Pluto author Deina Ali Abdelkader writes on the uprising in Tunisia and prospects for democratic change in the Middle East.
Tunisia like many other countries in the Middle East has been a country striving to modernize and democratize. Like other countries of the region it too has suffered a prolonged history of French colonization.
Its history of colonization together with its more recent and contemporary political leadership has meant that the Tunisians have been economically, socially, and politically oppressed for more than a century. The violence that we see today is self explanatory to anyone slightly familiar with the prolonged sense of worthlessness and despair that the population of Tunisia feels. Since its independence Tunisians have been promised a “rose garden” with technological know-how, democracy, and economic welfare. None of that has materialized in the past six decades.
Tunisia is only an example of what is happening in many other countries in the Middle East, the build up of unmet dreams and promises has come to reckon with the overwhelming sense of propriety of its ruling class and the forces of Globalization.
What remains to be seen is who will fill the political vacuum? How does this serve in the fight against terrorism?
Will the West maintain its national interest in the region by continuing to support puppet governments who thrive on corruption and political injustice or will it choose the more difficult and longer route of stabilizing the Middle East and therefore establishing democracy?
If we were to go by how long President Mubarak ruled (and continues to rule) Egypt, I think the Western world’s policies exhibit a preference for supporting corrupt governments in the interests of national security. The problem is that the support of those governments creates very fertile ground for extremists to grow their roots.
Post September 11, 2001, President Bush claimed that the act of terrorism took place because the aggressors do not like the US style of life; that they do not like democracy.
In today’s Tunisia and many other Middle Eastern countries the protests against incumbent governments show that on the contrary the people like democracy very much; it is just that they do not have the freedom or the choice to practice it.
The Anti-Enlightenment Democrats
Deina Ali Abdelkader
A thorough explanation of Islamic scholarship on democracy, which shows that enlightenment values are not essential to democratic societies.