Feb 21, 2011: More reflections on the Middle East

The developments in Egypt, and now Libya are really unprecedented. There was no way for anyone to expect this.

Well, let me qualify that. It has been known for some time that there was a demographic time bomb in many of these countries. You have several factors combining to create instability and revolution: a large population of young males who are largely a) unemployed, and b) unmarried. This always leads to instability, and now we have seen that boil to the surface, though, like I said, no one saw it coming right now and in this form.

In some ways, the self-immolation of the young Tunisian fruit-vender is what occasioned this whole series of revolutions. It is one of those small, obscure acts that parlayed itself into something much larger, like the assassination of a certain arch-duke.

But the real question is what does the future hold? A couple of points follow.

1) The Western press often stresses that the movements in Egypt and Tunisia had a lot of 'modern' or 'secular' people in them. To which I respond, who cares? What matters is coordination and organization. The Muslim Brotherhood has that. In Egypt, no one else does.

2) Islam and democracy are in esse incompatible. Islam is devoted to the imitation of the Prophet, who was totalitarian in his polity without any question. He consolidated all political, military, juridical, and religious authority into his own hands. Democracy, on the other hand, is based on a Judeo-Christian anthropology, and it seeks to spread power as widely as possible because it understands that humans in their sinfulness cannot be trusted with the totality of power.

3) Turkey. Everyone points to Turkey and says, see Islam and democracy can work! Sorry, but that is not quite right. The inspiration for Turkey's democracy was nationalism, not Islam. In fact, as Turkey has grown more Islamic in its polity, it is questionable to what extent democracy there can survive. Also, Turkey has undergone reforms in order to enter the EU. Tunisia and Egypt and Libya don't have that carrot dangling in front of them.

4) The foundational problems are not with regimes, but demographics, agriculture, and Islam. Too many children (especially in Egypt), too little arable land, and an Islamic society which, for whatever reason, is often tribalistic and nepotistic. A new regime, even a secular, democratic one, will not solve these problems.

5) Freedom. Ultimately, if people want freedom, they will have to find some other religion. Pure and simple. Not very PC. But there you have it.

So what does this all lead to? A struggle between nationalist kleptocratic militaries and Islamists. Not very much fun.

But let us pray. As Martin Luther said, 'Even the devil is God's devil.'

Abu Daoud


Joel said…
I have to say that I agree with you.
JI said…
Well said. When I listen to the western commentary on the events in North Africa and Middle East, I can't help feeling how naive these people are. They think it's all about people's wishes for western style democracy. Get rid of the tyrants and these countries will be liberal democracies. They don't realise democracy reflects the values inherent in a particular society. It is no panacea.

I'm pretty sure sooner or later the Islamists will have a greater influence in post-revolution Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. The military is quite strong in Egypt and Tunisia, so they likely to be more secular, but Libya is totally different. I believe that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with democracy because Islam is totalitarian in nature. Modern western democracy, on the other hand, is based on liberal Christianity.
JI said…
Hi Abu Daoud,

I have a great deal of respect for Christians from the Middle East. Firstly, it's the birth place of Christianity and the region that it spread to first. Secondly, I know that there are all sorts of difficulties you people face living in majority Muslim contexts. My wife's best friend is a Christian from Syria. Syria is relatively more tolerant than other countries in that region.

I've added you to my blogroll. Maybe we might meet some time when you come to UK.

Best wishes,

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