The Islamic Arab East has fire in its belly. The popular mood is: “fa-al-yasqut al-nizam — down with the regime.” Masses of people are breaking the fear barrier and expressing their century-old, pent-up feelings. Some dictators have been toppled, others are teetering, and still others are trying to change laws and make amends before they, too, are swept away by the people’s fury.
The Islamic Arab East has fire in its belly. The popular mood is: “fa-al-yasqut al-nizam — down with the regime.” Masses of people are breaking the fear barrier and expressing their century-old, pent-up feelings. Some dictators have been toppled, others are teetering, and still others are trying to change laws and make amends before they, too, are swept away by the people’s fury. It all began in Tunisia when a vendor, out of desperation, set himself on fire because the police denied him a permit to sell vegetables to make a living. That one act in a cauldron of seething popular resentment and frustration set off a chain of events that began in Tunisia, immediately followed by Egypt, and then spread to other countries whose people have had it with playboy Pharaohs and tin-pot tyrants along with their drooling luxury classes.
Ever since then, the media has focused attention on this life-sized event. Some media refer to it as the Arab Spring; others call it the Islamic Awakening. Whatever one’s choice of words, the dust has not settled yet. In this popular movement, what is unmistakable is the beginning of the unraveling of the old Euro-American imposed political order on the Islamic peoples in that geographic area of the world. And the chances are that in a few months, at most a couple of years, other populations will erupt and bring down their own IMF-World Bank sponsored regimes. Already, Greece, Spain and Portugal have witnessed popular protests that threaten the stability of governments in Athens, Madrid, and Lisbon.
Roughly speaking, the popular movements in the southern and eastern Mediterranean fit into three broad categories. The first is the spontaneous or self-generated, as in Tunisia and Egypt.
The second is the pre-existing: examples include Yemen and Jordan. Third, there are the contaminated, such as Libya and Syria. Another category, not much in the news as yet, is what can be characterized as the latent — the ones that are not presently in eruption. Included in this last category are such states as Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and the tribal states in the Persian Gulf. The only exception in the Persian Gulf is Bahrain, which may be included in the first category above. Much has been said and written about this excitement and the arousal of these peoples who have one thing in common: they all lack representative government and have been forced to live at the survival level for decades.
The only exception in the Persian Gulf is Bahrain...
Up to this point, no Muslim has any objection. But from here on it gets tricky, messy, ugly, and nasty. Some wet-behind-the-ears Muslims are going to feel uncomfortable with what we have to say; but we are not writing for people to enjoy a comfort zone. The truth sometimes stings. So let us go ahead and say it as it is.
The peoples’ movement (let us call it that) took two opposite camps by surprise. Firstly, it caught the imperialists and Zionists off guard. No one with a functioning mind can deny the fact that the loss of Zine el-Abidine Ben ‘Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt is a grand loss for their remote controllers in Tel Aviv. Now Benjamin Netanyahu and company have no slicked-up proxies in the presidential palaces in Tunis and Cairo. The Israeli political establishment is and has been in damage-control mode ever since. Recent leaks indicate they are working through their American channels to ease out Field Marshal Mohamed Husain Tantawi in Egypt who appears too independent for them. Tantawi is not playing the American card in Egyptian internal politics. The Americans want the September elections postponed because they fear a significant Islamic gain in these “early elections”. And the Israelis are experiencing frequent and watery bowel movements simply because they cannot digest the Egyptian main course.
Secondly, the opposite camp that was taken by surprise was the “Islamists” themselves. Up and down the Islamic political spectrum in Egypt no one was prepared for this type of explosion of the popular will. Not that they feel unhappy about what has happened; on the contrary, most members of the Islamic Movement in Egypt are cheerful and excited that the Pharaoh is gone and they have a chance of rearranging Egyptian society in an Islamic way. Hold on, though: we said “most of the members of the Islamic Movement” — because the dumbed down salafi-Saudis had come out last January at the beginning of the popular movement, saying things like: demonstrations are thankless acts (a‘mal ghayr mahmudah), or that they are a bid‘ah. This word bid‘ah must be their favorite recourse to abort any human ijtihad to do the fara’id (Islamic obligations). The poor enlightened sons of the global Islamic Movement do not have the finances to counter the high decibel Saudi voice of bid‘ah with the word ijtihad. And for Muslims who know their history well, it was that time in Islamic history when the mentality of bid‘ah set in that phased out ijtihad.
