The Emerging Middle East simplified!
I have often wondered about the consequences of the revolutions across the Middle East. Many believe that these were inevitable and eventually there would be an outcry for autocratic regimes to be toppled and replaced by a democratic election process. In fact, when the Arab spring started the common themes uniting Tunisia, Libya and Egypt were in fact high unemployment, poverty and an increase in food and energy prices. What has resulted has been astonishing. On one level three major regimes were toppled the Tunisian, Egyptian and Libya. Over night the major world powers went from supporting regimes to calling for each leader to step down, WHY?
I want to focus on both Egypt and Syria. Morsi has been elected in Egypt and represents the Muslim Brotherhood. In Syria a battle is still raging between Assad and the “rebels”. Who are the rebels?
What has Morsi achieved since gaining powers? He has allowed for Egypt to suffer and the Egyptians to suffer. Those who had taken to the streets calling for freedom, human rights and equality have been cheated. The youth movement in Egypt who could have encouraged a real democracy to emerge have found themselves worse off under Morsi than they were under Mubarak. Morsi has given himself the title of The New Pharaoh, he assumed overall powers and re-drafted a constitution for his own interests. This is the democracy in Egypt. Of course demonstrators took to the streets and his re-draft of the constitution was yet again re-drafted and elections took place. Egypt will have another revolution the people were smart to rally against Mubarak they will not be daft to keep Morsi and Morsi knows that he too will be toppled. The revolution has not finished.
Syria, Assad, what the hell are you doing? As a leader he has during his time before the revolution protected sectarian divisions and maintained a balance and within Syria. Small factions want to cause trouble and they grouped together inspired by events in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt thinking that they too could toppled Assad. How wrong were they? What makes Syria unique is that Assad has to a large extent pleased everyone. Assad has to a large extent maintained an iron fist over society and not allowed other groups to form and to establish themselves as a major opposition. In fact, if Assad were toppled who would replace him? What would happen? Assad should have been smarter from the beginning, he should have listened to the people and allowed for an election to occur. No one was ready to oppose him because to an extent he had a majority of supporters and would definitely won a greater percentage in votes. He should have listened to the demands of the people and removed changed parts of the constitution. Assad did not play his cards right; In fear of his position and keeping an eye on the emerging political landscape Assad appeared to have lost confidence. However, what he has achieved now for Syria appears to be a civil war based along both ethnic and sectarian divides. Syria could well find itself in a situation not dissimilar to the Lebanese Civil War and that lasted for fifteen years.
Regardless of what happens in Syria the shift that has created the biggest fear within the region is the rise in radical Islam. This rise in radical Islam can not lead to anything positive for the region and for the worlds major powers. Firstly, minority religions and ethnic groups will suffer and that is a certainty. Secondly, ties with Israel and the Western world will suffer. It is not in the interest of the major powers in the long term to continue to support the opposition groups within the MENA region unless they are supporting truly secular and democratic opposition groups.
There is a distinct difference in both terms accept and tolerate. Tolerance is in it’s true applied form something of a negativity. Acceptance however, can be applied as a positivity. Recently I’ve been engaging in discussions on the subject of Islamism in the USA. The notion that America is going through a process of Islamisation triggers debates that seem somewhat unsubstantiated and reinforces an ideal of tolerance rather than acceptance. America has been created on liberty, freedom and cultural diversity. Yet today in the few discussions that I’ve read cultural diversity is something that seems to be creating a fear! I call it an imagined fear! Why imagined? The only fear that seems to be winding up a few bloggers from across the pond is Islam. Rather than a fear of guns getting into the wrong peoples hands, or the economy collapsing, or the rise in polarised political opinion, it seems to me many are afraid of Islam. Yet, when I attempt to present an alternative view I have been called a liberal (not that I mind although I’m aware liberal by those calling me that suggests ignorance and lack of knowledge) and told that Europe is commuting cultural suicide!
