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    Defeat Al-Qaeda with Arab Democracies

    Arab democrats to defeat terrorists!

    How do you defeat Al-Qaeda? Arabs today are showing us how. People have gone out into the streets in force, and made their ruling elites hear their demands: freedom, democracy, and an end to official corruption. This is working in Egypt and Tunisia and could work equally well in other Muslim countries.

    Terrorists fear becoming irrelevant. They must be asking themselves the following question: Without the “Zionist” or “Crusader-backed” dictators lording it over each Arab nation, how many disaffected youths might project their national frustrations outward in favor of international jihad?

    It was wonderfully pathetic to read Ayman al-Zawahiri’s latest message to the Arab peoples who have risen up against their loathed oppressors, urging them to continue the good work, be wary of Western double-dealing and install Islamic law. His long, rambling missive was a patent attempt by the Egyptian jihadist to co-opt the Arab revolts – on the one hand flattering the youthful foes of tyranny; on the other tugging at their sleeves with an old man’s reminder that traditional Islamic values must be at the heart of their new states.

    Zawahiri had always insisted that change could only be brought about by the violent sacrifice of the suicide bomber, where radical religious action trumped any belief in progress through politics. Instead, an individual’s self-immolation in protest against a suffocating political system prompted millions to articulate their desire to enjoy universal human rights through words on the web and bodily acts of resistance.

    But there is still one strong suit in Al-Qaeda’s rhetoric: the West did prop up those dictatorships as part of a scheme in which the defense of Israel and a fear of Islamism (and of immigration, in the case of Western Europe) guided Arab policy. It is now time for the world’s democracies to show humility, although not necessarily passivity, if they are to regain their lost credibility. It is also time to trust those very democratic values that the United States and Europe claim to represent, values which cannot be imposed by force, but which, instead, tend to be smothered by injustice and insensitivity.

    So should Washington up sticks and leave Pakistan and Afghanistan, having learned that the only democratizing process which can work starts from the bottom and works up? Yes, but slowly, in that way further demining the hazardous path already taken in the countries. In both places, Washington has undermined its own avowed message of democratization by pumping outrageous sums of money into corrupt leaderships and institutions on behalf of an unwinnable war.

    Is it right that military action be taken in support of the Libyan rebels? Yes, and democracy movements and despots in other countries will be watching to see how application of the United Nations resolution passed last Thursday will pan out. Of course, the Libyans have to liberate their own land, but a little leveling of the playing field will be perceived as a benevolent act of contrition on the part of Western leaders who had curried favor with the Gadhafi regime. If the Libyan leader is allowed to annihilate his enemies, President Barack Obama’s rhetoric in his Cairo speech of June 2009 about freedom in the Arab world will be seen by many as empty talk.

    One part of the lesson in humility the West needs to embark upon is to treat each country, political movement, and situation on its own merits. There is no one-size-fits-all policy for Arabs or Muslims, any more than there is one for Asia, Europe or the Americas.

    Granted, religion is a binding force. But Islam has not played a major role in the uprisings in North Africa, as Zawahiri must know deep down. His claim that the imposition of Islamic law is today a priority must seem almost quaintly out of touch for the overwhelming majority of Egyptians. As out of touch as demands from some in the United States and Israel that the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak must have no impact on Cairo’s policies toward the Palestinian question, in particular toward Hamas-controlled Gaza.

    However, this American and Israeli concern with maintaining the status quo is less quaint. In it are the seeds of future disillusionment of Arab youths with Western powers again seen as putting their strategic wellbeing over and above the welfare of the Muslim world. Is the West ready to grow up and accept a new generation that will have the power to decide the Arabs’ future? Or does it want to fight the same old battles? Can the West not hear the echoes of its own history in the streets of Egypt and Tunisia? It’s time to start listening.

    James BADCOCK
    The Daily Star

    One response to “Defeat Al-Qaeda with Arab Democracies”

    1. Mahmoud Sura says:

      Thanks for this great article! It has been extremely insightful. I wish that you will continue sharing your wisdom with us.

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