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Article

Discord or Revolution: A Transition in Arab Political Culture

In the Islamic world the fitnah is a phenomenon deeply rooted in terms of history, religion, politics and even social issues. The Quran mentions the word fitnah and its derivatives over 30 times, invariably with a negative moral connotation. Strictly speaking, the term refers to a wide range of phenomena and actions. Despite the condemnation of the fitnah by the Quran, various periods of Arab-Islamic history witnessed attempts of turning grassroot discontent to political advantage. Throughout history, discords have normally required a race for power as a background and a considerable level of religious, ethnic or clan outrage as a prerequisite. There simply is no room for a discord in a society without a high degree of discontent and anger fueled by propaganda and without an obvious enemy pinpointed by political slogans. The Middle East today is a scene of human passions and feelings bursting out, no longer restrained by the conventionalities of civilisation. We believe that the peculiarities lie in the fact that electoral democracy has made the discord an important tool of campaigning in the countries where the social basis of democratic reforms is either weak or absent, because there is no possibility whatsoever for a social consensus to be achieved. We invite the reader to reflect on the incredible ways of the fitnah as the oldest form of political protest in the world today, to think of discords in the history of various countries and to contemplate on its specific and universal features.