The Arab Spring

What are the chances of genuine liberal democracies emerging from the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya and, perhaps, even Bahrain and Syria? In addition, can the protest movements in countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Jordan and Oman lead to significant liberal reforms?

Each country is a special case, of course, with its own variables. Therefore, these are difficult questions to answer without going into a lot of detail. However, I believe we can be the most optimistic about Tunisia, because it is the most European, while there are still a lot of threats to the others.

Historically speaking, the only arab/muslim countries that have been able to achieve some kind of modernity/liberalism are those that have been able to achieve some semblance of the separation of church and state, although it is usually far from perfect.

Indonesia is a good example. There is still way too much grass roots support for terrorism, but at least the government is secular (for now). Kosovo and Albania are perhaps the best examples.

“Kosovo’s brand of Islam may be the most liberal in the world. I saw no more women there wearing conservative Islamic clothing—one or two per day at most—than I’ve seen in Manhattan. There is no gender apartheid even in Kosovo’s villages. Alcohol flows freely in restaurants, cafés, and bars, where you’ll see as many young women in sexy outfits as you’d find in any Western European country. Aside from the minarets on the skyline, there is no visible evidence that Kosovo is a Muslim-majority country at all.”

‘The (Really) Moderate Muslims of Kosovo’

“All this talk about whether democracy in Egypt will be a good thing or a bad thing just goes to show how misunderstood the word democracy is. Democracy refers not so much to elections but to liberalism in the general sense of the word.

If Egyptians elect the Muslim Brotherhood in a free and fair election, and the Muslim Brotherhood then rigs or even cancels every election that follows, Egypt will not be in any way shape or form a democracy. It will be a dictatorship that happened to have an election.

Mature liberal democracies have checks and balances, the separation of powers, equal rights for minorities, restrictions on the power and reach of the victors, and guarantees that those who lose will not be persecuted.

The Arab world doesn’t need a one-time plebiscite on whom the next tyrant is going to be. It needs liberalism. Egypt won’t get it from the Muslim Brotherhood, nor was Egypt ever going to get it from Hosni Mubarak.

I have no idea if Egypt will get it any time soon. Unfortunately, the profoundly illiberal Muslim Brotherhood is a powerful force to be reckoned with. Something like the Iranian Revolution in 1979 may well be replicated, but it isn’t the only possible outcome. Indonesia managed to overthrow Suharto without bringing a Southeast Asian Khomeini to power, and Albanians face no threat of an Islamist takeover even decades after removing Enver Hoxha.”

‘Egypt Needs Liberalism’

‘2010–2011 Middle East and North Africa protests’

27 April, 2011


2 Responses to The Arab Spring

  1. Pingback: Libya’s Transition To Democracy « simonjmeath

  2. Pingback: Freedom For Syria « simonjmeath

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