‘THE ARABIC SPRING’
Unfulfilled dream of democratization of the Islam world
Włodzimierz Rędzioch talks with professor Valentina Colombo
The revolutions, which have been touching the countries of the Northern Africa and the Middle East, were caused by a desire of freedom and justice. The ‘Arabic spring’ was also associated with much hope for democratization of this part of the world. Unfortunately, with time passing, there are more doubts about using the regained freedom – will it be useful in creating democratic countries or will it rather be used to introduce totalitarian regimes, the Islamic ones this time, where the law of Sharia will be obliging. What fate of the Christians or other religious minorities would be in this kind of the regimes? Beside, in the Arabian world there is still a problem which Benedict XVI mentioned in his pronouncement in Regesburg, and mainly the problem of the attitude of Islam towards violence and terrorism. I talked about these issues, also important for Europe , with professor Valentina Colombo, an Islam expert from the European University in Rome (W.R.)
WŁODZIMIERZ RĘDZIOCH: - How did it happen that the ‘Arabic spring’ which was a result of Arabic masses aiming at real freedom, was used by Islamic forces, often fundamentalist ones, in order to take over the authority?
PROFESSOR VALENTINA COLOMBO: - Everything started in Tunisia in January 2011,when a young man Muhammad Bouazizi set himself on fire in his protest against the tragic economic situation of the country and the loss of work. Protests after his death took place under the motto: ‘Freedom, justice and work’. In the streets of the capital young people were protesting, who wanted a better life and hope for the future. Since then, that is, before the escape of the present Tunisian president Ben Alega, Yusuf Qaradawi – a theologian of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh of the satellite television Al Jazeera and the chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research with its headquarter in Dublin – started proclaiming that the fight in Tunisia against the ‘unfaithful’ dictator was a real jihad, holy war; in this way he excused the protests from the religious point of view, in the perspective agreeable with the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. When the ‘revolution’ was moved to the Tahrir square in Cairo, it was completely in the hands of a movement set up by Hassan al-Banne (a founder of the Muslim Brotherhood). In Egypt, at the time of the regime of Mubarak, the activity of this Brotherhood was formally prohibited, although tolerated in practice. Whereas at the time of the ‘lotus revolution’ (the Egyptian revolution was called so), it was manipulating crowds and leading protests. Nevertheless, in Egypt there are demands of the ‘civic’ country and hence – the democratic, not Islamic country.
– The problem is that in the post-revolutionary elections political forces won, opposing the vision of a democratic and secular country…
– Unfortunately, joy and enthusiasm about the regained freedom after the failure of Ben Alega and Hosna Mubarak passed after the announcement of the results of the free elections in both countries. In Tunisia the movement of Al Nahdha connected with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is led by Rachid al-Ghannouchi, gained 37.4 per cent of votes which allowed it for 89 per 217 places in the Parliament. In Egypt the Freedom and Justice Party, a political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood gained 37.5 per cent and al-Nour party, the party of Salafites, that is, the ultra-conservative Islam, 27.8 per cent. In other words – thanks to free elections political Islam took over the authority. These Islamic forces led to working out new constitutions, where ‘eternal principles of Islam’(in the case of Tunisia) and Sharia (in the case of Egypt) are a source of the law. However, apart from the constitutional aspects, it must be emphasized that considering the freedom of citizens, very little changed. For example, in Tunisia we changed the censorship of regime into the censorship for Islam. It even happens that today’s oppositionists are called the enemies of God. Also the status of women in Tunisia, protected by the Code from 1956, is endangered by the Islamic government, for which the reference text is the Koran and Sharia, according to which in the best case a woman is worth half a man. For these and many other reasons the ‘Arabic spring’, under the permission of the West, became a real ‘winter’ for the citizens of Egypt and Tunisia.
– What is the situation in Egypt in which the Muslim Brotherhood took over the authority, and the president of Morsi was proclaimed ‘the Islamic pharaoh’?
– Taking over the authority by the Muslim Brotherhood changes Egypt into the most Islamic country in the region of the Mediterranean Sea. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose members are often defined as ‘moderate extremists’, cleverly seized the authority thanks to the belief of the west that it would respect the democratic system. During the electoral campaign, for example, any references to Islam and Koran were removed from the symbol of its party, and replaced by the words ‘freedom’ and ‘justice’ which are attractive and easy to understand. Unfortunately, we must remember that it is all about freedom and justice in the Islamic understanding. We mustn’t forget that in the emblem of the Muslim Brotherhood there are Koran, two crossed swords and the word ‘Prepare’, which corresponds to the incipit of the 60th verse of sura of Koran: ‘Prepare against them, as many cavalry as you can, with which you could scare the enemy of God and your enemy as well as those who are beside them and whom you do not know’.
The election of the first president after Mubarak in the person of a candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohemmed Morsi proves that we are dealing with the ‘spring’, but the Islamic one. It also proves a silent agreement of western governments to the action of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
In his calming message to the nation, Morsi confirmed the intention of building a ‘democratic and modern’ nation, on the constitutional base. Unfortunately, it is contradictory with what he had proclaimed during the electoral campaign, when, for example, he repeated the motto of the Muslim Brotherhood to students from the University in Cairo: ‘A prophet is our leader, Koran is our constitution, jihad is our road, and death in the name of God is our desire’. Morsi also said: ‘Today we can introduce the law of Sharia, because thanks to Islam and the law of Sharia our nation can reach to welfare. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party will gain these aims’. Now we must think whether his words, as a candidate in the elections and the president now, are true. The alleged moderate attitude of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are often associated – as their mentor Yusuf Qauadawi used to confirm – with the moderation in applying the law of Sharia and gaining the final purpose, that is, the Islamic country. Unfortunately, when the Muslim Brotherhood gained the authority, it will not give it back easily. When the West realize it, it will be too late.