The Asianist

Balanced and fact-based analysis of Asian affairs

Posts Tagged ‘political islam

The Middle East After the Arab Spring

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With early results from Egypt’s first round of elections showing a majority vote in favor of Islamists, many are wondering what the future holds for the rest of the Arab World after the wave of popular uprisings that shook the region.

Sami Moubayed, editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine in Syria, has an excellent piece out over at Asia Times Online that looks at this question from a long-term perspective. He argues that Islamism, just like Arab nationalism before it, needs to and will go through a decades-long evolution where Islamists take power, become corrupted by it, battle to hold on to it, and then get overthrown – perhaps by another Arab Spring in 2061. It is worth reading the whole thing, but two paragraphs stand out in particular:

The future of the Arab World, whether seculars like it or not, is going to be in the hands of Islamic parties – at least – for the foreseeable future. This trend, just like Arab nationalism before it, will not last forever. It has reached its zenith today, but pretty soon, the Islamists will get corrupted by power, just like seculars were corrupted before them.

We cannot predict that for sure, but this has been the cycle of history to date. Look at the Baathists before coming to power in Syria and look at them today, 48-years later. Look at the leaders of Fateh before 1993 and judge them today, almost 20-years later. Look at Iraqi Baathists before 1968 and look at them in the 1980s, during the heyday of Saddam Hussein’s era. But that is not going to happen anytime soon. The Islamists need to reach power, taste it, love it, get attached to it, become corrupted by it, fight to hold on to it, and eventually, get overthrown because of it – perhaps when another Arab Spring breaks out, 50-years from now. That Arab Spring, no doubt, would be through the ballots unlike this one which came through the street. Future goverments that lose a popular mandate will not be allowed to stay in power after their political legitimacy expires.

Of course, this evolution will be contested , not just by other domestic and foreign actors with their own interests and ambitions but factions within Islamist parties themselves. But Mr. Moubayed’s piece nonetheless reminds us that the surge of political Islam that we may witness over the next few years is but one chapter in the rise and fall of movements in the Arab world, and that we ought to see these short-term developments that inundate us daily in relation to the long view.


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