Islam and Democracy
We all were thrilled and excited to see the Arab Spring which started on Saturday 18 December 2010 and rapidly spread to the whole Arab region. We were happy to see that people in this part of the world who were brutally ruled by dictators have now understood the importance of democracy. Even though it is yet to see how much democratic these countries can be and at what cost, its a good start in the direction. After more than a year from start of the revolt, we need to see if the lives of people living in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen have changed even slightly, better or worse? If yes, what lessons can the world and people from other Arab nations like Morocco, Syria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan and Algeria can take who are still fighting a war against their dictators.
Changes which Arab Spring brought..
The strength and impact of the Arab Spring also known as Arab Awakening and Arab Uprising can be gauged from the fact that Times Magazine name 'The Protesters' as the 'person of the year'. It overthrew governments in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Egypt and almost pushed to civil war in Syria and Bahrain. Apart from this, Arab revolt also resulted in government changes in Jordan, Oman, Kuwait and Morocco.
Due to the intensity of the protest, even the western countries have to bow and support protesters. These countries, The US, UK and France and other European countries who had good relations with the dictators for the sake of stability in region and their own vested interest noticed the power of protesters and overnight changed their loyalties. Suddenly they started seeing the human rights violations which was non existent earlier.
Arab Spring on map
What (& Why) they wanted to change???
Here are list of the few reasons why people wanted to change their governments:
1. Dictatorship or Absolute monarchy
2. Human Right violation
4. Lack of transparency
5. High inflation, specially food inflation and lack of development
6. Other anti incumbent factors
And What Actually Changed?
Although they were able to overthrow dictators in three countries and changed the govements in other three, but the BIG question is that were they able to get the change they wanted. This is not the first time we have seen revolt in Islamic world. We have already seen that in Iran. Did Iran change for anything better? Do we have better human right condition in Iran now? Lets see how the new governments in the new revolutionised Arab world have fared in last one year.
Protest started in Tunisia after the self immolation of Mohamed bouazizi on 18th December 2010. A series of voilent demonstration started. High unemployment, high food inflation, corruption, lack of freedom of speech and no political freedom were few of the reason why it spread so quickly among the masses. Within a month, president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted on 14th January 2011 and he fled in exile to Saudi Arabia.
After the Uprising: Emergency was declared and a caretaker coalition government including members of Ben Ali party (RCD) were formed. However due to continued protest from Muslim brotherhood, RCD was dissolved and Prime minister has to resign. In the first post revolution election, Islamist party Ennahda won the majority of the vote.
So what actually changed: Nothing on the ground. Except the country which was secular before the Arab Spring is now an Islamist state and as per the new constitution, the president religion "Shall be Islam". More than 107 Tunisian self immolated after the Arab Spring.
Egypt masses took inspiration from Tunisia and protest in Egypt started from 25th January and ran for 18 days. The government tried to stop the protest from spreading by stopping internet access for the entire country. However, social media played a big part in pulling the people out of their home and protesting across the country specially in capital Tahrir Square. Mubarak sensed the strength of protest and ceded all his power to vice president. However due to continued protest headed by Muslim brotherhood, he has to resign from the president ship of the country and power was transferred to supreme council of armed forces.
After the protest: Even after the removal of Mubarak, protest were continued till end of 2011 against the armed forces and the new prime minister Essam Sharaf due to sluggishness in implementing the reforms.
What actually changed: Very few things on the ground. After the election, Muslim brotherhood's 'Freedom and Justice' party won the largest number of seats. Hardliner and Ultra conservative Nour party won the 25% seats. Non Muslims specially Christians who constitutes more than 10% of the population didn't get any representation. It is yet to see if the dismal record of Egypt's religious freedom improve or not which seems very difficult after the election.
Same is the cases with other cases of uprising as well. To be fair, this Arab Spring should be better called as Islamic revolution like Iranian revolution. Its not a hidden fact that protesters were supported by terrorist organization like Al Qaeda and Hamas. It is yet to be seen that even if the regime changes, will people opt for society free for all or will it be a society exclusively for Muslims where all other religious minority will be oppressed as in current Arab world. West who supported this uprising for any reason should now engage with the new power holders in the Arab region to make sure that new society formation is free for all. Common masses of the region should also understand that if the power goes to Muslim fundamentalist then their lives will also be no different than the lives for Afghan under the Taliban regime.
It might be very early to predict the future of these liberated countries. No one is hoping for a secular Arab world as its a well known fact that wherever Muslims are in majority, they never opt for secular nation. However where ever they are in minority, they voice for secular, religious freedom and human rights. World can only hope that the revolution also bring some sort of freedom for religious minorities as well.