7.4.11

The Arab Revolutions of 2011

Revolutions have structured civilization and will continue to shape how we live. Currently, the world is witnessing revolutions occurring in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Most past revolutions have been about religious, political, cultural, intellectual, social or economic issues or a combination of any of these topic areas. The Protestant and Catholic revolts of the sixteenth century for example, involved religion; the French and American Revolutions mixed social, political and intellectual ideas; and the European Revolutions of 1848 dealt with social and cultural problems, but the revolutions in the Middle East are different.

Most critics agree that the Arab revolutions are about young people who are tired of their political leaders using religion to oppress their social conditions; their demands have religious, political, economic and social components, but is there something else? Could Islam be the problem? Max Weber claimed that Islam is a poor representation of capitalism, since most prospering nations have capitalistic characteristics, making Islam an obstacle for growth.

Islam in the past did prevent established families from passing down wealth to the oldest sibling due to strict inheritance laws, thus preventing future families from establishing strongholds in business and industry, which stymied economic growth altogether. Today, Arab countries have all the necessary means to compete in financial markets, but this was a recent change. The effects of those restrictions on growth in the past may be a part of the frustrations the young Arab people feel today and the catalyst of the revolutions, but finding a solution to the uprisings will be a challenge.

Past revolutions have ended with concrete results. The sixteenth century religious wars ended with the Peace of Westphalia; the French Revolution ended with the emergence of Napoleon; and the American Revolution ended with the Declaration of Independence; but the end of the Arab revolutions will be more complicated to achieve. The religious leaders will have to forgo an Islamic government and adopt democratic ideas to sooth the fears of its younger population and possibly separate church and state, which is a fundamental contradiction of Islam.

The new leaders who emerge from these revolutions will have to bring sectarian Muslims together to negotiate power, a task that has led to violence and terrorist sentiments in the past. The most challenging task will be to integrate Western influence with Islamic ideas and still keep a respectable level of traditional Muslim ideology to pacify the purists. This will not be an easy task.

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Known Terrorist Groups

Al-Qaida has cooperated with a number of known terrorist groups worldwide including:

  • Armed Islamic Group
  • Salafist Group for Call and Combat and the Armed Islamic Group
  • Egyptian Islamic Jihad (Egypt)
  • Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya
  • Jamaat Islamiyya
  • The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
  • Bayt al-Imam (Jordan)
  • Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad (Kashmir)
  • Asbat al Ansar
  • Hezbollah (Lebanon)
  • Al-Badar
  • Harakat ul Ansar/Mujahadeen
  • Al-Hadith
  • Harakat ul Jihad
  • Jaish Mohammed - JEM
  • Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam
  • Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan
  • Laskar e-Toiba - LET
  • Moro Islamic Liberation Front (the Philippines)
  • Abu Sayyaf Group (Malaysia, Philippines)
  • Al-Ittihad Al Islamiya - AIAI (Somalia)
  • Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
  • Islamic Army of Aden (Yemen)
  • Armed Islamic Group
  • Salafist Group for Call and Combat and the Armed Islamic Group
  • Egyptian Islamic Jihad (Egypt)
  • Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya
  • Jamaat Islamiyya
  • The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
  • Bayt al-Imam (Jordan)
  • Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad (Kashmir)
  • Asbat al Ansar
  • Hezbollah (Lebanon)
  • Al-Badar
  • Harakat ul Ansar/Mujahadeen
  • Al-Hadith
  • Harakat ul Jihad
  • Jaish Mohammed - JEM
  • Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam
  • Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan
  • Laskar e-Toiba - LET
  • Moro Islamic Liberation Front (the Philippines)
  • Abu Sayyaf Group (Malaysia, Philippines)
  • Al-Ittihad Al Islamiya - AIAI (Somalia)
  • Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
  • Islamic Army of Aden (Yemen)
  • Jihad and the Internet

    Let’s not fool ourselves. Whatever threat the real Afghanistan poses to U.S. national security, the “Virtual Afghanistan” now poses just as big a threat. The Virtual Afghanistan is the network of hundreds of jihadist Web sites that inspire, train, educate and recruit young Muslims to engage in jihad against America and the West. Whatever surge we do in the real Afghanistan has no chance of being a self-sustaining success, unless there is a parallel surge — by Arab and Muslim political and religious leaders — against those who promote violent jihadism on the ground in Muslim lands and online in the Virtual Afghanistan.

    Thomas L. Friedman
    New York Times
    15 Dec 2009

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