The Arab summer

Walking the delicate line between freedom and democracy

Egyptian Revolution - What's next? (Photo courtesy of Aljazeera)

The Arab summer is not meant to indicate the end of Arab revolutions. It is rather the hard time that comes ahead for the liberated Arab nations to set their countries in the right tracks. It is the immense task they now face to equip themselves properly for lasting freedom and sovereignty.

Now we are in control of our destiny and if it gets ruined we can only blame ourselves, because we don’t have dictators and oppressors to blame anymore! Arabs need to realize that maintaining freedom is harder than gaining it. We need to remember that when many of us died for freedom, they set a legacy that declares that freedom is more valuable than life. And if we want to remain free we need to always be prepared to sacrifice for it. There is never a time in history when freedom was taken for granted without being trimmed and manipulated. Arabs need to stay vigilant, and claim their freedom day by day forever. They will just have to be prepared to carry out a revolution every day, on many fronts.

One of the most urgent responsibilities at the moment is to protect the gains of the Arab spring and guard this newborn freedom from being lost or stolen amidst this chaos. It needs to be guarded against internal dangers, like military rulings, political fragmentation, or tribal conflicts; but it also needs to be protected against potential foreign interference and manipulations in the formation of new governments in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and the rest that will come.

When and if we will be sure that we are in firm control of our freedom, we should ask ourselves where we want to go with it.

I find it bizarre that although we, in the Arab world, spent the 20th century talking about Arab unity as our salvation, now that we can have it, no one is talking about it. There is a rare window of opportunity and a historical chance for unity between Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and nobody seems to care!

We used to think that our leaders were oppressing us and preventing us from doing that, but now that they are gone, it must be something else! We seem to have simply accepted our new straight-line-borders and used to exist as divided nations. Why were we talking about unity for sixty years then? Was it just one more justification to remain passive?

Apart from the size of this emerging Arab state, we need to address an equally important issue: What kind of ruling system the free Arab states will have? Is democracy the only form of governance that can guarantee the best practice of freedom? If it is, then what kind of democracy do we need? If it isn’t, then what are the alternatives?

Maybe democracy is not a suitable system for everyone. Maybe Arabs, who are rising today to reclaim their voices, should understand that whenever there is “democracy” in the Arab world, there are conflicts.

In Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, and now in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, the so called “democratic systems” seem to be incompatible with the nature of Arab societies. Built around tribalism, and divided over sectarian and religious lines, the Arab world is distinctly different from those societies where this system was invented and developed. We are not single individuals like the west, we are big groups of people, and democracy will only divide us.

What we need to do is objectively decide whether or not we are simply confusing the two concepts of freedom and democracy.

Arabs rose for their freedom, and they should be free to choose the way they want to practice it. Otherwise democracy will be like a dictatorship-system that sees no right for any other system to exist!

Instead of viewing the western model of democracy as the holy cup, we need to realistically evaluate its ability to guarantee lasting and effective freedoms for its citizens.

The western model fails to provide equal treatment for citizens of all ethnicities, religions, cultures, traditions, and sects. It obviously has limited ability be inclusive for everyone and Islamophobia is the best example of that. We need a system that exceeds these limits, one that can be inclusive and tolerant for all.

Furthermore, the current model of democracy combined with free market policies leads to economic manipulations and monopolies, which inevitably results in financial slavery. As a result, the ‘empowered’ society kneels to the corporations that are ruled by single individuals, and the market becomes the new medium of governance. Corporation becomes the most influential component of society, and government institutions become just tools that it uses to maintain control and promote the illusion of freedom.

Democracy could very well be an illusion that paralyzes nations, and freezes them in time, instead of truly empowering them. Adapting an outdated governing system is not in the best interest of Arabs, because it will guarantee they will always remain followers of the west. Instead of doing that, Arabs should propose the system that comes after democracy. They should redefine democracy according to the new age, and propose a version of it that takes into accounts the shortcomings of the current forms of democracy.

The United States of America, the world’s “freest” nation is now struggling to tax those who drove its economy bankrupt. In the meanwhile we in the Muslim world have a better system already installed in our cultural richness. Zakat is a version of rich-tax that charges people for the money they withhold from society, rather than for their income.

All the countries of the first world are now struggling to get out of debts; while we have a successful experience with a system that forbids interest altogether, and provides viable alternatives that prevent financial meltdowns. Of course it can (and should) be fine-tuned to suit our time, but even as it is, it is still a better base to build on, than the current system.

These and other issues are all addressed in our history, but so far we failed to benefit from them. For no good reason, Arabs are divided into those who want to abandon all the richness of human experiences that other nations accumulated over time, and go back to rely only on our history, and those who want to embrace anything else but our cultural heritage!

Should we completely abandon our history just because it is contained in a religious context? Would it be prudent for the nations of the Arab world to detach themselves from the last 1500 years of their history, and try to build their future based on other nations’ past?

The obvious answer is “No”. We don’t even have to think of it from a religious perspective. Islam is the holder of our history and civilization as nations, and we need to carefully consider this historical richness if we want to build states that presents our true identity. While doing so, we need to adapt it to the age in which we live, and learn from the experiences of other nations.

That’s when Arabs can show their true selves, and provide a valuable contribution to the world. They can present the alternative system that people of the world are aspiring for right now. Every nation in the world is famous for an industry of some sort, and our industry have always been freedom. In its early days, Islam liberated nations that were enslaved for centuries, and now would be the perfect time for it to do it again. Back then, there were few true men who carried this task, now we are plenty, but we are weightless.

If we don’t care enough to properly address all of these issues, we would have lost the lives of thousands of innocent Arabs for nothing, and we will soon go back to be controlled and oppressed for millennia.


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