The Arab world (if there is any) is passing through a period of uncertainty and apprehension. Six months into the year 2012 and about 20 since the start of the Arab Spring, people are asking what is next.
Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain have all seen demonstrations and violence. In some cases, as in Tunis and Egypt, this was followed by the semblance of order - with elections and a change of the old guard and the representation of the people. In Yemen there is still turmoil as remnants of the old regime attempt to cling to power. By not letting go, these people are placing Yemen in a very precarious position, allowing terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda as well as common bandits and looters to have a field day.
In Egypt there was a fair election and the second round is just days away with anxious political pundits watching which way the pendulum will swing – a vote for Shafiq who represents in some ways the old guard or the Muslim Brotherhood, a more organized party but still lacking in political maturity, and untried and untested in the art of statecraft. The eyes of not only the Arabs but the world are on Egypt.
There seems to be little news coming out of Libya at the moment. While there are spates of violence every now and then yet no alarming factor exists – except for the large amount of weapons in the hands of the civilian population which could lead to problems of law and order in the future. As inYemen, remnants of the Qaddafi regime in Libya are trying to create chaos.
In Bahrain where large-scale demonstrations took place, things have simmered down. The only solution for Bahrain is dialogue, which was clearly expressed by the Justice Minister Khalid Bin Ali Al-Khalifa in a recent AFP interview. It is important that all sides sit down at a table and engage in dialogue.
Syria is the worst hit Arab country where bloodshed flows incessantly. A callous government with a total disregard for human life is bent on holding on to power. The mishandling of the situation by the UN, the ineffectiveness of the Arab League and a total lack of resolve continues to add to the plight of the Syrians.
It is somewhat strange that Assad has not learned from what happened in Libya, Egypt and Yemen. While maintaining that his regime has to go, one has to be careful not to engage in actions that would create further disorder and bloodshed. Neither Syria nor the Arab world can afford a civil war in Syria which would see a further spilling of innocent blood.
What lessons have the last 20 months given to the Arab people?
First, we should not be complacent. For years we heard of the horror in Syria, Iraq and Libya and nothing much was done about it.
There was no media exposé of the atrocities in these countries. Secondly any opposition to these regimes was dubbed as “financed by the West”. The list goes on.
However, in addition to what the Arab people have learned, those in authority should now turn to the people and view their expectations. The Arab people are no different from other people in the world. They want political, social and economic development. They want a society based on justice and the rule of law. They clamor for an end to corruption, and they demand transparency and accountability.
They do not want to be mere spectators, but rather actors in the great drama that is unfolding in their lives. They want to be heard. Above all they want to live in dignity. And that is what Islam is about.
— The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org