An Argument against the ‘Arab Spring’!

By Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Wed 5 April / Apr 2017. 11:00 PM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

In his book ‘After the Arab Spring: How Islamists Hijacked the Middle East Revolts’, translated to Arabic in 2013, British researcher John R Bradley, makes a strong and solid argument against the ‘Arab Spring Rhetoric’ and the hopes which hung over this historic moment.

The rhetoric Bradley challenges engages the ‘Spring’ as a platform to pillar the Arab World into an era of democracy and political freedom.

The value of Bradley’s book, goes beyond the strict and tight logic which condemns the Arab Spring revolts and approaches them as either externally driven or orchestrated by the conservative powers which oppose liberal democratic transformation. These presumptions are nothing like Bradley’s propositions.

‘After the Arab Spring’ takes readers on a journey through the Arab World, from Tunisia to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrein, and Libya, before, during, and the Arab Spring revolts, as well as South Asia; mainly Malesia, Thailand, and Singapore, in comparison to Western Europe, the US, and other states the author visited.

Bradley explores the aspects of transformation to democracy comparatively, combined with a thorough, solid cultural approach and a subjective philosophical outlook.

The book addresses a variety of theories, as well as issues on religion, geography, society, and economics, backed by an abundance of data and historical contexts on these states.

At first, Bradley focuses on Tunisia, which according to his is the model of economic and social modernity over the last few decades.

Afterwards, he addresses the situation and its developments in Egypt.

Comparatively as well, he addresses the differences between the two states thoroughly, before taking us on a vast geographic tour of all the other countries.

However, this does not mean that I personally support Bradley’s argument and the conclusions he draws. On contraire. I stand on the other side of it. That is to say that I, full heartedly, support the discourse towards liberal democracy and the possibility of combining religion and democracy in a formula that would advance our societies.

Still, I personally think it is very important to explore Bradley’s argument to revaluate and reproach our discourses so far; to deeply understand the Arab Spring, its revolts, precursor conditions, reasons, and possibly outcomes.

Of course, there are important and crucial assumptions throughout the book.

Prime of those is the proposition the peoples who revolted were not seeking democracy or political freedoms to begin with, but jobs, particularly among the youth. It proposes that the 2008 world financial crisis is primarily responsible for the birth of the Tunisian revolt.

Bradley says that the difference between the west and the Arab World is that the democratic institutional foundation and political dynamic is the reason why revolts there were contained successfully.

In our world, however, it is the absence of political instruments and establishments, in addition to the spread of corruption, which has caused the overthrow of rulers and tyrants.

Therefore, according to the author, the alternative to those rulers will neither be democratic or pluralist, but a variety of Islamist powers in alliance with forces within the toppled regimes themselves, to advance the Islamist reign and sustain the previous status quo, more or less.

The book conveys comprehensively the fears and obsessions of liberalists in regards to the rise of the Islamism.

Bradley describes them as deceptive and makes no distinction between the moderate and extremist rhetoric. He compares between figures like Amir Musawi, Rashid Ghanouchi, and Anwar Ibrahim, claiming they are pretentiously enlightened Islamists who seek the Islamisation of their societies on the long run.

Accordingly, he compares between Iran and Saudi Arabia in light to the sectarian and proxy wars which have extended long before the Arab Spring from Lebanon to Iraq and Syria.

Mindfully, the book precedes the Yemeni struggle, which is why it does not address it particularly.

Likewise, the book predates the military coup in Egypt and the crowning of the counter-revolution. And even though it did not foresee it per se, it does infer ahead of it to the explosion of sectarian and religious conflicts and disputes, as well as the problematic relationship between state and religion in Arab Societies.

That said, Bradley makes the scenario of liberal democracy sound like a delusional aspiration of the Arab Spring Rhetoric which cannot be attained!

This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.