Arab Spring Not Radical Enough This is the kind of book that gives you an appetite to read it from cover to cover on a park bench or a beach. Revolutions without Revolutionaries deals with regions of the world that continue to dominate news headlines of major news outlets and which politicians build careers demonizing. The author brings an unprecedented, distinct perspective to elucidate and analyze the misconstrued perceptions and representations of these largely unknown Middle East and North Africa (MENA) states. He is a keen observer of the social and political life in its complexities and dynamism. The author developed a kaleidoscopic approach to the social forces underlying the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the Arab Spring of 2011. He observed both of these revolutions, first as a young man born and raised in Iran, and then as a sociologist armed with a camera and a notebook. If he didn’t have enough critical distance during the Iranian Revolution when it was transpiring, this book demonstrates how that experience gave him the necessary conceptual tools and skills to make sense of the revolutionary phenomena in the MENA. The author is a sociologist who has an extensive background—he has lived in Egypt, the UK, the Netherlands, and the United States. The author’s experiences and extensive fieldwork allowed him to develop a unique vantage point to unpack the enigmatic Arab Spring with a great deal of depth and sophistication. The social salience of these revolutions is incapable of being grasped by retooling our epistemological lens. Instead, this examination requires the introduction of new sociological categories including the urban poor, ordinary people, and non-movements. This is where spontaneity and individual agency play an important role in occupying vital and marginal parts of the public space. It is important to note how the subaltern subverts the rules of the game imposed by authoritarian regimes to carve individual subspaces of liberty and freedom. A similar observation was noted by Dutch sociologist Abram de Swaan, who witnessed a phenomenon of young Muslims in Europe, located in urban settings, that claimed certain areas as their own territory. However, de Swaan argues that Islam doesn’t play a major factor in the mobilization of the young people to fight for liberty, dignity, and justice. The Arab youth were less driven by ideology and more by a desire for democracy. If the protagonists of the Arab Revolutions didn’t challenge the neoliberal paradigm, it’s because they accept it as a reality that they will have to compose states within certain structures. The protesters desired democracy because they believe it’s the only way to defend their interests in a predatory economic system where competition crushes ordinary people. Therefore, the primary difference between the Arab Spring and the Iranian Revolution is that the Iranian Revolution was fueled by nationalism, anti-imperialism, and third-worldism. In addition, the Iranian Revolution had a clear leader in Ayatollah Khomeini, who successfully propagated a virulent anti-American message. By contrast, the Arab revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia had none of the anti-American slogans; they were acephalous, leaderless, and horizontal. In a sense, they resembled the Eastern European revolutions of 1989, considering their peaceful and spontaneous nature. The author incorporates the concept of “refolutions” that Timothy Ash used to analyze the protests in Poland, Hungary, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia. “Refolutions” is a combination of the words “reformation” and “revolution.” The author argues that “not everyone attributes anything distinct to the Arab revolutions, except perhaps their civil character, which avoided war and destruction I’ve seen in the “classical” revolution”...“in a sense, they were ‘refolutions’—revolutionary movements emerged to compel the incumbent states to change themselves, to carry out meaningful reforms on behalf of the revolution”...“revolutionaries held enormous social and street power but failed to assume governmental authority; they did not actually rule. Revolutions start relatively peaceful and orderly but they broke little structural change.” In hindsight, the situation in Tunisia is a hundred times better when compared to its neighboring states. If the revolutions didn’t really happen, it’s because “the protagonists were rich in tactics of mobilization…but to one that suffered from fragmentation; the espoused opposition but overlooked the danger of restoration, they were concerned more with democracy, human rights, and rule of law than relocation of property and distributive justice” (p. 18). The author agrees with one of the preeminent Egyptian revolutionaries, Wael Ghoneim, when he refers to it as “Revolution 2.0” to stress its spontaneity. Were “Arab Revolts and the occupy Movement not interested in politics?” questions the author. The actors in these movements were concerned with politics, but there was a kind of naiveté build into the spontaneous protests. “Arab revolutions were not revolutionary enough to withstand the dangers of restoration.” Additionally, the author concludes that “the spread in intensity of recent revolutions is extraordinarily unparalleled, whereas their lack of ideology, lack of coordination, absence of any galvanizing leadership and intellectual precepts have almost no precedent. But even more striking is the lack of the kind of radicalism that marked the earlier revolutions and ideals of deep democracy, such as equity and fair property relations” (p. 2). The author might be