Thursday, August 28, 2014


What’s Inspiring The Arab Revolt?

It is important to remember that this is not a revolt of religious extremists.
It is important to remember that this is not a revolt of religious extremists.
By Mardo Soghom
Will the successful Tunisian revolt or Egyptian unrest lead to more democratic, stable, and moderate regimes? Or is it the beginning of dangerously unpredictable events in the Arab world that could endanger peace or lead to an ascendance of Islamic regimes?

It is next to impossible to predict the course of mass activism and protests in these volatile environments. But there are reasons to think that the fall of authoritarian regimes by mainly young and frustrated protesters will not necessarily lead to a catastrophic outcome.

Many Arab and non-Arab observers cannot help but remember the example of Iran in the 1970s, when an authoritarian regime was replaced by a much more brutal, dangerous, and intolerant religious dictatorship. But there is one obvious difference between Tunisia and Egypt at this stage and the 1979 Iranian uprising that led to an Islamic Revolution. In these two Arab countries, Islamic groups (neither moderate nor extremist) are not leading the revolts. Certainly, Islamic elements are present among the demonstrators, but it is not Islamic political ideology or leaders inspiring the protesters.

The protesters are mainly young people who have personal and national aspirations, which they believe they can never achieve under authoritarian and corrupt rule. Contrary to the impression Islamic fundamentalism has created in the last decade, most young Arabs do not want to live an isolated, restricted, and medieval existence circumscribed by religion. They want to be educated, enjoy social mobility, have a reasonable hope of a good future and a measure of self-esteem, and to be treated with dignity. Most young Arabs want modernization and a strong economy that would provide jobs, nice cars, and some version of a Western-style, less restrictive social life.

The Arab-Muslim world has been facing social and political tensions ever since modernization got under way in the region. However, after more than a century, this partial modernization never enabled Arab nations to really catch up with the West. It did lead to elevated aspirations and increased pressure on youths to succeed in education, launch careers, and gain wealth. But it did not provide sufficient opportunity for these aspirations to be realized.

Not A Revolt Of Extremists

It was these contradictions and pressures that created a backlash against modernization and Westernization, and the emergence of Islamic fundamentalism is the most visible manifestation of this backlash. But only a limited number of young Arabs have joined the fundamentalist wave. The vast majority still look with envy toward youths in more modernized countries. It is this large group of disaffected youths with progressive aspirations that is now rising up.

It is perhaps not an accident of history that the revolt began in Tunisia, a highly educated Arab country with strong secular impulses. Egyptians, by contrast, have a much higher rate of illiteracy, but there are vast numbers of urban educated youths ready to emulate their Tunisian peers. That is why it is a revolt riding on Twitter and Facebook, which has even taken the most visible Egyptian opposition leader, Mohamed ElBaradei, by surprise. The extremist Muslim Brotherhood admits it is just part of the movement, not its leader or even its most important faction.

Will the Egyptian regime fall? And if it does, to what extent will a significant part of the current ruling elite continue to play a role in a smooth transition? Will there even be a smooth transition at all?

These are all very hard to predict. But it is important to remember that this is not a revolt of religious extremists, and it is not led by a maverick cleric in the style of Iranian Revolution leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Moreover, if the autocrats are toppled, the demands of the revolutionaries must be taken seriously. They will demand to be heard and treated respectfully. Relations with the West and especially with Israel might become tense, because part of the frustration is a deep and widespread feeling that the West has treated Arabs unfairly and that Israel is hostile to Arabs.

Egypt is a crucial Arab country, and any regime change in Egypt could have tumultuous reverberations across the region. At this point, there is still much reason to expect that such a process would result in the torch of Arab and Muslim identity and moral leadership being passed to a new generation of secular, nationalist forces. Not to Islamic extremists.

Mardo Soghom is a deputy director of broadcast operations at RFE/RL. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL

Mardo Soghom

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by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 28, 2011 20:20
It looks like Americans are not the only ones who are good at organizing "color revolutions" - sometimes the latter get organized on their own in pro-French (Tunisia) or even pro-American (Egypt) dictatorships. Interesting to see what you, guys from the RFE/RL, are going to write on this site when the Muslim Brothers come to power in Egypt as a result of the next free elections :-)...
In Response

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
January 29, 2011 22:49
How much do you know about the Muslim Brotherhood?

