Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What kind of Middle East will emerge out of the Arab Spring?

Ali Sallabi, left, a Libyan, and Abdel Moneim Abou el-Fotouh, an Egyptian, say
their states should blend Islam and modernity. 
Now that the dictators have been chased from office and the people hold the power, the fight over the futures of the newly 'free' Arab states of Tunisia, Libya Egypt and Algeria is being fought in earnest. Many different goups are vying for a say in the emerging governments and many outside forces and trying to have their say.

While Western governments are fearing another Islamic republic in the mold of Iran, Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pushing for a parliamentary system with room for Islamic parties like their own version of the Muslim Brotherhood: the Justice and Development Party.

Read this article for details on the debates. Below are some relevant extracts:

Mr. Ghannouchi, the Tunisian Islamist, has suggested a common ambition, proposing what some say Mr. Erdogan’s party has managed to achieve: a prosperous, democratic Muslim state, led by a party that is deeply religious but operates within a system that is supposed to protect liberties.

Abdel Moneim Abou el-Fotouh, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader who is running for president in Egypt, has joined several new breakaway political parties in arguing that the state should avoid interpreting or enforcing Islamic law, regulating religious taxes or barring a person from running for president based on gender or religion.

And the most powerful current in Egypt, still represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, has stubbornly resisted some of the changes in discourse.

When Mr. Erdogan expressed hope for “a secular state in Egypt,” meaning, he explained, a state equidistant from all faiths, Brotherhood leaders immediately lashed out, saying that Mr. Erdogan’s Turkey offered no model for either Egypt or its Islamists.

A Brotherhood spokesman, Mahmoud Ghozlan, accused Turkey of violating Islamic law by failing to criminalize adultery. “In the secularist system, this is accepted, and the laws protect the adulterer,” he said, “But in the Shariah law this is a crime.”

An interesting take on the Arab neighbors is the theory that the Saudi state is not operating within Islamic law at all. In an interview, one of the former Muslim Brotherhood, Islam Lotfy, argued that the strictly religious kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the Koran is ostensibly the constitution, was less Islamist than Turkey. “It is not Islamist; it is dictatorship,” said Mr. Lotfy, who was recently expelled from the Brotherhood for starting the new party. A lofty theory indeed. :)

Click on the last link for a series of readers' comments on this article.

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