Sunday, December 11, 2011

Resurgent Arab Islam need not be unsettling

By Emile Nakhleh and Augustus R. Norton

[Cross-posted with "From the Field" and Boston Globe's "The Angle", where it was first published December 11, 2011]

In the wake of the youth-directed “Arab Spring,” which rocked the Middle East to its core and felled autocratic governments in several countries, Islamic political parties are poised for an historic resurgence across the region — and that is neither surprising nor necessarily alarming.

Popular mass demonstrations, “Days of Rage,” have been the hallmarks of the season that dislodged dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, and exposed the fragility of fierce but unpopular regimes across the Arab world. Youthful demonstrators in quest of dignity, hungry for jobs, and fed up with corruption formed the vanguards.

But because Arab rulers did not allow serious opposition parties, the best organized opposition groups were often Islamist movements. While they did not launch the Arab Spring, they lent resilience and discipline to the demonstrations. These movements are deeply insinuated in the contours of daily life in Arab societies, and now are emerging as early victors in what Arabs are calling al-sahwa (the awakening).

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