Being Islamic based political force that do not necessarily mean to be the same as the Iranian theocracy.

The ruling party in the secular and democratic Turkey is an Islamist political force. And Turkey is still an open and democratic country (moreover it is more democratic than during the military rule) and will not going to be like Iran.

Why do you think that the Muslim Brotherhood would lead Egypt to an Iranian style country and not towards a Turkey like country?

Anyway the people of Egypt definitely have the right to choose their own leaders. And under Mubarak's reign the people were prevented to make their own free choice. This should be changed!

If they elect an Islamic oriented government than it is their own souvereign business. We outsiders have no right to interfere.

This is what democracy is about. This is what America stands for, isn't it?
In Response

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
January 29, 2011 23:02
Egypt is not Pakistan!

Look at the pictures, girls do not wear a hijab. Do you think they are fighting for an Islamic fundamentalist state? Do you think they want to be treated like women in Afghanistan? Do you think they would tolerate it?

They want freedom and not another oppressive regime.

Moreover Islamic authocracy is challenged also in Iran. Even Iranian youth want to live in a free country.

Mubarak must go.
In Response

by: Turgai
January 31, 2011 08:33
"Look at the pictures, girls do not wear a hijab."

Look again, especially more towards the background. Part of them do. What is wrong with that?

by: Feroz from: Germany
January 28, 2011 23:07
Modernistion in the Middle East is Weternisation, beacuse the West is the benchmark for modernisation.
You seem to suggest that Islamic fundementalism is the result of partial modernisation and unfulfilled aspirations of the people in Arab countries. I doubt it very much. Many in Arab or Islamic world do not want to emualte the West fully and Westernise. Often just the opposite. What may be the problem is that they do not know in what to keep and what to discard in the process of modernisation/Westernisation. Are you sure that secular and natioanlist forces are going to take over in Egypt? Ot is it a wishful thinking because there is no indication of this at this stage?

by: Sergey from: Chicago area,USA
January 29, 2011 00:40
And what gives Mardo such confidence that Islamists won't try to take power using this chaos and revolt ? Where this optimism comes from. I constantly hear of Islamists being very much involved in riots in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, so what makes Mardo think that Islamists are not a serious force ?
In Response

by: Turgai
January 31, 2011 08:30
OK Sergey what is *your* alternative? The reality is, that you lot have no decent alternative except feeding compradore regimes that oppress the people and that have always been part of the problem.
In Response

by: Allison from: UK
January 31, 2011 22:42
And what if they are a serious force? Does that discount the aspirations of those who are not interested in a non-Islamic alternative in Egypt?

by: Cojonius Maximus from: USA
January 29, 2011 14:54



Okay, so the latest Arab uprising in Egypt and has no terrorist elements to it, right? This story reeks of CNN Über-Spin, characterizing the events in Egypt and other Arab nations as a revolt fueled by the intelligentsia, not hysterical Jihadists. Maybe my TV set is tuned to a different universe, as I see nothing but screeching rioters from the area of the world that author P.J. O’Rourke accurately identified as “God’s Monkey House”

Notably absent in this "intellectual" revolt are the intellectuals from Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, genuinely despotic regimes. Mubarak, at worst is "despot lite", otherwise the protestors would be getting the Tiananmen Square treatment, and there would be several hundred dead already instead of a handful.

With Hillary overtly, and President Obama tacitly throwing an admittedly flawed ally under the bus, this can only end one way, with another middle east country falling into the Iranian model.

Remember that the Iranian revolution was sparked by the country’s intellectual elite and college students, but ended with the rise of the Assaholas, and the establishment of the world’s first viable terrorist state. Thanks a lot President Carter, you peanut munching varmint.

We must act this time. Here are a few easily implemented precautions that may help avoid another foreign policy disaster :

#1. Declare the Suez Canal and the Sinai Peninsula vital international utilities. President Obama: screw the Afghans, send in the Marines. If you can’t send in our Marines, let Israel, re-occupy the area. If our panty-waist NATO allies grow a set and want to help, let them. Under no circumstances should this mission include United nations Peace Keepers. These clowns are as useful as tits on a tomcat.

