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Decision Time For The Middle East – OpEd

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After an eventful week that climaxed with the sobering end of Muammar Qaddafi, there’s something to cheer about. By the time you read this, the Tunisians would have cast their vote in a historic election. As the people who heralded the Arab Spring throwing out Ben Ali and triggering a tsunami of change across the region, the Tunisians are understandably euphoric over the infinite possibilities of change. Whether those great expectations will engender equally great results remains to be seen. Next it’s the turn of Egypt, the most populous nation of the Arab world and second country in the region to rise up in protest and demand change. The elections in Tunisia and Egypt are being watched with great interest in the Middle East and around the world as they offer pointers to the shape of things to come. The Egypt vote is particularly important because of the country’s influence and historical leadership role in the Arab world.

Predictably, these elections, being held for the first time without the big brother breathing down your neck or casting the vote for you, have been hailed across the globe. The euphoria has been, however, tempered with Western pundits raising the specter of Islamic extremism. The media act as the chorus spawning grave and gloomy scenarios in the event of the Islamists coming to power.

The West views the emergence of the Islamists as the unintended, unpleasant consequence of the Arab Spring. If the Muslim Brotherhood, the popular opposition party in Egypt banned and persecuted under successive regimes, is seen as the direct beneficiary of democracy and a free and fair poll, Al-Nahda is tipped to win big in Tunisia.

As has been the case in Egypt, Algeria and elsewhere, a vicious campaign has been launched against the Islamists. A victory for Al-Nahda, it’s suggested, will mean an end of freedom and civil liberties and drive away international investors and tourists. Similar tactics are being used in Egypt to isolate the Freedom and Justice Party, promising a catastrophe if the Islamists are handed power.

But we have been here before. For decades, tyrants have used the bogey of Islam to rule at gunpoint with the blessings of world powers. And for all its love of democracy, the West looked the other way while polls were stolen as in Egypt and ignored as in Algeria, fueling extremism across the region. This cannot go on in the post-Arab Spring world though. The people who threw out their tormentors recently are unlikely to tolerate the same, old cynical game all over again. It’s important therefore for all concerned to ensure that people’s verdict in these polls is respected no matter who is chosen. Whoever gets people’s mandate, they deserve a fair chance to prove themselves. For their part, the Islamists must do more to win the confidence of the people and the world community. A more broad-based agenda and inclusive approach is the way forward. In this respect, Recep Erdogan’s Turkey has to offer some invaluable lessons. A worldview inspired by Islam and based on justice, reason and sense of accountability has turned around Turkey. Here’s a historic opportunity for change.

Arab News

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

One thought on “Decision Time For The Middle East – OpEd

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    October 24, 2011 at 8:49 pm
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    It is unfortunate that Muslim world has been very submissive on one ground of Islam to stay docile when they were ruled by the tyrant. They were happy as long as Islam was in place.

    West looks the other way as long as the tyrants serve their cause and interests, immaterial of any amount of oppression of their subjects. It is the same when these countries were directly ruled by the colonisers.

    Turkey is often quoted in the Muslim world as ideal but Erdogan is no less western stooge. He is praised because he is moderate to Western agendas especially towards Israel. Erdogan is no less Islamist and in Turkey also, one can see these Islamists and mullahs operating with impunity in rural areas. It is a well known fact. Many suspect that he is working quietly for his hidden wish for a Islamic state. Thus he keeps bursting from time to time favouring Islam. He is well known for it.

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