The Bitter Arab Winter And Our Colonial Legacy – OpEd


By Ali Harfouch

The Arab Spring has created, as any revolution would, a sense of urgency. An unprecedented series of events which came with speed and new opportunities on the political scene has largely debilitated our ability to be objective. One of the effects of which, is to give precedence to perceived short-term gains or “goals” over long term goals. Despite the fact that one short-term goals are oriented as stepping stones towards ones end-goals and vision (1). An example of such blunder is that of particular Islamic movements who rushed, shortly after the fall of Mubarak and Bin ’Ali, into the very same system that the people had revolted against. Embracing slogans of reform, and parliamentary participation despite the massive lessons learned from the revolutions. Amongst them;

1. Colonial Models of Governance Have Failed:

The system has failed. Proxy despots and corruption are the product of a system whose borders and mechanism domesticate coloniality (2) and maintain the inequalities perpetuated by global power-structures.  Internally through whimsical concepts like democracy and republicanism power is invested in the hands of a indigenous Fifth-Column. Nationhood, acts as a perpetual conflict-generator as various constituencies within colonially drawn borders fight over what constitutes national identity. Externally, the ‘nation’ is far from sovereign and independent – but rather entangled within a matrix of power-structures at the head of which is the mother of all terrorist – the United States of America. Be it the nation-state, or the establishment – both models have proven to be unsustainable as the former is based on exclusionary and unnatural politics while the latter is rooted in the epistemic limits of Secularism in a Muslim dominated part of the world. Politicians like Mubarak, Bin ’Ali, and Assad are products of a system as opposed to corrupting actors within it.

2. Reform is a Myth:

A system which is fundamentally flawed must be removed, and not reformed. Attempts to reform the despotic regimes in the Muslim world have failed and required revolutions like that of the Arab Spring to bring about minimal change. Movements across the Western World have proceeded under the banner of ‘Occupy Wall Street and not Lets Get out and Vote!” Similarly, the thunderous chants declaredthe people want the end of the regime  throughout the Muslim World. Despite this, disenchanted movements continue to incessantly employ strategies of reform. Instead of advancing an alternative model in light of the globally crumbling Western Capitalism they continue to work within the defunct system. The golden opportunity lays in the competing movements’ ability to provide a radical alternative and not in the illusionary power-vacuum opened up by the electoral system.  Formal (parliament, elections, etc) channels of political participation are embedded within an establishment which preserves the status-quo through its hegemony over what is considered “legitimate” forms of expression, or participation. Changing the status-quo would then involve working through informal means of change and expression. A methodology of reform however only serves to legitimize and stabilize the status-quo through employing the esta. A methodology of revolution however provides a counter-hegemonic discourse, and uses informal means of change outside the system. Transcending categories and concepts like nationhood and democracy necessitate revolutionary politics, and the dismissal of reform.

Unripe Fruits of the Arab Spring

The sectarian conflict  which engulfed the Imbada district in Cairo, fragmentation of Islamist organizations, clashes with SCAF and the transformation of Tahrir Square as Glen Johnson points out once a symbol of national unity during the uprising – seemed to represent a nation dissolving. which the upcoming elections are hardly a solution for, as they will merely compound and institutionalize differences and conflicts are just some examples of the of the fruits of an incomplete revolution, and unlearned lessons which can turn our Arab Spring a long a bitter Arab Winter.

A critical appraisal of the situation in Egypt and Tunisia and its political movements can be traced back to their colonial legacy and the hegemonic status which colonial discourses attained in both nation-states. To a large extent, most of these movements were unable to transcend the matrix of colonial power-structures which dominate both Egypt and Tunisia, shaping the intellectual and political platform of movements – many of which paradoxically worked under the banner of “independence” and “decolonization”.  What is required of these very same political movements is that they looked beyond their colonial legacy and develop a more critical platform and discourse needed to liberate themselves from the hierarchal power-structures which preserve the status-quo, and develop a methodology which allows them to work independently and remain autonomous – allowing them to provide alternative foundations, and an alternative vision for both countries whose unfinished revolution (by definition) require such.

Towards an Islamic Spring

Be it the Far-Right, or the Far-Left, there is a consensus that the only alternative to the sick man of the world – the United States (and its Liberal-Democratic concepts and modes of governance) is Islam. As Islam alone provides a radical alternative to the fragmentary, reductive, and dehumanizing political systems and Eurocentric worldviews whose epistemic limits normalize ontological indifference, and ignorance of the absolute amounting to the epitome of Jahiliyyah (un-Islamic practice, as occurred in pre-Islamic period).

Only Islam can provide such foundations as it is only Islam which is autonomous and independent while other political movements import their concepts, models, and platforms from the very same countries which colonized the Muslim world and supported the false-gods which the youth have revolted and removed.

Only through a Khilafah (Caliphate) can we liberate the Muslim world from Coloniality through our independent and autonomous source of knowledge; revelation. Emerge as a power in a Multi-Polar world, as opposed to pursing delusional dreams of ‘national sovereignty’ which have proved to be a nightmare. A system of governance which does not monopolize identity, culture, and communication as the totalitarian nation-state does but rather embraces a decentralized political framework to which history testifies has been the only successful model for plurality. A revolution of cosmic proportions which provided the essential and much needed Paradigm Shift by recognizing the underlying Jahili (non-Islam) foundations of modern neo-colonial modes of governance and systems and strip those ruling by other than Islam in the Muslim world of their legitimacy, not by using the criteria and jargon exported into our discourse by the Imperial Liberal West but rather on divine guidance and the all-inclusive and holistic standards of Tawhid (belief on Oneness of God, that is all-encompassing in its understanding).  It is inevitable, but the question remains how long we will have to endure the bitter Arab Winter before we Islamic movements take up the role entrusted upon them by Allah


Ali Harfouch is a student of Political Studies at the American University of Beirut and works with Islamic Organizations in Beirut, Lebanon.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect New Civilisation’s editorial policy.

(1) We will explore this point in-depth soon insha Allah as we differentiate between progressive methodological incrementalism and regressive methodological incrementalism.

(2) “ The “coloniality of power” is an expression coined by Anibal Quijano to name the structures of power, control, and hegemony that have emerged during the modernist era, the era of colonialism Steve Martinot

New Civilisation

New Civilisation is an online political journal which provides a unique source of insight and critical analysis regarding the pressing political, economic and ideological issues of the time. Its motivation is to provide an authentic alternative to the standard analysis often found in mainstream outlets – opening a channel for advocates of alternative Islamic political models to present their critiques of other understandings and put forward their own opinions while allowing them to be discussed and challenged within an environment of informed and respectful discourse.

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