#2. Make a public statement that Iran, Syria and Pakistan have been designated as primary nuclear targets in the event of an attack on Israel, regardless of deniability.

#3. Develop a policy for the disarmament of all middle eastern Muslim countries down to the police department level. This means no tanks, air forces, missiles, nukes, chemical weapons or biological weapons will be tolerated. If it were possible, we should reduce them to pointy sticks, rocks and harsh language, but taking their armament down to the level of a rural police department will do for now.

#4. Make war profiteering (despite what the MSNBC bedwetters say, we are at war) a prosecutable crime with hard time attached to a conviction ( say hello to your new room mate, Rectal Ronnie). This includes price manipulation of consumable commodities including oil and food.

Somebody has to be the adult here.
In Response

by: Darius from: London
January 29, 2011 17:27
With respect, I think you ought to see a psychiatrist! You do not seem to have any idea of what is happening in your country, let alone in the Middle East. You want your country to occupy parts of Egypt and threaten other countries in the Middle East and be world police! The USA cannot defeat the Taliban and has miserably failed in Iraq and now you wish your country to conquer the world with the threat of nuclear weapons. You are nuts, to put it politely!
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 29, 2011 19:28
In response to the point number 1 of Cojonius Maximus from USA: and why should President Obama not be able to send your marines to Egypt? Ah, right, is it because they are too busy getting defeated in Afghanistan :-)! Ok, I got it.
And now you want "Israel to reoccupy the area"? Would probably be easy: their "impressive" campaign in Lebanon in 2006 has shown that they are not able to win a war against a Hezbollah, then the war in Gaza in 2009 has demonstrated that they are unable to unseat Hamas in this small peace of land, and you now want them to start a war against a country of 70 mln peole :-)?! The way to go for the intellectual heirs to the giant of thought who was twice democratically elected to be President by the American nation - George W :-).
But anyways, good luck, Cojonius Maximus from USA, accomplish your missions and don't forget to vote for Sarah Palin next year - the world needs this lady :-)...
In Response

by: Anush from: Germany
January 29, 2011 21:50
I am surprised that RFE publishes idiotic comments of yours . One thing for sure, you have no idea about the strength (or the lack) of your country. First defeat the Taleban, then talk about occupying part of Egypt or threateninh other countries with your nuclear weapons. The United States is the most hated country among the Arab and no-Arab population of Middle Eastern countries. Have you asked yourself why ? I do not expect you to understand this because you seem to live on a different plant. Do take your medicine regularly please !
In Response

by: Another Muslim dog
January 29, 2011 22:56
"Somebody has to be the adult here." you say
You fascist loony are certainly not.
Greetings from a "Muslim dog!"
In Response

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
January 29, 2011 23:11
" ... Lebanon (...) genuinely despotic regimes. "

Where do you get your information? Lebanon is the most democratic country in the region with fair elections and a working multi-party system.

It's OK that you do not like Hezbollah (neither do I) but to label Lebanon as a despotic country is far away from truth.

I think your grouping logic is much more dominated by pro-Americanism and counter-Americanism and not about being more authoritarian or less...

Primitive American imperialism.

This mentality created the current Iran. The USA supported unquestionably the highly oppressive Shah. And when the people of Iran said enough America was left on the wrong side...

This is why the US government is trying to distance itself from Mubarak in order to avoid the Iranian scenario to repeat. Fortunatelly the US government is more clever than you.

by: Mardo from: Prague
January 29, 2011 18:03
Very thoughtful comments. Thank you. I do say in my commentary that it is next to impossible to predict the outcome of the Arab revolt. It is entirely likely that Islamists organize better and gain ground. My point is that a vast group of young people have other aspirations than simply religious ferver. In Tunisia and Egypt they showed their frustrations and demand basic human and economic rights. This force might claim at least part of the moral ground in the Arab world, which until now belonged almost entirely to the religious fundamentalists.

by: Bill Webb from: Phoenix AZ
January 29, 2011 18:43
The lure of affluence, good food, clean water, etc. etc. is what inspires people to work and build for the future. It certainly has worked well in the United States. There is no replcement for democracy, especially not Islamic fundamentalism :-(

by: Jean from: France
January 29, 2011 22:11
"Cojones" or bird brain. Shame on RFE to print such nonsense, I expect in the name of the freedom of expression.

