Ten Arab lessons from the past year

Rami G Khouri writes: The year 2012 will be remembered as an important milestone in the development of the modern Arab world, because it has started to reveal the underlying but long-hidden strengths and weaknesses of Arab societies and states. Here is my list of the 10 most significant things we learned from events in the Arab World and the wider Middle East in 2012. First, it is now clearer than ever that there is no such thing as a cohesive, single “Arab World,” as every Arab country follows a different path in pursuing its own political reconfiguration. For the first time ever in their history, ordinary Arab men and women are driving the political changes under way, revealing the variety of identities, sentiments, legitimacies and conditions in different Arab countries, with their own character, nuance and agency.

Second, simultaneously, those 350 million ordinary Arab men and women across the region are expressing some common grievances, attitudes and aspirations. The most significant sentiment they expressed in 2012 is the desire to live a life of integrity and dignity – not to be treated like a serf by one’s own government, but rather to enjoy a basic set of human and citizen rights. Shaping national systems that guarantee those citizen rights via credible constitutions is the hallmark trend of 2012 that is rippling across the Arab region in different forms and at different speeds.

Third, as part of that process, 2012 has taught us not to exaggerate the power, wisdom or political efficacy of Arab Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood, who have generally fared poorly in translating their slogans into policies. Thus they are being increasingly challenged by fellow citizens – including some of their own supporters – who are disappointed by the Islamists’ erratic performance in office. [Continue reading...]

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