Reading many opinions, including tweets from Israeli Generals participating in a conference in NY (as published in the JP), comments in the US and European media and other opinions and researches, it seems that what we have was not really an “Arab Spring”, rather it was an Islamic Spring or a result of a conspiracy to change the status quo in the region.
In all this debate, there are certain facts that are usually missing
* The Arab spring did not create the Islamists. They were there, growing and expanding every day. It was only a matter of time before we see the conflict between the two poles erupt, the Islamists and regimes that proved unresponsive, at least in any adequate fashion, to changes occurring in their countries.
* The way history chose to “produce” this episode, which was inevitable in my opinion, was in itself a very inspiring lesson. It showed that another social segment -not the Islamists- can take the initiative. This fact will prove extremely important later on. It generated a sense of empowerment among the population in general and gave a feeling of entitlement to the non- Islamists. Islamists did not participate in the uprisings in the beginning. They usually stand firm against demonstrations, strikes or any sign of public expression or participation describing it as “western” or “democratic”, both happen to be “Haram” (not Kosher).
All their previous attempts to take power were through acts of individual violence. A failed attempt by the Muslem Brothers (MB’S) to assassinate Nasser in 1954, the successful assassination of Sadat in 1981, and seven attempts to kill Mubarak as the intelligence service claim, but two are famous, one in Libya and the other in Ethiopia.
Now, they (the Islamists) are demonstrating, striking and committing all the “sins” they preached not to do. This is significant in the sense that it makes it more difficult in the future to prevent an empowered population from committing these same sins against the Islamists or any other tyranny.
* The “Arab Spring” – a term that I do not feel comfortable with anyway – also forced the Islamists not only to adapt to different methods other than violence, it also pushed them to be more specific on many issues. In Egypt for example, the motto of the MB’s during Mubarak years was “Islam is the solution”. It is hard to find more abstract words than those in Egypt today.
After the MB’s won the majority in the Parliament, they faced a test, or sort of. The results were important. The ruling SCAF sensed the danger of MB’s controlling everything and it started a chain of crisis in the supply of many essential items like gasoline, diesel, rice and sugar. The MB’s tried to force the government of Janzoury out but failed. They were told only the president has the right to dissolve the Cabinet, so they decided to run for the presidency.
During this confrontation the popular sentiment was gradually changing directions. People somehow attached the results of the Parliamentary elections to the crisis in the supply of their essential needs (that was precisely the calculation of SCAF). They blamed the MBs and labeled them a “disappointment”.
* This episode of the political fight in Egypt shows that the real issue is in fact the daily needs and aspirations of the population. It is the economic and civic development of the country. It is not the Islamists.
* We have not seen in history a wide popular revolt that was fully “fabricated” somewhere else. There have been however a catalyst role in certain cases. But those who saw Egypt before the fall of Mubarak could have easily guessed that an explosion was in the making. In one day, the 11th of Feb 2011, there were between 10 and 14 million Egyptians in the streets calling for Mubarak to step down.
* Finally, how would we go from here? Looking at what happens in Tunisia and Egypt we will probably witness the evolution of the Islamists towards the more orthodox Salafi groups. It is a phase that should be expected so long as the economic problems are not solved.
The MBs are still powerful, but soon it will be evident that they cannot deliver. There is high expectation in the street, little patience and total lack of vision among the leaders of the MBs. The pattern is that the ball starts rolling towards another version of the same at least for some time. In comparison, the MBs are more sophisticated than the Salafis. In Egypt a large portion of the Salafis are the descendants of the violent Jama’a Islamiya and the Jehad organizations of the 70’s – 90’s. While the MB’s can understand that there turn is over and they have to look inward to look for their mistakes. The Salafis may react differently if they find that events are pushing them aside.
Would the Salafis, who are gaining grounds on the expense of the MB’s and among the non-political, non-educated (or modestly educated) social segments, take power?
I simply do not know. I can only say that what has been gained by the Arab spring cannot be reduced to an Islamists Spring. As the MB’s lose momentum one could expect the same dynamics to push aside any organization or group which proves incapable of fulfilling the aspiration of a population deprived for so long of a decent and dignified life. And this is happening before our eyes in the Middle East. The Arab Spring will not be over before sometime. That is until it proves to all, and particularly to the people of the region, that it was indeed an Arab Spring.