THE COMING REVOLUTION
Hassan is the author of Prophecy
and the Fundamentalist Quest. Please visit
her website at: www.farzanahassan.com
Phares’ words almost seem prophetic when he discusses
'the Arab spring' in his 2010 publication entitled The
Coming Revolution (Simon and Schuster).
It was in January 2011 that the Arab spring actually began to
unfold. Reports of a young Tunisian man setting himself aflame
as a public protest against the government’s refusal to
entertain his legitimate demands soon turned viral. Within hours
the entire country would rise up in revolt against the autocratic
regime of Tunisia’s Ben Ali.
Libya and other parts of the Middle East would soon follow suit.
Phares, in his timely and well researched book, describes the
conditions that would ultimately lead to a region wide revolution
against the autocratic and dictatorial regimes of the Arab world.
author begins by recounting the history of twentieth century
Middle East. He asserts that a great opportunity to achieve
democracy in the region was lost after the collapse of the Ottoman
Empire in 1920. The author contends that Western policy perhaps
exacerbated the tensions that beset the region at the time.
He laments that the struggle for democracy “was deeply
affected by Western intervention, World War II, a long Cold
War, and the rise of oil power.” Instead of moving towards
pluralistic democracy, the Arab world and especially the Islamists
plunged deeper into authoritarian rule, pushing the democratic
elements toward the “edges of civil society.” The
result was a clear victory for the brutal autocratic rulers
as well as the jihadists who were also winning the psychological
war. The counter jihadists, liberals, women and children’s
rights groups were consistently denied support. But the author
asks: Has that deterred the Arab freedom lovers in their quest
for democratic rule?
makes an apt observation when he states that almost all fascist
ideologies of the last century were defeated except for Wahabism,
Salafism, Khomeinism and Bathism.
Was oil at the root of the support for these totalitarian viewpoints?
Could the Islamists have derailed these efforts toward pluralistic
democracy, the values of which greatly contradicted modern liberal
writes: “Emancipation of slaves, religious freedom, ethnic
and national liberation, as well as female equality and fundamental
political rights, were all trapped within the confines of an
unchallengeable order, which according to the ruling elite,
was set by Allah and carried out by a caliph, whose Walis, along
with the urban upper classes, managed and maintained the social
along with a palpable anti-Westernism also created roadblocks
toward achieving a “Western style democracy.” Phares
states that the real opposition to Western democracy stems from
the apprehension that genuine democracy produces new elites
who will threaten the power of the current elite. The jihadis,
the author asserts, also reject pluralist societies and democracy
for this reason.
the collapse of the Soviet Union, the jihadists and the Arab
elites became even more protective of their power and control
because now there was no cold war to hinder progress toward
achieving fundamental human rights and democracy. According
to the author, “The rise of fundamentalism and the escalation
of oppression converged to create one of the largest human prisons
in the history of mankind.” Although democracy came to
the Philippines, South Africa and Haiti, it continued to elude
the Arabs. In the meantime, the minorities in the autocratic
Arab countries suffered enormously. The Southern Sudanese, Berbers,
Kurds, Egyptian Copts, Iranians, Lebanese and Syrians were massacred
routinely and the women continued to suffer serious human rights
to Phares, a new era in the quest for freedom began after Al
Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon.
Bush’s advisors were now entertaining the idea of democracy
in the Middle East as a possible means of fighting terror, but
the bureaucracy in Washington was not quite up to the task.
Thus, no coherent strategy emerged to launch the Freedom Forward
movement. For example, the author states that he advised Washington
on its Iraq strategy. He warned Washington that the “weapons
of mass destruction” card would not hold in the court
of public opinion, whereas the principle of defending human
rights would definitely gain the US much needed support to undertake
the monumental task of toppling Saddam and bringing democracy
was removed quickly. But Iraqi insurgents began their murderous
campaigns against their own people as well as coalition soldiers.
the Freedom Forward movement yielded modest results in the Syrian
pullout from Lebanon. But did genuine democracy emerge in the
region? Certainly not in the Sudan, where millions of Darfuris
were displaced as a result of the Arab Janjaweed militia’s
attacks on their towns.
9/11 there was a sense of urgency to help democratic and dissident
forces in the region. A blogosphere emerged through which democrats
were better able to argue their struggle. The media also increased
coverage of human rights abuses in the oppressed populations
of the Middle East. For the first time in decades, the plight
of the Kurds, the Southern Sudanese, the Copts and other ethnic
and religious minorities was discussed in the media. The crimes
perpetrated by the jihadists and autocrats were now posted on
the Internet for the world to see. But major challenges to democracy
remained due to obstructionist forces. According to the author:
series of strategic decisions to support the struggles in Darfur,
Lebanon and Iran were early signs that change was on its way”
However, “Soon enough, representatives from Islamist groups,
with endorsements from the regimes in the region, sat at these
meetings and succeeded in causing a complete paralysis of politics
. . . “ Nonetheless, the democracy advocates continued
to fight for their freedom in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, North Africa,
Egypt, Yemen and other suppressed nations of the Middle East.
some parts of the Arab world, the quest for democracy has met
with modest success. However Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and other
Middle Easter nations are still struggling to achieve their
conclusion the author writes: “Revolution is coming to
Middle Earth. It is up to the international community to make
that happen in this generation or in future ones, with the price
it could cost humanity.”
author also warns that if these movements are not well understood,
they may very well go awry and come to be hijacked by “dangerous
and barbaric forces in the history of the world.” Surely
this claim is valid, as the radical Islamists oppose pluralistic
democracy despite the Muslim Brotherhood’s claims to the
Coming Revolution is well written and offers insights into
some of the most pressing issues of our time.