The 41st Annual Conference of the Association of
Muslim Social Scientists of North America (AMSS)
Religious Dimensions of Democratization
Processes in Muslim-Majority Nations Yale University, New Haven, CT Saturday, September 29, 2012
The Arab Spring
Spark of the Arab Spring
The Arab spring was triggered in Tunisia when Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after claiming he was slapped by policewoman Fedia Hamdi. This spark in the Arab World has created a great divide in cultural tradition and rigid tribal mentalities. Feelings that governments intimidated its citizens have degraded Arabs and Moslems alike and have caused unrest in the streets. Mismanagement of funds and economic stratification has created resentment and a feeling of hopelessness for a better future. Youth graduating from college cannot find jobs. They have begun realizing that their four years of college is a waste of time. Military personnel are getting into big business while college graduates have no jobs.
Condition of Arab states
Arab states have lost their vision of unity for the future. Each state has its own agenda and the resource of the land becomes family owned resources which results in a few wealthy families while their countrymen struggle. The authoritarian states, corruption, human rights abuses and violations, inflation, sectarianism, unemployment, and the influence of religion in politics have created unfavorable conditions for the citizens. Additionally, leaders are often willing to ignore the constitution or change them to put their children in positions of power without any consideration of the will or the vote of the people. These factors have resulted in public frustration, lack respect for government, lack of democracy and corruption. In some areas there has been a push to enforce Sharia Law with lack of regard to women’s rights. There has been an increase in the prominence of Islamic fanatics that hide behind religion in order to pursue their own narrow will on others in the name of Islam.
Promises of Nonviolent Action
The people in the streets have no military training or weaponry. Nonviolent resistance Methods can give them power, especially in numbers against the state regimes. Citizens can make civil resistance a part of their strategy. Techniques include mass defection from government jobs or the army, and massive demonstrations which refuse to disperse for many days. Citizens have the ability to communicate with each other faster than the government through the internet and cell phones. The people need to create an atmosphere which makes it clear that we are not happy; we need change and we will not leave. We are even willing to die for our freedom. The Arab Spring is not a conflict between nations. It is a conflict between the people and their own government. The Arab Spring took the regime by surprise. Governments have chosen to use the army against civilians rather than negotiating with their own people, resulting in unnecessary loss of life.
It is unfortunate that the international community has chosen to take military action. This decision has resulted in Arabs start killing Arabs and Moslem killing Moslems. Many have accepted the roll that the UN can play in the Arab world. This is a missed opportunity for spiritual Moslems leaders from different regions and countries to form a peace team to help the Arab region before the intervention of outside forces from Europe and the United States. The UN, NATO and the United States do not think in a timely manner and give enough time for the tribes to resolve conflict using the culture, local tradition and religious tolerance. They quickly jump to use force and end the conflict immediately. But this does not address the issues roots and so the conflict will continue for many years because of the causality on all sides. Unfortunately this has happened time and time again in Islamic and Arab countries.
The state of protest
Today Syria is experiencing a full-scale civil protest between the government and opposition forces. Civil uprisings continue against the government of Bahrain despite government changes. The countries of Kuwait, Lebanon and Oman have begun implementing government changes in response to protests. In Morocco and Jordan, constitutional reforms have been implemented in response to civilian pressure. Protests are ongoing in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Mauritania among other countries.
Effect of the Arab Spring
The Arab Spring is young. Its effect will begin to show 10 years from now. It is a light, a warning. An inspiration for new generations to find themselves free from their parent’s mentality of accepting corruption and living free, accepting each other as human being without consideration for sex, religion or race.