2011 saw some world pillars toppling down. Dictators have fallen in the Arab world as people were hoping for a better future. Prime Ministers have fallen in Europe as its currency plunged into crisis. An earthquake and tsunami pummeled Japan, confronting it with the specter of nuclear disaster.
But while the Arab Spring revolutions erupted unexpectedly, their results have not been clear cut. Egypt is still caught in hostility with riots continuing in Tahrir Square. But the hostility is different now – while in February millions marched in Tahrir Square demanding change and toppling Mubarak, now only few thousands remain to demand their rights.
Apart from the rise of political Islamic power, not much has changed in Egyptians’ daily life. The small numbers of protesters that keep on fighting reflect the deeper reality that the Cairo uprising earlier this year was driven by economics rather than politics. Egyptians were fed up with the fall in living standards, widespread poverty and mass unemployment that the Mubarak government had caused.
While the West viewed the protests as a call for freedom and democracy, questions of democracy, liberty, and freedom of expression were of little interest to the majority of the population. Even the single act of desperation that ignited Arab Spring revolution in Tunisia was an economically based decision. When a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself ablaze, it was in the face of rampant corruption and a lack of economic opportunity.
While the revolution created fragile democracies, Arab governments still need to tackle the corruption, slow growth, inequity, and unemployment that helped arouse protest movements. The slowdown of tourism is one of the main economic problems in Egypt, and Tunisia is not helping the situation either. Sadly, though, no one is talking about building a new system to replace the ones that collapsed. Most of the focus is still on trivial things like how to dress, what religious rules to follow–not on education, employment or increasing living standards.
Mubarak, in his prime, used to say, “My people expect a firm hand. If we don’t lead strongly, they will turn to the mosque for leadership.” Well, it turns out he was right, and not only about Egyptians. The only thing standing between Egypt and the rise of fundamentalist Islam was… Mubarak. The path the Arab people seem to want, at least for the moment, is the path of Islam.
Now with Islamic parties in power, the question remains: what type of democracy can they build? Will Sharia law take over crushing women’s rights and all minorities? Will the people revolt again if this does happen?
2011 proved that when it comes to the Middle East, anything is possible. 2012 will be a test of how far the Arab Spring effect will ripple; will Islam take over Africa? Will democracy thrive under Islamic rule? Let’s not try to predict what will happen, but be sure to keep your eyes open to the global Jihad agenda of radical Islam.