Political Islam isn’t a condition of the Arab Spring

Jamal Khashoggi
Jamal Khashoggi
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Many rushed and said that the Arab Spring and political Islam have come to an end; they saw the first elected president who reached power through the Arab Spring’s wave, fall. Ousted Egyptian Islamist President Mohammed Mursi was not only overthrown by military men and tanks, but also by the rage of the masses.

This elected president happened to be Islamic and so the people saw through clouded eyes, saying that both political Islam and the Arab Spring had come to an end with his ouster.

However this analysis is wrong and hasty. Political Islam is not a condition stipulated for the Arab Spring to go on. It can go on without it. On the other hand, democracy is a basic requirement for the Arab Spring and it did not fail. This is all regardless of the ongoing controversy; whether what happened in Egypt is considered a coup or not, and questions over made the final decisions at the presidential palace.

So far, the military have used civilian constitutional solutions for the transitional period, which will expire upon the achievement of the Arab Spring’s first condition, which is resorting to elections and ballots. As long as this condition is pending, political Islam will remain because democracy and political Islam are inseparable twins.

It does not matter how many times political Islam parties declare their commitment to the principles of democracy, there will still be people who accuse them of being religiously engaged

Jamal Khashoggi

Someone will now cry out and ask “how exactly?” The idea that political Islam is opposed to democracy is wrong; some anti-political Islam powers prefer anti-democratic methods and want to remain in that narrow box that vetoes democracy because they believe that it is a “westernized” and strange concept. Therefore they make every possible effort to move it away and include all political Islam groups.

It does not matter how many times political Islam parties declare their commitment to the principles of democracy, there will still be people who accuse them of being religiously engaged, and that they exploit religion in politics. Hence, they seek to seize the right of all political Islam parties in the political arena. This is the pre-Arab Spring logic and a political theory that fed the regimes of Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

This extreme reaction towards the liberal forces in Egypt and Tunisia, which are backed by some of the most elite intellectuals in the Arab world, and which is supposed to be more democratic, will undoubtedly weaken the spirit of the Arab Spring. Maybe it's time to stop using this “romantic” term after it was abandoned by its alleged holders (while Islamists are still sticking to it).

We should modestly call it the Arab Awakening aspiring towards freedom, democracy and dignity; it is reluctant this time because it has lost its origin but yet it will always represent the conscience of young independent people who came out in 2011, and hid when the “Brotherhood” failed to represent them and express their aspirations within a year after reaching power.

They are not ready to go back and modify the Arab Spring demands seized by the victors who are a combination of military men, old regime and “revolutionaries” who want an Arab Spring of their own without the Islamic forces.

Amendments to the Spring’s original demands

There are three amendments to the original demands of the Arab Spring and the first is the exclusion of the Islamists. Shadi al-Ghazaly Harb, who was an activist during the January 25 revolution and became a member of the liberal Constitution Party, believes that one of the most important demands of the June 30 uprising is to “prevent the involvement of religion in politics,” The sole interpretation of this phrase that seems to be innocent is to dissolve all political Islam and organize elections without them; this is incompatible with the spirit of the Arab Spring because the latter is based on pluralism and public freedoms.

The second amendment is to be “tolerant with the old regime.” Prominent engineer Mamdouh Hamza who played a key role during Egypt's January 25 revolution said in a televised speech: “Not all members of the National Party are corrupted” and others have said similar expressions like the current Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei and Amr Moussa. Whereas in Libya, where a complete revolution took place, the Libyan legislative council issued a law that vetoed champions and leaders of the revolution against Colonel Qaddafi just because they served the regime for a day and did not exclude the historic leaders of the revolution, Mustafa Abdul Jalil and Mahmoud Jibril.

The third amendment is to abandon the “dignity and freedom” requirement as long as the abuses are happening against Islamic currents, whereas according to the first rules of the Arab Spring, this requirement applies to all. The “new revolutionaries” in Egypt are unconsciously recapturing the idea of the military regime rule founder Gamal Abdel Nasser, which states that “there is no freedom for the enemies of freedom”.

But despite all the previously mentioned distortions, the foundations of the Arab Spring still exist in theory; the roadmap set by the army is based on the first main Arab Spring request for elections for those who are ready for it.

Many from the Islamic currents are ready, and most probably, the Brotherhood will often return to it, along with the rest of the political Islamic currents, including the Salafist al-Nour Party, the silent partner in the new government, which will surely participate in the rule but it is still too early to estimate its size in the next parliament... unless the regime resorted again to the use of what it masters (force and fraud), If this happens, we can then pay our condolences to the Arab Spring and political Islam will know then its path: in the underground.

This article was first published in al-Hayat on July 20, 2013.

Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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