From Persia to Arab, From Islamism to Post-Islamism

From Persia to Arab, From Islamism to Post-Islamism

the-middle-east

the-middle-east

French Marxist Philosopher Luis Althusser’s essay “Contradiction
and Overdetermination,” went passed my eyes this month in which he
enumerated and analyzed the circumstances and factors which
contributed to Russia’s Bolshevik revolution in 1917. His findings
were premised on the principle hypothesis that happening of any
abortion of history or abrupt change―we call revolution―is not
attributed to a singular instrumental force in a social multitude.
Instead, as he dwelt on the contradictions prevalent in the
pre-revolution Russia, the revolutionary change, he concluded, is the
sum of all the factors or forces which act like the multiple bullets
of the men in a firing squad. As no single bullet can claim monopoly
to death in this scene; there is no single factor in a revolutionary
change which can mother the final results.

The reading of Althusser’s text dragged my attention immediately to
the big changes taking place in the Middle East which world sees as
revolutionary in their scope. It all began from Tunisia with the
decisive rupture in the weakened fabric being caused by a fruit
seller, Mohammad Al Bouazizi, who set himself ablaze in protest
against police brutalities in a dilapidating economy of that
Mediterranean Muslim country. The ensuing riots were to change Middle
East’s political spectrum for good, was in few people’s
intellectual grasp and foresight. President Zine El Abidine’s 24
year old regime fell. The sparks of change reached Tahrir Square of
Cairo via Egyptian youth and civil society activists and world saw a
monumental change through topple of Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year old
rule. Insurrections in Libya are nearing the ouster of Col. Qaddafi
who has been in office for over 40 years. Syrian regime has used iron
hand against its own disconcerted masses to kill more than 2000 people
till now. Algeria witnessed riots simultaneously with Tunisia. The
situation in Behrain took a sectarian colour as demonstrations by the
dominant Shia population were curbed by the Sunni regime via military
aid from Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries to offset Iranian
influence of any sort in the region. President of Yamen, Ali Abdullah
Saleh―in office since May 1990―had to flee his country for Saudi
Arabia after demonstrations by the masses and suffering an injury
during an attack upon his palace. The new learning, social media
revolution and information technology played a pivotal role in
awakening social activism amongst the new generation in Middle East.

The most profound feature of the mass movements in the Middle East
was people’s thrust upon social justice, rights, reforms, inclusion
and democracy. The absence of theological content in their slogans for
change, left extremist forces of apocalyptic change like Al Qaeda in a
position of retreat as ground realities spoke counter to what they had
prophessed in their violent actions and rhetoric since long. These
monumental changes in the Middle East present a stark contrast to the
Islamic Revolution of Iran specifically in terms of their secular
content. The Khomeini led revolution of Iran in 1979, which was an
experiment to realize a modern Islamic state; lost its aura after the
Islamists’ excessive and absolutist policies to circumvent the
modern political system through the clerical template from above. Its
obvious outcome was people’s disillusionment with caesaropapism and
ruthless subjection of ideology in state matters. Hence, after the end
of Iran-Iraq war and Khomeini’s death in late eighties, when
revolutionary fervor cooled down and the excesses of the clerical
regime became commonplace with regard to social obligations in place
of social rights, the counterrevolution began with voices of reform in
a new era, which Iranian anthropologist Asef Bayat calls
post-Islamism. Post Islamism is not a departure from Islamic
principles. Instead this is a master movement which is there for the
safeguard of religious ideology from subversion by the officialdom and
the theocratic power elite. It begs for separation of matters of state
from religion. This concept envisions ambiguity, multiplicity,
inclusion and compromise in principles and practice of the modern
state affairs while simultaneously embracing religion in its fold.
Post Islamism is neither anti-Islamic nor secular; rather, this is an
attempt to fuse religiosity and rights, faith and freedom, Islam and
liberty.

The distinguished feature of Arab revolutions is that they are an
implicit inspiration from Iran’s demonstrations for reform after
2009 presidential elections and at the same time they very smartly
depart from 1979 Islamic revolution. The historical truths are known
to the mobs. That’s why they are articulating their voice for
democracy, rights, good living conditions and freedom instead of
accepting tyranny of the sovereigns in secular, religious or khaki
cloaks. The post industrial Western world had so far been dealing with
the Arab dictators in a unilateral style sans any concern for their
masses as a legitimate force to reckon with. In a post 9/11 modern
world where the Arab world is profiled and stereotyped by the West as
backward, and avowed “other” of the western civilization in famous
orientalist discourse, the new Arab awakenings are an onset of a post
9/11 modernity which is born in the Middle East by the Arab youth. The
mood of the masses humbled the hubris of those power holders who saw
generations getting old in their reigns. Where the snobbery for power
persists, the perseverance of the mobs too.

Assessing the most recent regional development in the social and
political realm of the Middle East vis. a vis. parallel historical
developments in Iran; the Arab Spring looks a logical and good omen.
It will be unrealistic to imagine that remnants of the old regimes
would not thwart the massive gains of the masses by reasserting their
fist upon power in different and disguised faces. Therefore it is
indispensable for the reformists to invent new thoughts, treat history
as their tutor and borrow thoughts from other cultures and societies
which suit their demands for modernity in post 9/11 Middle East.

Aamir Aziz

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