Islamism, Arab Spring, and the Future of Democracy. World System and World Values Perspectives
This book provides an in-depth analysis of public opinion patterns among Muslims, particularly in the Arab world. On the basis of data from the World Values Survey, the Arab Barometer Project and the Arab Opinion Index, it compares the dynamics of Muslim opinion structures with global publics and arrives at social scientific predictions of value changes in the region. Using country factor scores from a variety of surveys, it also develops composite indices of support for democracy and a liberal society on a global level and in the Muslim world, and analyzes a multivariate model of opinion structures in the Arab world, based on over 40 variables from 12 countries in the Arab League and covering 67% of the total population of the Arab countries. While being optimistic about the general, long-term trend towards democracy and the resilience of Arab and Muslim civil society to Islamism, the book also highlights anti-Semitic trends in the region and discusses them in the larger context of xenophobia in traditional societies. In light of the current global confrontation with radical Islamism, this book provides vital material for policy planners, academics and think tanks alike.
This chapter is devoted to a systemic consideration of the preconditions for the emergence of modern Islamism in the Middle East. Since Islamism is spread almost in every country of the Middle East, it seems reasonable to formulate some ideas explaining its widespread influence in this part of the world through a comparative analysis of some developmental trends in this macroregion and in China and India. Such an analysis seems of vital importance since radical Islamism appears a powerful destabilizing force at the global and regional levels. We attend to the need to delineate between radical and moderate Islamisms, since in many Muslim societies the latter appears to be more a stabilizing force and not a destabilizing one. We maintain that the success of Islamism is strongly determined by the traditionally fragile statehood in the Middle East. At the same time, in certain respects, for example, in terms of language, ethnicity, and religion, the Middle East seems to be much more homogenous than, say, India which is one of the most multilingual states of the world. This homogeneity became the most important basis for internationalization of Islamism in the MENA region, which could then easily cross the state boundaries making them transparent.
A multifaceted, multidimensional, changing, and inconsistent Islamism is a subject under study in this chapter. It is impossible to comprehend modern Muslim societies without an account of the impact of Islam on all sides of life. It would be a mistake to present Islamism as a node on the body of Muslim societies. In fact, Islamism in many respects reflects the essence of modern Muslim societies, of their mode of thought and life. It helps to maintain social, economic, political sphere at different societal levels as well as create a peculiar Islamic pattern of modernization. That is why Islamism cannot be eliminated at the present stage; it can be only overgrown. And this will take a long time. One should understand clearly that it is impossible to reduce the dangers of radical and terrorist Islamism only by force. It will decrease only after it is separated from moderate Islamism having made the latter a more respectable, open, and involved in normal political life movement. We analyze in this chapter a number of issues. Among them are general characteristics and functions of Islamism; confrontation of Islamism with secular regimes; evolution of Islamism; modern trends and the future of Islamism, etc.
This chapter offers an analysis of the conditions in the MENA countries on the eve of the Arab Spring in the World System perspective, as well as causes (internal and external, general and specific) and certain consequences of the Arab revolutions in certain countries, the MENA region and in the World System. We will discuss Arab revolutions in a wide historical and theoretical context. It is very useful to compare the causes of revolutions in modern and previous epochs, in Arab and others countries; to find similarities and specificity. For example, in Arab revolutions, a very important role was played by new information technologies. The revolutionary sentiments are especially fueled by the diffusion of radical ideas and ideologies in a society, as well as by a rapid urbanization, growing youth share in the demographic composition and rapidly increasing education level of a part of population in combination with poor education of the other part. Thus, the rapid unregulated changes, and increasing structural disproportions may bring a society to a modernization trap which often causes revolutions and other political upheavals. All these phenomena were present in the Arab countries on the eve of the Arab Spring, especially in Egypt and Tunisia.
In this chapter, we will continue to discuss Arab revolutions in a wide historical and theoretical context. However, this chapter discusses the Arab revolutions in some other aspects as the previous one, especially as regards issues of democratic transitions and value orientations. In this chapter, we do not preserve a chronological sequence and focus on some other aspects. In particular, we define common and distinctive features in the course of revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and pay considerable attention to the turning points of the Arab revolutions, especially the July 2013 coup in Egypt. This chapter attempts to analyze different versions of the transition to democracy, to show the costs and perils of the striving to establish democracy quickly and by radical means (from time to time using the example of the recent events in Egypt). Our goal in this chapter is to analyze the issue of democratization of Egypt and some MENA countries within the contexts of globalization and regional history. In the final part of the chapter, we present a sketch of the revolutionary and post-revolutionary events in Yemen, Libya, and Syria. We have also added to this chapter a very representative Appendix titled “Letters from Tahrir.”
The events of the Arab Spring can be analyzed in two dimensions: first, with respect to internal and global causes and second, in terms of their influence on the future scenarios of the World System development. Such a view we use in this concluding chapter. We explain the amazing synchronization of social upheavals in a dozen of Arab countries based on the theory (developed by the authors) of the periodical catch-ups experienced by the political component of the World System that tends to lag behind the World System economic component. And such lags cannot constantly increase, the gaps are eventually bridged, but in not quite a smooth way. On the contrary, this catch-up will be rather complex and turbulent. Thus, it eventually becomes evident that the turbulent events in the Arab countries are also a precursor of the forthcoming strong structural transformations of the world. We have called this process the reconfiguration of the World System. This conclusion offers results of our analysis of such reconfiguration of the World System together with a few forecasts that stem from it. We also suggest an explanation why the new catch-up of the World System political component started in the Arab countries.
This chapter provides a preliminary analysis and explanations for the topics and problems that are explored in the book. In particular, the complexities and contradictions in the use of the concepts of Islamism, radical Islamism, and moderate Islamism are shown. One of the ideas that we argue is that, under certain conditions (in particular, a strong political order and participation of Islamists in elections), moderate groups begin to prevail, whereas with the banning of Islamist organizations and the persecution of them radical ones do. Such ambivalence of Islamism is not always taken into account, which sometimes leads to serious political consequences. One of the most acute issues is whether Islam is compatible with democracy? Probably, to a certain extent, it is. On the other hand, since the Islamists enjoy broad popularity among the Muslim populations, the democratic procedures are generally profitable for them. That is why it is impossible and dangerous to try to completely separate democratic and Muslim values, but it is necessary to search for a certain balance between them. In this introductory chapter, we also introduce a series of issues that are analyzed in the chapters of this monograph such as the Arab Spring and opportunities for democracy in Muslim countries; Islamism and Values; the Middle East, revolutions, World System, and Geopolitics; Islamic Radicalism and Terrorism. The Arab Spring is one of the main issues of this introductory chapter and this monograph. These events revealed the forces and problems which turned the renovation expectations of the spring into the gloomy reality of winter. Thus, answering the question in the headline of the present chapter, we can say: revolutions have only exacerbated the Arab countries’ problems. Unfortunately, over the seven years none of the Arab revolutions has solved any serious problem (and probably, will ever be able to). But, of course, in the sense of historical experience, with regard to the possibilities of searching for new forms of organizing society, these revolutions were of great importance for the region. However, the price of such experience is too high.