correct except in the cases of Tunisia and Morocco. Otherwise, the deep state was especially brutal during the 2013 Rabaa Massacre that occurred in the square rivaling Tahrir Square. Since Tahrir Square was the epicenter of the Arab Spring due to extensive global media coverage, it became co-opted by the “Army” in its efforts to oppose the Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi. Therefore, Rabaa Square symbolized the Islamist resistance to the army until it had been forcefully shut down. It is also important to consider the unprecedented and extreme violence against protesters in Syria, Yemen, and Libya. The Syrian Civil War depleted all the resources and energies of the Syrian state for more than seven years, which is longer than WWII and WWI. We cannot ignore how counter-revolutions in Egypt were funded by petrol monarchies. In addition, the deep state created baltajiya (thugs) against ordinary people and revolutionaries. The infamous Battle of the Camel is a case in point. The author argues that the timeframe in which the Arab Spring took place was problematic because the three main ideologies that led to victory in the Iranian Revolution (anticolonial nationalism, Marxism-Leninism, and militant Islamism) were not prevalent during this time period. The author claims that “In the end, none of these intellectual and political trends seriously challenged the neoliberal paradigm,” because “these revolutions were reformist.” The question is: What was wrong with those ideals? According to the author, the Arab young subaltern is individualistic, pragmatic, and understands how to compose with authoritarianism and globalization but not is radical enough to make a revolution succeed. However, the Tunisian Revolution was relatively successful, considering it created one of the most admired constitutions in the Muslim World. The author also failed to mention the success of the Iranian Revolution: The Iran-Iraq War provided the Revolutionary Guards with the ability to galvanize the country and liquidate many of its opponents on the left. Iran has never had a coup d’état-oriented army, as is the case in Turkey or Egypt. In Egypt, the army thwarted the democratic process by playing tactful games and by keeping the Morsi government at arm’s length. However, 39 years after the Iranian Revolution, the Revolutionary Guard has accumulated a substantial amount of unaccountable wealth, perhaps rivaling only the Ayatollah. This makes the Revolutionary Guard as unaccountable as the Egyptian army in terms of the creation of parallel economies. Questioning Post-Islamism The author espouses the contested thesis of Olivier Roy (1992) that argues that the Islamization of social and political configurations transforms political Islam to political insignificance. Islam becomes “depoliticized” and used as a marker of daily life, including Islamic garments such as the headscarf, the veil, fashion, and halal fast food. I disagree with this argument because I fail to understand the respects in which political Islam is fading away. Is the term post-Islamism not misleading? Otherwise, how do you explain the victory of the Islamist parties in the first democratic elections? In Tunisia, the Ennahda Party won 89 of the 217 seats in Parliament. In Turkey, the Party for Justice and Development (PJD) received 107 seats out of 325 in Parliament and delivered the first Islamist prime minister in the history of the country, and in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist, Nour Party received an overwhelming majority, with 65 percent of the vote and 70 percent of the seats. Post-Islamism is not an idea analogous to post-material values proposed by Ron Ingelhart and Pippa Norris. Another example that problematizes the author’s argument is that, with the fall of the Ben Ali regime, the Islamist leader of the Ennahda (Renaissance) Party, Rached Ghannouchi, returned from exile in London. His return emerged as one of the most important news stories regarding the future of Tunisia in Arab media. On January 31, about two weeks after news of this planned homecoming surfaced, an Al Jazeera news report aired. The segment begins with video footage of Ghannouchi leaving his house in the suburbs of London on his way to Gatwick Airport with other members of the Ennahda Party. “His return comes at a crucial moment for the country,” the commentator says. The camera zooms in on the plane before cutting to a close-up of Ghannouchi’s face. “I am going back with a big dream,” said Ghannouchi, “that this blessed revolution made by the youth of Tunisia and made by the blood of the martyrs succeeded to oust a harsh dictator and [we are] now wanting to create a just system where there is a balance in development between regions with real urbanism in a region that has been destroyed by poverty, like Sidi Bouzid and other places” (Cherribi 2017). In Tunisia, as Ghannouchi descended the steps from the plane and stepped onto the tarmac, a large crowd surrounded him. Thousands of supporters cheered in the Cartago airport, holding small, simple signs, made with ordinary markers, conveying expressions of reception and welcomeness. Men and women wore the Tunisian flag around their shoulders or on their waists. To show that Ghannouchi was greeted not just by bearded Islamists, Al Jazeera interviewed a clean-shaven man who stated, “This is a feast for the Tunisian republic…Look at all these people who love him.” A veiled woman with oversized black sunglasses offered a different opinion: “He had to return because he was forced to leave [the United Kingdom].” Another voice rang out, “We die but the nation lives.” A