The US ambassador is killed in Benghazi, protests in Cairo over a 13 minute film trailer, Copts increasingly persecuted, Christians in Gaza allegedly facing forced conversion to Islam…
We could add to the list around the Middle East in those countries supposedly released from dictatorial oppression into a new democratic “spring” of freedom and power to the people. Forgive my cynicism, but that’s not what I’m seeing. I’m seeing millions of ordinary people who seized the moment to get rid of ruthless (psychotic?) despots in the hope of gaining a voice in the running of their lives and their country’s life. Sadly, we are now seeing extremist Islamists taking over the reins of oppression all over the Middle East; and it’s not over yet by a long way.
Islamist groups, be they salafis, Al Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood, have shown themselves effective in influencing populations that are in turmoil. They promise order, justice, democracy, lower taxes, whatever it takes to swing an eventual democratic vote in their favour. The supreme example of this is in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood were the best organised and most prepared of all political groups to take advantage of the dramatic changes that ousted President Mubarrak. Let’s face it, after decades of political drought they were the only political group still left; and that is only because they knew how to keep their heads down and bide their time.
As the dominoes of revolution knocked each other over from Tunisia eastwards, down to Yemen and up to Syria, the Brotherhood and salafists must have thought that all their Christmas’ (sorry, all their Eids) had come at once as they stepped into political vacuums one after another to sway the people towards Sharia.
Oily words were spoken and promises of moderation made with crossed fingers to the democracy-encouraging West, as the Islamists prepared the ground for their own form of democracy; one vote for each person; Muslim, Christian, whoever… but you only ever get one – ever!
Am I being over-cynical? Tell me after we see what action Libya takes against the murderers of the US ambassador and after we see how hard President Mursi cracks down on the demonstrators against a 13 minute film trailer. And finally, tell me when we see if either regime (or any of the others) allows any significant political opponents to arise who could defeat them in future democratic elections – if they ever take place.
How long did democracy last in Gaza before political opponents were tortured and thrown off buildings? How many opposition parties are there in the West Bank; outside prison, that is? Yup – one person, one vote, and only one time!