Skip to comments.Revolutions, walk-outs and fatwas
Posted on 01/17/2011 8:41:13 AM PST by SJackson
Recent events in Tunisia, Lebanon and Egypt spell a dangerous new trend in the region.
There have been major developments in Tunisia, Lebanon and Egypt, each of which is of tremendous importance.
In Tunisia, a popular uprising fueled by unemployment, economic suffering and long-term discontent has overthrown the dictator, but not necessarily the dictatorship. In 55 years of independence, the country has been governed by two dictators, the current one being Zine al-Abedin Ben Ali, who has been president for 23 years and was a key power in the regime even before that.
Is this going to spread? Does it mark some new phase in Arab politics? Probably not. Tunisia is a very distinctive country. It has been the most Europeanized state in the Arab world, due in part to the secular-oriented policies of the regimes. There has been an Islamist movement, but the regime has kept it weak, perhaps making Tunisia the Arabic-speaking state with the lowest proportional support for Islamism among its population.
There have been economic riots in other countries over the years, especially in Algeria or, for example, against reductions in bread subsidies in Egypt.
Notably, there was the Beirut Spring movement against Syrian control of the country. But in Tunisia the opponents lack of leadership and organization is likely to mean that the same elite and the army will remain in control of the country.
Statist and dictatorial policies have led to serious limits on freedom throughout the Arabic-speaking world.
Economic stagnation and lagging living standards are prevalent, except in those countries that have large oil and natural gas incomes and small populations.
How have regimes kept control? Through giving rewards to supporters and punishing opponents, military and police power, redirecting hostility toward other targets (America, Israel, the West) and other means. While revolutionary Islamists have promoted rebellion, Arab nationalist regimes have opposed them with a wide arsenal of tactics. And the very fear of an Islamist transformation can also be a good tool in keeping the elite together and the masses in line.
That system got too far out of balance in Tunisia.
There is a chance of parallel developments elsewhere, but it is not likely. At any rate, this issue will have to be watched closely.
IN LEBANON, Hizbullah ministers walked out of the government, bringing it down. Why? They didnt have to do it since they have veto power and would have prevented the government from endorsing the international tribunal investigation that would point to Syria (and perhaps Hizbullah) as the source of terrorism in Lebanon, including the killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
Hizbullah doesnt just want the government just to be silent on the tribunal, but to condemn the investigation explicitly. It wants to renegotiate the coalition agreement to give itself more power. And it timed it for the moment when the prime minister was meeting with US President Barack Obama to embarrass its opponents. In Middle East talk, that timing signals: Our enemies are American puppets.
Finally, it is a message to America and the world: We Iran, Syria and Hizbullah are in control of Lebanon now, not you. There is no question that this assertion is true, yet US and Western policy is simply not adjusting to meet this situation.
IN EGYPT, an extraordinarily important fatwa has been issued by Dr. Imad Mustafa, of al-Azhar University, the worlds most important Islamic university.
He began by stating the well-known doctrine of defensive jihad, that is Muslims must go to war against infidels who attack them. Of course, the word attack is often spread rather thinly to justify aggression.
But now Mustafa has publicly and explicitly come up with a new concept, one that up until now was supposedly restricted to groups like al-Qaida: Then there is another type of fighting against the non- Muslims known as offensive jihad... which is to pursue the infidels into their own land without any aggression [on their part]...
Two schools [of Islamic jurisprudence] have ruled that offensive jihad is permissible in order to secure Islams border, to extend Gods religion to people in cases where the governments do not allow it, such as the Pharaoh did with the children of Israel, and to remove every religion but Islam from the Arabian peninsula.
What does it mean about extending Gods religion, i.e., Islam? On the surface, where the governments do not allow it and the reference to Pharaoh seem to imply the complete prohibition of Islam.
But in the current context, this means that it is permissible to wage jihad against a country if anything necessary to Islam according to (hard-line) clerics interpretations is blocked (polygamy, child marriage, special privileges at work places, building mosques anywhere, permitting the wearing of head scarves or burkas).
In practice, according to this doctrine, then, any non-Muslim can be attacked anywhere. Thus, mainstream, powerful clerics are now calling for a seventhcentury- style jihad against non-Muslim lands even if the victims cannot be accused of attacking Muslimruled lands. Merely to extend Gods religion to others is a sufficient motive. Mustafa says that two of Islams main schools have always endorsed offensive jihad, but I doubt if he would have made that argument ten or 20 years ago.
Of course, that doesnt mean most Muslims will accept this new stance. But it does mean that radical groups now have mainstream support for their most extreme, aggressive behavior. Even if nobody repeats Mustafas statement publicly if for no other reasons than it is bad public relations in the West this idea will be more and more taken for granted. Presumably, Mustafa wont be forced to retract this fatwa by his colleagues or Egypts government.
Moreover, we probably wont see senior clerics denouncing and rejecting the doctrine of offensive jihad.
This is a development of stupendous proportions that will probably not be covered in the Western mass media. If this viewpoint continues to spread, along with the growing al-Qaida type doctrine of the Muslim Brotherhood, it could be a historical turning point that will greatly intensify revolutionary Islamist terrorism and attacks on the West.
The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal and Turkish Studies. He blogs at www.rubinreports.blogspot.com
If youd like to be on or off, please FR mail me.
That is indeed a "stupendous change," and I think the author is right: the US is going to blithely ignore it.
I have been concerned about Tunisia because it is now a vacuum that will no doubt be filled by Islamists (with the encouragement of the US, probably), and Egypt of course is a serious concern.
Islam has always been about "offensive jihad," but the muftis and head honchos haven't dared to admit it because of the weakened condition of Islamic states for so many decades, if not centuries. However, what they have learned is that while the West may be stronger, it is not on the offensive against Islam or even resisting it in any way, and therefore it doesn't matter that the Islamic states are dysfunctional or weak. They know now that all they have to do is push at the door to the West and it will open.
a dangerous new trend in the regionIt's only fourteen centuries old. Thanks SJackson.
I’m afraid you’re correct, at least for now.
Jihad has been going on for 1600+ years.
Christians have died in the many many millions just in the 20th century alone. The cruelest monsters of them all were the Turks—the guys who get a pass by some because some clueless ones consider them “secular” - that is like saying that the Nazis were not as bad as the Bolsheviks.
I can think of no leader in this country past or present -who really understands the coming danger.
Revolution in the Arab World
Dr. Walid Phares, author of The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East, agreed that the secularists would have to withstand challenges from remnants from Ben Alis security forces, ultra-Arab nationalists and Islamists, but said victory is possible. He added that the Jasmine Revolution is part of a shift occurring in the region.
In my new book, I have projected a new era of revolts and uprisings in the region but I have noted that it is going to be a long path, full of successes and setbacks before democracy becomes the dominant political culture in the region, Dr. Phares told FrontPage.
But the dynamics for change are here and they arent going back. From Iran to Sudan, Lebanon to Algeria, I see shakeups coming. A new era has begun, he said.