And since that time the bid‘ah ‘ulama have reigned supreme. Their heirs are the current Saudi ignoramuses who, in the name of bid‘ah forbid their mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives from driving vehicles. Without going off on a bid‘ah tangent here, even the Islamic Movements beyond Egypt were caught by surprise. And now they are in “catch-up” mode. We dare not think of what Egypt would look like if the well-financed Saudi contingent of the Islamic Movement turns the civilizational and cosmopolitan land of the Nile into an Egyptian version of Saudi Arabia! Imagine a salafi king of Egypt! With all the loops and gaps in the literature of the Islamic Movement no one should be surprised if in the years to come we wind up with a Saudi Arabian Egypt.
Now we get to the nerves and bones of the issue. “Sunni” Muslims, generally speaking, cannot concede the natural right of the people in Bahrain to form their own representative government. The majority population in Bahrain is “Shi‘i”. So, why does any Muslim have second-thoughts about the masses of Bahrainis dethroning a king who is an absolute monarch and whose ambassador to Washington is a Yahudiyah? The Bahrainis, every Muslim should say, have all the right in the world to a representative government; and if that representative government wants closer relations with Islamic Iran than with American Saudi Arabia, all the best to them. No Muslim in Indonesia or Algeria should lose any sleep if the Bahraini people were to rid themselves of a king who has prostituted his country to the American Fifth Fleet (literally).
Now we go to a more sensitive issue. “Shi‘i” Muslims, generally speaking, cannot concede the natural right of the people in Syria to form their own representative government. The majority population in Syria is “Sunni.” So, why does any Muslim have second-thoughts about the Syrian masses unseating a regime that has shown its anti-Islamic colors during the course of the last four decades? Only last year it wanted to host a pan-Arab conference on secularism, which was canceled days before it was to be convened, probably because of positive influence coming out of Tehran. The same regime was doing an Ataturk in the past few years by barring Islamic dress code in government schools. The only argument the Syrian government may have is its support for Hizbullah in Lebanon and the myriad Palestinian resistance groups in Damascus, especially Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The Ba‘thi regime in Damascus, in and of itself, would not have gone so far in supporting Islamic liberation orientations had it not been for positive influence from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
But at the end of the day, the government in Damascus rules the Syrian people, not the Palestinians. So, why can’t a reasonable and levelheaded Muslim concede the right of the Syrian people to have a government that represents them? The inability of the Syrian decision makers to be politically inclusive of their own people is what gives Washington and Tel Aviv inroads into a heartsick and fatalistic population. The stubborn and bloody official policies of the political and military establishments in Syria are playing into Zionist and imperialist hands. The more blood that is spilled in Syria, the more years it will take to stabilize that society — that is if the society can survive these polarizing events. The Muslims in Syria, like Muslims elsewhere, do not have an “Islamic political culture”. In this vacuum, the Saudi Wahhabi nutcases will feed their acolytes the venom of sectarianism. And the sectarianism of “Sunnis” will breed the sectarianism of the “Shi‘is” and this will result in the “Iraqization” of all countries that have a “Sunni-Shi‘i” population in them. Sayyid Hasan Nasrullah was on the mark when he said (and I paraphrase him): “if this thing begins here (in Bilad al-Sham) its fires will rage on into Arabia itself.”
If anyone, anywhere needed the good offices of the Islamic Republic of Iran it is here in this context. Only the Islamic Republic of Iran has the credentials and merit to preempt this sectarian fireball from scorching Syria-south and Arabia-north. A reformed Syria with all its anti-Zionist and pro-Islamic potential is much better than an alternative American-Israeli-Saudi friendly regime that sneaks into power via the victimhood of the Syrian people.
Certainly, Allah does not change the [social] condition of a people until they change their attitude (13:11).