I think this article at al-Jazeera captures some pretty big issues in three paragraphs
The Egyptian revolution, itself influenced by the Tunisian uprising, has resurrected a new sense of pan-Arabism based on the struggle for social justice and freedom. The overwhelming support for the Egyptian revolutionaries across the Arab world reflects a sense of unity in the rejection of tyrannical, or at least authoritarian, leaders, corruption and the rule of a small financial and political elite.
Arab protests in solidarity with the Egyptian people also suggest that there is a strong yearning for the revival of Egypt as a pan-Arab unifier and leader. Photographs of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the former Egyptian president, have been raised in Cairo and across Arab capitals by people who were not even alive when Nasser died in 1970. The scenes are reminiscent of those that swept Arab streets in the 1950s and 1960s.
But this is not an exact replica of the pan-Arab nationalism of those days. Then, pan-Arabism was a direct response to Western domination and the 1948 establishment of the state of Israel. Today, it is a reaction to the absence of democratic freedoms and the inequitable distribution of wealth across the Arab world.
It cannot be ignored that the absence of democratic freedoms across the Middle East was usually a direct result of US intervention; with Israel helping (in the case of Egypt) to maintain that status quo.
It also cannot be ignored that the resulting feudal system, underpinned by capitalism without the welfare state, has fanned resentment against rich ruling elites.
But whats more interesting to me, and worth emphasising here, is that the new pan-Arabism is also a rejection of the Islamist parties that were feared as the only alternative.
It has long been pointed out that while surveys indicated relatively high levels of demands for more sharia law (not necessarily Saudi Arabia style), they also indicated even higher percentages of people demanding more democracy and human rights in their countries. (The two aren’t necessarily incompatible, depending on how you interpret Sharia).
The point I’m trying to make is that the argument by Islamists and Islamophobes – that Muslims across the Middle East only want sharia and a Caliphate – has been pretty convincingly destroyed.
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Filed in: Current affairs,Middle East