By Loubna Flah
By Loubna Flah
Morocco World News
Casablanca, January 17, 2012
Authoritarian oligarchs have reigned so long in the Arab World that nobody dared to foresee their downfall. They became reminiscent of those Greek semi gods with omnipotent souls lodging in mortal bodies. Their power was incontestable and their overreach too hegemonic to be challenged without running the risk of torture. Many Arab citizens tried to remain inoffensive for decades. Nevertheless, the hardships they had to face in all realms of life and the demonizing treatment they were subjected to turned the docile “subjects” into “fearless” rebels shouting high and loud “Irhal, Irhal,” which means “Leave, leave”
Unexpectedly, the crowds of peaceful protesters could topple those Arab despots who thought themselves invincible and immortal. The outbreak of mass protests left them abashed and all they could deliver were immediate repressive counter attacks. Nevertheless, the crackdown on protesters had totally the opposite sought effect. The protests increased in size and spread like fire through neighboring countries.
Most young Arabs who spearheaded the protests at the onset of the uprising were politically unaffiliated. Their sphere of influence was the street and the open squares they occupied. Their physical presence in large numbers spoke louder than all the slogans. But once the despots were ousted and the ballot box was secured from fraud, these young activists found themselves sidelined. Someone had to fill the vacuum. Unexpectedly, the Islamist factions harshly repressed or wooed in the past won resounding victories in a number of Arab countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. These Islamist parties became a magnet for drawing votes in the first democratic elections in decades. What lurks beneath this enthusiasm towards Islamists?
First and foremost, it is noteworthy that the Islamist factions in Arab countries vary greatly in their agendas, political history and their level of conservatism. The history of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt for instance, placed it in a sharp contrast with secular movements that fought to dismantle the British colonial forces. The Muslim Brotherhood later embraced violence against the Egyptian government, shortly after which its leadership and scholars carried out ideological reviews. In Morocco for instance, though the Islamist group “Al Adl Wa al Ihsane” was banned by the regime, it has always preached a peaceful militancy with a Sufi flavor. Likewise, the Islamist movement in Tunisia endorsed a non-violent Islam and called for the acceptance of political pluralism and the reconstruction of economic life on more equitable grounds.
The common thread between these groups is their condemnation and opposition to authoritarian regimes which earned them the wrath of kleptocratic hawks. They were harshly repressed and often victims of illegal arrests, torture and deportation. Yet, they succeeded in building a tight-knit and powerful social welfare system that benefited largely underprivileged citizens. They were also omnipresent in public universities despite constant harassment.
It is noteworthy, that Islamist groups in the Arab world were sidelined and discredited in the mainstream media. Therefore, they were not fully-fledged partakers in the political process. In the meantime, the reputation of some leftist parties was incrementally undermined by corrupt practices, lack of competence and bad governance. The masses grew discontent with their modest accomplishments during all these decades, whereas the Islamic system of governance has yet had deal with the constraints of political enterprise. Moroccan voters for instance have been apathetic for several years and were reluctant to cast the ballot for opportunistic candidates. When, King Mohammed VI issued constitutional reforms in response to the uprising in 2011, the Moroccan electorate voted massively for the Party of Justice and Development, a moderate Islamist party, in a punishing maneuver to the parties whose record for delivering their promises was poor and whose reputations had become questionable. In addition, PJD deputies had become renowned for their integrity and honesty in assuming political responsibilities. Consequently, voters were drawn more to the Islamist rhetoric during the democratic advancements in Morocco.
The Arab Spring provided Islamists with an unprecedented opening as they were absolved from the shackles of oppression and well geared to fill the vacuum in the political arena. Nonetheless, Islamists are expected to build coalitions with other parties to form the emerging governments, which require a skillful alacrity for compromise making. The real challenge for this new leadership is to live up to the expectations of the masses, for which no option is off table.
Edited by Benjamin Villanti
Loubna Flah is a Moroccan national. She earned a master degree in Biochemistry from the Mohammedia faculty of science and technologies. She obtained also a bachelor degree in English studies from Ain Chok University after writing a dissertation about the aspects of sexism in Moroccan Arabic. She graduated from the Ecole Normale Superieure in Rabat as a high school teacher of English.
© Morocco World News