Turmoil in Mideast May Give Rise to Radicals

Thursday, 24 Feb 2011 02:46 PM

By Tawfik Hamid

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The recent turmoil in the Middle East has resulted in a power shift from the hands of ruthless dictators to the hands of people. The result just may be a furthering of democracy. But there's  a risk, too, of increasing the power of radical Islamic movements that promote anti-Western sentiments. Such movements, ironically, were suppressed by the former dictators.

There are at least two possible trends that may emerge as a result of this turmoil in the Middle East.

These societies marginalize radial Islamists when Islamic movements fail to remove these dictators with their violent attitudes and actions. This is in contrast to the success of the nationally driven peaceful movements that managed to remove these dictators via social media.

Contributions of women and Christians to the success of these revolutions put radical Islamic movements in trouble as they can no longer claim that these two groups must be marginalized or treated as second class citizens.

Radical Islam could take another hit when the hypocritical nature of Shariah-based regimens is exposed. Many in the Muslim world will start to question if Saudi Arabia, which one day justified beheading a Lebanese magician for the crime of “future telling” based on Islamic Shariah — is also ready to cut off the hand of the former president of Tunisia Bin Ali based on the same Shariah, if it is proved that he stole the money of his nation.

The double standards in applying Shariah can contribute to more weakening of Islamism in the area.

The beginning of weakening of Islamism has been exemplified in the recent decisions of leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood to support a civilian (secular) rather than a theocratic country, and accept the former treaties of Egypt including the peace treaty with Israel.

Also, they admit the importance of tourism industry to the country despite of the fact that a major part of this industry such as drinking alcohol and freedom of women to wear bikinis for swimming. 

However, it is still premature to judge if such changes in the Muslim Brotherhood that occurred after the revolution in Egypt are genuine ideological changes or just tactical means to help them reach power.

It is vital that the U.S. try to build on this momentum.

Radical Islam is by no means always tacking the soft tack: non-Muslim priests were brutally attacked and killed after the revolutions in both Tunisia and Egypt.

This trend could be aggravated by the expected sudden increase in poverty levels in the areas of turmoil as a result of collapse of tourism industry and fleeing of investments outside these countries for fear of instability.

An immediate intervention by the West to bring the money that has been stolen by the dictators back to these countries can impede the growth of such radicals in the area.

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