hamad established Al Jazeera TV, which quickly proved to be the most influential TV channel in the Arab world. It has a large audience and unrivaled capability in shaping the Arab public opinion. Al Jazeera’s staffs were recruited from the BBC, which helped the new channel to stand out among a crowd of primitive satellite channels.
Just like the BBC, Al Jazeera managed to earn the reputation of being impartial, although it is not. In reality, Al Jazeera is strongly biased in favor of the Islamists and allowed itself to be used as a platform to various Islamic groups, such as Al Qaeda. It must be mentioned that Al Jazeera doesn’t report on certain issues like the scandalous way that brought Sheikh Hamad to power or the fact that Qatar has a large American military base that was used to bomb other Arab countries, such as Iraq. Such reporting would damage the standing of Qatar in the Arab world. Also to be mentioned that Al Jazeera reported only briefly on the brutal crushing of the Shia uprising in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which contrasts with the non-stop reporting from other Arab countries like Egypt, Libya and Syria.
On a different front, Qatar has become a dominant player in the Arab League, which is now a tool in the hands of Sheikh Hamad and his Saudi allies. Only recently, Sheikh Hamad named the state’s grand mosque after Ibn Abdul Wahhab, emphasizing that Qatar embraces the Wahhabi sect of Islam, which makes them natural allies to Saudi Arabia. The Arab League was established after WW2 with Syria as a founding member, decades before Qatar was created. The Arab League never had power, but served to reflect the rising pride of Arab nationalism. The Gulf Arabs do not like any reference to Arab nationalism, which brings to them the very painful memories of the 1950s and 1960s when President Nasser of Egypt, the hero of Arab nationalism, marginalized Saudi Arabia and its Islamist allies despite their massive wealth. The Islamists consider Arab nationalism as a means of going forward without the crippling ties of Islam, which is a nightmare especially to the Saudis. Although they don’t say it openly, but the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs consider Islam as a reflection of their 7th-century culture, which they can impose easily on others, whether Arabs or non-Arabs.
The role of Turkey
Turkey doesn’t normally intervene in Arab affairs; so its interests in the Syrian events are most absurd. We cannot believe that Turkey is too concerned about the Syrian casualties, especially that the Turkish army has been engaged in bloody battles against its own Kurdish people for many years. But secular Turkey is a thing of the past and the country is heading fast towards total Islamization. Turkey is ruled by a political party strongly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and had very strong ties with Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Radical Islam has been spreading in Turkey for a while, thanks to oil money. Turkish governments were committed to secularism despite the slow spread of radical Islam among the Turkish people, thanks to oil money. The reality now is that Turkey has joined the Sunni Islamic front led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Its connections with Europe and NATO can always come handy when the time is right.
It is noteworthy that after the uprising in Tunisia, the Syrians were slow to respond; the country remained remarkably stable for weeks if not months. I visited Damascus in June and didn’t notice any remarkable changes to ordinary life, and that was the time when the Syrian demonstrations were already in the news. However, people were already talking about Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations in other places. I thought the demonstrations will die quickly, because I felt that President Asaad was actually popular. Apparently I am not alone to make such a conclusion, because according to a recent poll conducted by a Qatari organization, 55% of the population would vote for President Asaad. This is not to say that the Syrians are happy with their government, but it means that they prefer this government to the alternative.
The events in Syria developed in a suspicious way, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar withdrawing their ambassadors from Damascus in protest to the brutality of the regime. It is laughable that such sympathy was expressed by the Saudis, who just crushed the uprising of their own people in the eastern province. Then we started hearing about an organized opposition that organizes meetings in Turkey. It became clear that the Syrian opposition is not on its own but receive financial and logistical support from the same Islamic axis: Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Again, it is mainly Qatar who is behind the building of a powerful Sunni front to surround Syria and topple Asaad.
Syria is ruled by the Baath party. The president and most key figures in the leadership come from Alawi sect, which is a derivative of Shia Islam. In addition, Syria has strong relations with the other Shia power in Iran. It would make sense that the Saudis and their allies would like to replace the Syrian regime with a Sunni one.
The Arabs truly believe that if they are given a good leadership, they will become the most successful nation on Earth. They attribute all their failure to their corrupt political regimes, which they believe have been imposed on them by America and the West. The Arabs are not democratic by their nature and have no understanding or admiration of democracy. On the contrary, they admire power and authoritarian manners. This is inherent in their culture and personalities and is evident in the domineering style they manage their everyday lives at home, office and society. Democracy is based on freedom of expression, which is alien to the Arabs and is a sin in Islam.
The Arabs demand democracy only when they happen to be on the opposition side. Those young men, who go to the streets, do so because they seek change and they use democracy as a tool to bring about that change. It is both laughable and suspicious that the mainstream media in the west describes them as pro-democracy.
Political leaders in the Arab world are all corrupt, but that is not the reason behind the Arabs’ failure. Corruption is inherent in politics everywhere in the world. The Arabs think that the West is ruled by honest and sincere political leaders, who do their best for their nations. In my opinion, the European leaders are more corrupt than the Arab leaders. Only last year, the British press reported that Andrew Neather, a former adviser to Tony Blair, made a very dangerous confession. He admitted that the labour government deliberately flooded the UK with immigrants to change the social make-up of the country and “rub the nose of the conservative party on diversity” (2). Such policy changed, forever, the fabric of the British society and caused lasting damage and unprecedented abuse of power, but they managed to get away with it! Such extreme level of treason is yet to be achieved by Arab leaders.
The real problem in the Arab world is that the “problem” cannot be addressed or even mentioned. It is Islam, but who can mention it? Unfortunately, the majority of the Arabs believe that the only way forward is to have more of Islam!
Muslims and free election
Islamic parties promise to apply Islamic rule, which is every Muslim’s dream. Muslims are brought up to believe that the rule of Islam is the only way forward because it is full-proof. They believe that Islamic rule is immune to corruption and failure and, above all, is a sacred duty that all Muslims should strive to achieve. The non-Islamic parties do not even dare to question the policies of the Islamic parties, which is sharia law. All that the non-Islamic parties can offer is a modern policy, which they claim is acceptable to Islam. To a lay man, voting for non-Islamic parties appears like committing some kind of sin.
With a mindset of the population like that, how can one imagine that Islamic parties would fail in free elections? It takes a really brave Muslim not to vote for them. Apart from the Christians and the members of the other political parties, those Arabs, who do not vote for the Islamic parties, tend to be the few seculars or the disguised ex-Muslims, and there are not many of them.
That explains why, from the very first day of the Arab Spring, I was sure it was destined to be an Islamic Spring.