Islamic Revolt

Underlying the uprising in Tunisia and the ongoing massive agitation in Egyptis the rise of the Islamic middle class who quite rightly object to havingtheir aspirations throttled by authoritarian corruption and economicmonopolies.  Such was the self emulatingmartyr in Tunisiawho was no illiterate peasant but was a well educated young man and the prideof a well to do family who sacrificed to see him into university.

They can go on the internet andsee free peoples at work everywhere improving their lives under governmentsthat have slowly learned to just get out of the way.  It is only amazing that it took this long toget up their courage to hit the bricks.

This is a true revolt againsttyranny.  The middle class is not beenadvanced in these countries and they will try a new political system to get itall to work.

At the same time, the lesson of Iran in whichone secular tyranny was replaced by a Islamic tyranny has not been losteither.  The Army everywhere will opposesuch and the democratic process is likely to actually suppress the likes of theMuslim brotherhood. It will still be nervous times.

Whatever the outcome, allgovernments in the Islamic world have been put on notice that they must providefreedom for the middle class to breath and contribute to the political life oftheir countries.

None of this has anything to dowith radical Islam although they will struggle to take advantage of it just asthe communists used to do in days of yore. In Egypt,Mubarak did the obvious and rounded up all the Muslim Brothers leadership andput them in jail to wait out the revolt.  Unfortunately, they were all since sprung and the prison was also emptied.

To really ride out the revolt hewould have to establish a transition electoral program to divert the energyinto electing a representative government. Doing that has been problematic because autocrats never see their way toprovide a truly workable constitution and the result is usually deeply flawed.Recall Russia’sconstitution which still keeps real power away from the elected representativeslong after the original group of thugs went to their graves.

Ideally, Mubarak and the army canbe the midwife to a constitutional assembly whose first order of business is toprovide a constitution.   That way thearmy and Mubarak can be the guarantors of a successful transition and the blockto the rise of specific factions undemocratic in their objectives such as theMuslim Brotherhood.  Of course theproblem in Pakistanis that the army has been both undemocratic in its inclinations and a sponsorof the worst radicalism.  Thus such arole must be transitional.

Far more importantly, the genieis out of the bottle.  Whatever theactual outcome, the middle class has discovered it has the power to challengethe autocrat and demand representative government through the modern ability tocommunicate with cell phones and twitter. Governments can stall but they cannotcontrol the dialogue at all.

We now live in a world in whichthose secret bribes paid to your bros’ secret bank account can become known toall your fellow citizens.

The only solution for theautocrats is to implement representative government as quickly aspossible.  Otherwise, mob rule willchallenge them constantly.

Analysis - Egypt'sAl Jazeera bans channel's key role

By Andrew Hammond
CAIRO | Sun Jan 30, 2011 5:47pm EST

(Reuters) - Egypt'sdecision on Sunday to close the offices of Al Jazeera illustrates the leadingrole the Arabic broadcaster has taken in reporting unprecedented popularrevolts against Arab rulers.

Egypt has often harassed the Qatar-based channelsince it began in 1996, setting off a revolution in Arab media in the face ofstate-controlled information, but it had never before tried to shut down itsoperations completely.

But the channel led the coverage of a Tunisianuprising when it began in late December and toppled Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali onJanuary 14, even though it was already banned from the North African country.

Then, sensing that Tunisia'sexample would set off copycat movements elsewhere, the channel chartedmobilisation in Egyptthat led to huge protests in the past week demanding the end of President HosniMubarak's rule.

"Al Jazeera saw the gravity of the situation," said ShadiHamid of the Brookings Institute in Doha,referring to the two revolts. "They saw it was going to be big beforeother people did and that it would stand as one of the historic moments in Arabhistory."

Arab governments have often closed the offices of the channel, whichhelped put tiny Gulf state Qataron the map and boosted its status as a leader of regional diplomacy.

A major oil and gas power, Qatar employs vast resources toback the channel. This month it began a stack of secret documents revealingembarrassing Palestinian Authority concessions to Israel in peace talks. Emad Gad ofthe Al Ahram Strategic and Political Studies Centre said the effort to smotherAl Jazeera was the last effort of a dying authoritarian system to controlevents in the traditional heavy-handed manner.

He cited the government's move to completely shut off the Internet andmobile phone lines on Friday in an effort to stop people gathering.

"Is cutting the Internet or the mobile network in 2011 a solution?This is equivalent to that. It's the behaviour of a dictatorial state breathingits last," Gad said.

Social media and mobile phone technology have also been cited asplaying a major role in the street mobilisations of the past month, whichtouched Yemen and Jordantoo.


Having ignored the protests for five days, Egyptian state TV has nowfocussed on the disorder that erupted after state security forces withdrew fromthe streets on Friday rather than ongoing protests against Mubarak.

On Sunday state TV -- which like other Arab official outlets has triedto modernise to keep up with the Qatari trend-setter -- sniped against thestation saying only a handful of protesters were in central Cairo, "in contrast to the tens ofthousands Al Jazeera talked about."

But Al Jazeera carried images from a still camera of crowds gatheringthroughout the day at Tahrir Square. The station also has a live channel whosetransmission Egypttried to block on its Nilesat satellite last week.

"We should have taken steps before with this channel since it hascaused more destruction than Israelfor Egypt,"governor of Minya province, Ahmed Diaeddin, raged on state TV. "I call forthe trial of Al Jazeera correspondents as traitors."

Salah Issa, editor the state-owned weekly al-Qahira, said Islamistsoften said to dominate Al Jazeera's editorial line were driven by a vendettaagainst Mubarak.

"It's managers think they are creating a revolution, firstin Tunisia, now in Egypt," he said.

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya has been more conservative in covering the Arabuprisings -- less proactive in covering the protests in the early stage andquicker to promote a return to stability once concessions are offered.

As'ad AbuKhalil, a politics professor in the United States, wrote on his popularblogsite Egyptian and Saudi media were both trying discredit the protestmovement.

No comments:

Post a Comment