Monday, September 12, 2011

Fall of Arab Dictators

Arab dictators are falling like house of cards. The task that Osama Bin Laden could only dream about is now being achieved. Do not thank Osama for it. The credit goes to Mohammad Bouazizi, the disgruntled Tunisian street vendor who set himself to fire last December.

Two contrasting figures. First, Osama who killed innocents for his own good. And second, Bouaziz who by killing himself ignited the fire of freedom across the Arab world. Three autocrats have fallen and the fate of many is in balance.

No there was no design or strategy to bring political change in the Arabia. May be the act of self-immolation was not targeted at the Tunisian dictatorship, but the ‘fiery protest’ is stone’s throw away from the bastion of Islamic politics i.e. Saudi Arabia.

Who is next in line is very difficult to predict. May be it is Shia` dominated Iran. Though Iran is a different political ball game, the democratic uprising would set a new trend for the entire Islamic world. But it would be interesting to see what happens next in Saudi Arabia. The socio-politico developments and American and European forces in these countries would decide the fate of Arab-Israel relations and of the entire Islamic world. The change is in the air for sure, but lot would depend on arrival of democracy or replacement of dictatorship with new generation of autocracy or interim military councils influenced by the West.

But the moot points are:

What took Arabs so long?

Are they tired of anti-west (American) politics and sentiments?

Do they really need democracy?

But is Islam ready for it?

And, what role America and Europe would play in the political transformation?

Cairo’s takeover was easy in contrast to what one would have imagined. So would Gaddafi fall and then Asad in Syria. But the real battle would start at the discussion table where different views would be discussed with western democratic model as an option.

Democracy is possibly the worst form of government, but the best available. Arabs would love tweeting their opinions and tag pictures on Facebook. After all, decades of monopoly in governance is coming to an end. However, the development and longevity of the freedom would always be under the shadow of different interest groups.

There is very little or nothing about democracy in the Arab political history. It would be a mammoth task to maintain basic tenets of democracy and incorporate religion that would choke any possibilities of re-emergence of dictators, Islamisation or Americanisation of democracy. However, some Muslim countries outside the Arab world have experimented democracy.

Pakistan, though ruled by military at regular intervals finds comfort with democracy. While, India and Indonesia with the world’s largest Muslim population are flourishing under democracy. Ethnic and religious diversity could be the spot spoiler, but democracy has made deep inroads in their social structure and mentality. May be something else is going on there.

Arab world has more or less remained united in the name of religion and anti-Americanism. But ethnic divisions ooze out regularly. Iraq has experienced some of the worst racial violence between Shia` and Sunni Muslims. But the country voted three times in 2005. Women in Kuwait have voting rights for the first time. The Kifaya movement openly challenged the legitimacy of the Mubarak regime and in 1980s the Tunisian regime abandoned its radical past and turned to economic reform.

But the startling fact is that in the Arab world non-of the mentioned initiatives have produced a structurally enhanced quality of governance. Forget about democracy.

So to say, the Arab regimes are ‘liberalised autocracies’ that have managed to survive for so long. But keeping recent political protests and political reforms exerted by external forces, democracy is not hard to imagine.

However, America would like to maintain its oil hegemony and influence Arab politics. And, doubts would remain whether the Islamist groups would go by the book or play by the rules of democratic political game. American and European forces will have to be faithful to the entire process. The naked interest over Iran and Israel could very well throw the entire region into panic.

So far, the demand emanating is for ‘freedom from dictators’. Democracy is yet to take birth. And, if genuine democracy is to spread in the region, for the first time the governments would be answerable to their people.

The political trajectories have suddenly changed. Hopefully for the better.

In contrast to 9/11, 2001, this 10th anniversary is experiencing shockwaves across the Arab world. At least for now the Arab World has turned rubicon as against Osama’s green.


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