I’ve set this out to explain that tolerance and acceptance are two very different and polarised ideals.
In Britain there is a popular belief that cultural diversity is what makes Britain so rich in knowledge and culture. Cultural knowledge is gained through various arts exhibitions, performances and films and also with the many restaurants that offer cuisines from all over the world. These occur within the USA too.
As with the USA and a small section of Americans fearing the islamisation of America there are small groups in the Uk who fear the same. Usually these groups follow two sources for information; the likes of people like bernard lewis etc who reinforce all the negativities of islam and the middle east with little cultural knowledge and may I add from a eurocentric position. Then there is another group who call themselves conservatives yet appear to be more like nationalists who believe they are informed by watching fox news or in the uk supporting the BNP or EDL! These groups terms ti reject acceptance and instead to an extent tolerate what they can’t change!
Yet, in the uk we have three main political parties; the conservatives, labour and liberals. Of course there are emerging parties and in Europe there has been a swing to the right, however, my beliefs (perhaps considered by some to be naive) is acceptance. That on the whole europe accepts the every changing cultural landscape on society and doesn’t tolerate it!
I would like to make clear what my blogs will be about. I have spent many years researching the Middle East within various contexts; gender, nation, media, culture and politics. I have spent many years working within various broadcasters; both Middle Eastern and European/International news organisations. I am a research student aiming to gain a doctorate within the subject of middle eastern identity within Arab entertainment. During both my academic and professional experience what I have often seen are two positions on the Middle East; the European/American perspective alongside the Arab perspective. In many respects commentary on this topic has often lead to a negative analysis of the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). Reading and watching reporting of the region often leaves me feeling both a little depressed and frustrated. Depressed by a region which is constantly faced with conflict and revolutions is covered in the press to an extent as being negative. Frustrated by many Arab writers/journalists who articulate an argument based on anger – often presenting an emotional and heated debate rather than presenting a calm and informed position. Usually it is bad news that makes the headlines! By bad news I mean terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism and civil unrest/disobedience/war and conflict. It is rare that there is positive news from the region which dominate news coverage. I do not aim to provide positive news; I aim to critique the news that is out there and offer a different commentary and shed light to an alternative perspective. I aim to present other information that is usually absent within international news in the “Western” media. I also aim to critique some of the journalists and activists that write actively in the Middle East who offer nothing but a subjective position borne of frustration and anger at a system that is assumed to be some how based on draconian ideals.
I am both Middle Eastern and British. My parents are from the Middle East and I was born in the United Kingdom. My parents raised me as a Christian, I am an agnostic. I have always viewed the Middle East with curiosity and to an extent envy. Envy because of it’s rich ancient history, it’s religious diversity and cultural heritage. The road of silk and spice which ran through the Middle East reaching central Asia and the far east was one of the oldest trading routes in the world; encouraging economic trade and travel. When I see Damascus in flames it breaks my heart knowing that one of the oldest remaining markets in the world is being destroyed. When I see Palestinian suffering I ask myself why? Why is this allowed, supported and encouraged?! Some of us remember South Africa and apartheid; there was an international outcry at the human suffering that was being watched by millions all around the world and yet, Palestinian suffering is somehow justified. When I see the Arab Spring which has killed many and the once autocratic or even secular leaders have been toppled and replaced by Islamist leaders I shudder. When I hear of the human rights violations and the gender inequalities in the Gulf Corporation Council countries I cringe and wonder why such oil rich countries are making billions of US$’s and their violations are being ignored for the sake of the political economy.
These are a few of the themes I will address in my blog. I may also provide film reviews and critical criticism of events and reporting.
I would like to encourage academics, intellectuals and critical thinkers to read my posts. I would like anyone who has any interest in the Middle East within a political and cultural context to read my posts.
My intention is not to attract conspiracy theorists or religious fundamentalists.
I hope to have some interesting responses to my notes and posts.
Finally, I hope that who ever reads my posts is not offended or upset by the views expressed.