bearded man, introduced as Chokri Mazuli, recited a verse from the Koran stating that prophets are often labeled as liars, but in the end they are granted victory from Allah. The choice of verse seems to implicitly compare Ghannouchi’s arrival with the Prophet’s return to Mecca after a long exile in Medina (ibid.). I would agree with the author if he utilized words such as the emancipation of political Islam instead of the misleading term “Post-Islamism.” For example, when you study media during the Arab Spring you can see that Al Jazeera succeeded in domesticating or taming political, revolutionary, and religious expressions and then fitting these widely varied expressions into the format of television debates. The network gave the Islamist leaders and the dissidents of various Arab regimes access to wider transnational Arab publics than they could have ever before even dreamed of reaching. It is indeed possible that one of the unintended consequences of Al Jazeera’s programming has been the creation of a habitus that combines Islam and Arab nationalism into a kind of Islamized pan-Arab ontology. A parallel of sorts exists with philanthropic organizations that promote political agendas through charitable acts. Al Jazeera contributed to the domestication of political Islam. How? First, by confronting constantly the views of secularists and Islamists in their various programs about governance. Further, by acting as the Mecca of political Islam, Al Jazeera gains enormous symbolic power among Islamists and the larger public since Islam is the popular culture of the Arab world. Al Jazeera is headquartered in a “Wahhabi Light” country, Qatar, and advocates for a Wahhabism infused with the Muslim Brotherhood’s long and rich tradition through the sermons and fatwas of Al Qaradawi. Al Jazeera’s religious program Sharia and Life hosted by Al Qaradawi and the many guest religious experts who appear on its various programs from around the world help paint Al Jazeera as a global Islamic network. Al Qaradawi promotes reconciliation between civil society’s values and Islamic values. However, he gave some very controversial fatwas during the Arab Spring (see chapter on Al Qaradawi). Al Qaradawi also has a heavy presence online in the form of online fatwas. Al Qaradawi has led IOL (Islam online), an interactive online platform, since 1999 in addition to contributions to Twitter, video sites, and micro-blogs. Paraphrasing the French Democratic scholar Pierre Rosanvallon, the contemporary citizen experiences a double bind since they want more protection from the state while enjoying more freedom and emancipation. This double bind is a worldwide trend, which can be illustrated by the fact that citizens refuse authoritarianism (Rosanvallon 2013). However, they want more authority in schools and on the streets. Citizens’ need for freedom and security shapes the public discourse of democracy. The consequence, according to Rosanvallon, is the narrowing of the margins where politicians and the political process can maneuver. In the Arab world, this situation is no different than in the rest of the world when it comes to sharing the values of both freedom and security. The Muslim Brotherhood and Ennahda parties in Egypt and Tunisia are experiencing the same pressures that Rosanvallon is talking about. Millions of protesters still regularly go to the streets to show their dissatisfaction over their lack of freedom and security. The reinvention of Friday became reinvented as a day for democratic claims, a day or renewed a defiance to the established order and its elite. In that sense, Arab societies since the Arab Spring can be called “Friday societies.” It means that ideas of responsibility, rights, and duties are defined and redefined on Fridays, with the exception of Morocco, where people protest mainly on Sundays. The introduction of democracy after the revolutions led by political Islam didn’t pose the question of creating a welfare state. Even Al Jazeera does not address the question of welfare in the Arab world. References Cherribi , Sam . 2017 . Fridays of Rage: Al Jazeera, The Arab Spring and Political Islam . Oxford : Oxford University Press . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Rosanvallon , Pierre. 2013 . Cours2012-2013 au Collège de France. http://www.college-de-france.fr/site/pierre-rosanvallon/#course. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: email@example.com. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Social Forces – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 21, 2018
It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.
Enjoy affordable access to
over 18 million articles from more than
15,000 peer-reviewed journals.
All for just $49/month
Query the DeepDyve database, plus search all of PubMed and Google Scholar seamlessly
Save any article or search result from DeepDyve, PubMed, and Google Scholar... all in one place.
Get unlimited, online access to over 18 million full-text articles from more than 15,000 scientific journals.
Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.
All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.
“Hi guys, I cannot tell you how much I love this resource. Incredible. I really believe you've hit the nail on the head with this site in regards to solving the research-purchase issue.”Daniel C.
“Whoa! It’s like Spotify but for academic articles.”@Phil_Robichaud
“I must say, @deepdyve is a fabulous solution to the independent researcher's problem of #access to #information.”@deepthiw
“My last article couldn't be possible without the platform @deepdyve that makes journal papers cheaper.”@JoseServera