the Collapse of the Arab Spring Essay

Submitted By ak6627
Words: 6026
Pages: 25

The Collapse of the Arab Spring Dream: A Call for a Transnational
Response to the absence of Secular Institutions It is very difficult to define authority, and the history of human civilization is riddled with this question: How do we dictate “political” authority? Some believe that it is the state that controls the legitimate political hegemony. Others believe it is in hands of the people, but for a long portion of human history civilizations have used religion to construct an authority capable of governing people. The history of religion can be traced back over 5,000 years, and for a majority of that time; people have merged the notions of religion and politics together. The concept of religion has been used countless times to justify politics, and to achieve political goals. Religion relies on politics to survive and grow. The Romans, for example conquered Europe by assuring people that they were simply spreading the word of God, not violently occupying their villages to support the city of Rome. This example can be found throughout the historical timeline, and the tension within the Arab culture has been even more destructive then elsewhere. The Arab world maintains very strong roots to religion. The practice of Islam is one that takes fundamental dedication to scriptures, and the adoption of a very stringent code of rules. These rules encompass a persons life to the point were they see nothing else. Islam, like all fundamental religions, has the tendency to infiltrate political life to the point where religion is interpreted to mean things that it in fact does not. In this sense it is interesting to consider that Islam is in itself is political. The political arm of Islam has drastically affected the Arab world, religious extremists have spun historical narratives manipulating peoples connection with a higher being to exploit them for financial and political gains. The story of Muhammad is one that is considered two fold, and is expressed in the Quran through the sunnah.i The story begins with Muhammad’s newly found understanding of God’s word, which he preaches in opposition to the current order. Muhammad begins the first stage of his life as an “activist” arguing for needed change in a society controlled by autocrats. His answer, of course was Islam. In the other phase, the Prophet and his followers make their journey to Medina, where Muhammad rises to political authority. This portion of Muhammad’s life is considered to be the “quietist” phase.ii Muhammad created Islam while using it to address political issues. This does not take away the spiritual aspect of the religion, but it does formulate a lot of its religious beliefs in accordance with political enforcement. Using these two notions to define Islam, there are ultimately two conceptions to grasp. The first being “religious Islam,” the other “political Islam.” Developing in this fashion has caused the loss or absence of secular institutions from much of Arab society, which has turned mosques and religious organizations into the only outlet for opposition. This, which has been dubbed by scholars as the “Algiers Syndrome,” is why free elections in the Middle East, time after time turn up power to the hands of Islamist groups.iii “The Problem is that a vast network of religious extremists offer a lot of incentives for young Middle Easterners to radicalize, but almost no one is offering incentives for young people to express liberal ideas.”iv The Arab Spring was a huge victory for Arab Liberals. It showed that there was a movement against the oppression of the authoritarian regimes that had been in place for decades. However, many of the successful overthrows yielded Islamist organizations to power. Politics and liberalism are often times fused together to discern an argument that many articulate to make them sound one in the same, “…the organization of human life toward some end or other, toward the modification of sentiments, which is to say