The democratic uprising throughout the Arab world is proving how wrong we were to accept either dictatorship or Islamism as the only political alternatives. Lessons are already being learnt from this grassroots process, even while it is in the making. Above all, when it comes to freedom and justice, there is definitely no Arab Exceptionalism. Social networks have been crucial in empowering a leaderless movement, where the generational factor is striking. The Facebook-savvy globalised youngsters from the urban middle class are key, but it is from the wrong side of town that disenfranchised youths spearheaded the Tunisian revolution.
Ruling regimes everywhere are striving to adapt, while major sectors of the opposition favour prolonged transitional periods to rebuild the devastated political scene. The challenge is historical for the Muslim Brotherhood in its various national branches, with the Turkish example of government participation, even when constrained, proving an appealing model. But the main losers could be the jihadi groups whose discourse and violence have been invalidated by the mass protests and their pluralist agendas. Even though the situation is still volatile, nothing will be the same again in the Arab world. Jean-Pierre Filiu’s preliminary assessment of this major revolutionary movement underlines what else might changed and at what cost.
The Arab Revolution: Ten Lessons from the Democratic Uprising is out in stores now.