by: Dennis Roehl from: Phoenix
January 29, 2011 23:27
Cojonius...I can appreciate your no nonsense approach. And with this viewpoint, wow you actually articulate well. Amazing seeing as msnbc would have dribbling idiot cool aid drinkers from either US coastal regions believe people like you are illiterate and from the Oklahoma bible belt. Nice work. I'm pleasantly refreshed.
In Response

by: John from: London
January 30, 2011 22:45

" ... US coastal regions believe people like you are illiterate " ! If Cojones is illitrate and educated then he is an eduacted idiot to think that the United States should be rule the world , threaten other countries with nuclear weapons or occupy any country that does take US strategic interests into account !

by: Jacqueline from: Belgium
January 30, 2011 15:16
It is shameful for RFE/RL to descend into the gutter by giving a platform to a fascist. In line with principles of responsible journalism, I thought RFE/RL, funded by US taxpayers, will not give platforms to fascists, religious fanatics and terrorists. I expect from now on, you will provide a platform to al-Qaida members or supporters of this organization in the name of freedom of expression.
Shame on RFE/RL to print statements of fascists like “Maximus Cojones” who is obviously thick in the head and probably strong in the arm with miniscule cojones.
In Response

by: cojonius maximus from: USA
January 30, 2011 17:25

You wouldn't know a fascist if one rolled tanks through your country and conquered it with nearly no resistance, forcing you to wait for the USA to rescue your helpless effete, country. Oh wait, that has already happened a couple of times.

In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 30, 2011 18:56
Guys, why are you all so mean to Cojonius Maximus - he probably just wanted to entertain all of us by putting on line his provocative comments. He is probably sitting somewhere in his room in New London, Pennsilvania, and laughing at the fact that we all reacted to his "comment".
TO ZOLTAN from Hungary: Zoltan, why are you saing that "the US government is more clever than" Cojonius Maximus? I am sure that people like Condi (the previous US govt) and Sarah Palin (the next one) would definitely concur with 90 per cent of what he says and would even try to put into practice most of his "policy recommendations" :-))))
In Response

by: cojonius maximus from: USA
February 01, 2011 15:13
Jaqueline from Belgium.....

Here in the good old US of A we have something called the First Amendment....Not only are my views allowed expression regardless of your libelous characterization of their position in the political spectrum, they are specifically protected, especially in a forum that is underwritten by the American taxpayer.

by: cojonius maximus from: USA
January 30, 2011 16:45
Meant Lybia not Lebanon. I ferevently hope that everything works out for Egypt, but as the old saying goes:

The battle may not always be to the strong, or the race to the swift—but that's the where the smart money bets.

Right now the driving force in the Arab/ Muslim world is the Jihadist movement, which has as one of its "pillars" the destrction of western civilization and the establishment of a new caliphate.

As long as this movement is out there, a realistic approach to the peril is to de-fang it.
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
February 01, 2011 01:47
Actually I believe you're more than half-crazed with fear.
And also I would like to tell you "So nicht, Herr Hitler!"
In Response

by: cojonius maximus from: USA
February 01, 2011 15:05
Hey Abdulmajid :

Nobody fears you...but we are quite aware of your intentions. You do not have enough time to establish your new caliphate before a new adminsitration takes over in Washington and demonstrates to you 11th century wannabeees where the Bear S---s in the buckwheat.

Paranoia? Maybe, but: as William S. Burroughs. said:

A paranoid is the person in possession of all the facts. ..
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
February 02, 2011 21:17
Yes you are crazy with fear and an inferiority complex, you are nothing but a genocidal barbarian. The hate speech you spew is teh same teh serbofascists spout to justify their their genocidal crusade againstteh Bosniaks and the Kosovars. And I tell you the Cross will NEVER bring the Crescent to its knees! YOU are the Ugly American. How dare you dismiss us ragheads all as untermenschen. Our ideas and attitude are none of your business and should you crazy loons ever gain power and really attempt to start a crusade against the Mooslims or whoever then it will be the end of teh USA as a world power. I am glad that you repreysent only a very vociferous and hate-filled minority but a minority nevertheless. A minority of genocidal fascist pigs. ANd your fascism is a betrayal of all that George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood for! You dirty Klansman!
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