Bfnews: The uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa began when a young Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after a policewoman confiscated his electronic weighing scales and his produce cart.
This sparked a wave of demonstrations, first in Tunisia, then in Algeria and Egypt and later Yemen, which eventually spread to other Arab countries.
The uprisings were influenced by internal, regional, and international factors and also affected them.
At the internal level, the demonstrations of the Arab Spring are a response to serious problems in Arab countries, such as the identity crisis that manifested itself in the form of secular structures inside Islamic contexts. The inequality in the distribution of resources and the autocratic nature of the regimes were also factors behind the Arab Spring.
At the regional level, some countries such as Iran and Turkey, with their exemplary Islamic democracies, played a very important role in inspiring the Arabs to revolt against their puppet rulers and their arrogant allies.
At the international level, the global economic recession and the change of government in the United States paved the way for a change in Western policies toward the Middle East and North Africa. The rise of the digital civilization and the massive expansion of communications technology, and especially social networks, also played a major role in facilitating the recent developments in the Arab world.
The impact of the Islamist movement on the Arab Spring as well as the potential impact of recent developments on the future of these movements should also be examined in more detail.
Social movements comprising a broad range of groups and parties are currently trying to change the political systems in Arab countries. However, for a number of reasons, such as lack of unified leadership and ideology, most of them have failed to achieve their objectives in a complete manner. In fact, the theory of hegemonic stability and polarity has not been fully realized and the movements have only created a minor political reform, which makes it easier for the Western powers to control the situation in the Arab world. Some pundits believe that the process needs more time to be completed and that hegemonic stability and polarity will be realized in line with the establishment of democratic systems in the Arab world.
For more than half a century, the original identity of the Muslim people of the Arab world was distorted through various secular and Western agendas. Most of the Arab governments gained their legitimacy from the West, which made them subservient to the interests of Western countries. This loyalty to the West has created a massive sense of humiliation among the Arabs because they have failed to create their own base of knowledge and development. Resentment about this history of subjugation was one of the main catalysts that set off the massive wave of social movements and revolutions.
Due to the Islamic nature of the social structures and the cultural contexts of the Arab world, many observers regard the Islamists as the winners of recent developments in the region.
The global economic recession was one of the factors that triggered the Arab Spring, but it was not the main factor as many Western political analysts have argued. The main factor was actually the religious awakening of the people, especially their return to Islamic teachings, which has been dubbed the Islamic Awakening.
Another element in the uprisings is the people’s animosity toward global and regional hegemonistic powers, especially the Zionist regime. Therefore, Islamic identity will be the cornerstone of the new political systems in the Arab world.
Some other Western analysts say the recent developments are the result of the United States’ policy of democratization of the Middle East, which started after the 9/11 attacks of 2001. However, the Islamists in the Arab world are also calling for democracy, a democracy with civil liberties in which citizens are encouraged to follow divine religions. In other words, Islam, democracy, and freedom are the most important elements for the Islamist movements in the Arab world.
The Islamists of the Arab world are greatly inspired by Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979, which they regard as the standard-bearer of the global phenomenon known as the Islamic Awakening. As Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia’s Ennahda party, said, despite its devotion to Shia Islam, Iran’s Revolution belongs to all freedom-seekers of the world and its main objective is to revive the Islamic spirit of the ummah and promote an Islamic awakening in order to inspire Muslims to create a leading global civilization.
It should also be noted that the implementation of Islamic teachings and the mode of action in each country will depend on many religious, cultural, geographical, and political factors. Thus, one should not expect that the same model should be followed by every country or try to force them to follow the same path. The approach adopted by social and political leaders may also vary according to the situation.
In light of all this, it can be said that the Arab world is at a critical juncture that has provided Arab nations the opportunity to finally liberate themselves from years of tyranny and dictatorship and pursue their national interests.
Ahmad Bakhshi is the head of the Department of African Studies at Tehran’s Tarbiat-e-Modarres University.