The rise of Islamism 2.0

The Arab Spring played a vital role in flipping the axis of political power in the middle east. A new face to government in the middle east is now ever so obvious, where Islamic parties are at favorable odds. Whether formerly being in clear opposition to the late regimes- in the case of Tunisia, or as participators in the political process (be that indirectly in the case of the Muslim Brotherhood and more directly by the Al Wefaq in Bahrain) the Arab spring has only empowered Islamists somehow proving their resilience to revolution.

The reason behind that can be simplified when considering the range of which Islamism exerts influence in society and the masses of which it appeals. For Islamism appeals to the poor (by providing welfare through institutions that carry out zakaat) and to the upper middle class which find a refuge in Islamism for keeping the status quo intact thus safeguarding their status and welfare in society. In short, and whilst considering the Islamist model presented to date, Islamism appeals to a wide a range of differing class interests.

That said, Islamism is not expected to carry out great economic change when it takes office -that which in fact be considered socialist i.e. through institutionalizing zakaat as a form of income/corporate tax. For the current capitalist system which Islamists operate within imply that the sources of finance for the operations of such parties comes from middle class sympathizers- that would naturally be unhappy with such a change. That can be exemplified when considering the rise of the Islamic Republican Party (IRP) after the demise of the late Shah of Iran. Where arguably because the funds of the IRP generated from middle class merchants of the (Bazaar), the Islamist movement in Iran focused on rearranging the values of society in the name of anti-imperialism rather than reconstructing an economic system (which further-complied with Islamic teachings).

Thus, this leads one to wonder: is Islamism as a political ideology able to provide a plan for economic relations in society, or does it restrain itself to rearranging the values of society thus keeping the capitalists status quo intact?

Religion, Politics, and Literature in the Middle East – Dr Reza Aslan

Dr Reza Aslan, “an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is a contributing editor at the Daily Beast (” spoke on March 15 about the interference of Religion and literature in Politics … even though no DIRECT mention of Bahrain was on his list of to-be-discussed issues … I personally believe most-if not all- theories apply to Bahrain.

The video is not short at all … but please go over the first 45 minutes or so (notably the most important part of the video) :

Highlights Paraphrased: Dr Reza Aslan’s views in a nutshell;

  • The Egyptian, Bahraini, Saudi and Yemeni PEOPLE don’t have a problem with Iran, its the governments that do.
  • The only open place in society-free space- in Egypt and in the region is the mosque … so it’s only natural that the only organized opposition is mosque based/religiously based.
  • 95% of Egyptians want religion to play a greater role in their government, yet the Muslim Brotherhood got 1% in a presidential straw poll earlier to the revolution.
  • the hysteria that one hears that Al Qaeda is going to take over these countries … Absurd! they have been left behind just like the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Nobody in Egypt wants a 5th war with israel… All 4 times they got slaughtered “they got their butts handed to them.”
  • Everybody is trying to find out .. who is the leader amongst the opposition? the leader is facebook.
  • These people don’t want an old man to show up and say I am in charge … as soon as Mubarak went down so did Al Baradie.
  • The only way to -sort of- fix society is to get rid of that entire class, get rid of that entire generation (leaders in the pre-revolution era.)
  • There is one thing that Arabs across the border agree on, Iran has been a despicable failure in every way and shape … NOBODY wants to be Iran.
  • its not like Egyptians are looking around and saying “you know what would be great … we should do what Iran does.”
  • Every single economic indicator that lead to the revolutions in the first place is worse in Iran.
  • The impoverished people in these gulf countries -Saudi and Qatar- are really the foreigners that are pretty much enslaved … i.e. Pakistanis, Indians etc. (working class expatriates.)
  • There’s no such thing as objective press in the United States … just doesn’t exist.
  • We’re talking about societies that were always stratified but that stratification have become far more pronounced.
  • Your economic possibilities are inextricably linked to your political access in a place like Egypt.
  • All the wealth, all the property, all the power goes to that very high political elite … that 1% that has managed to hitch it’s wagon.
  • I want a voice… I want a voice because having a political voice will necessarily give me economic power, hence democracy (a misconception in the Arab world.)
  • its a wonderful process that we do by the way, we give you 2 billion dollars in which you buy OUR weapons.

Al Wefaq Vs. the People:

Al Wefaq, in Bahrain, happens to be much like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt … both have been pretty much inspired by religion to somehow force their way into politics … both have initially disregarded the revolution, due to the fact that they had some sort of power and position in the government -even though very limited in nature- and then had to catch up in one way or another. The only difference is, Al Wefaq have actually gotten a firm grip around the people … especially with their moderate approach in portraying the people’s demands.

“But why?” you may ask … well Al Wefaq actually did the smartest move to regain trust … THEY RESIGNED! and if we have to be very honest with ourselves … anyone who abandons their position as a government official forces the people to respect him … Much like Dr Nezar Al Bahrna .. who gained MUCH respect after abandoning his newly appointed position – Heading the ministry of health!

However, and after events seem to flip the table on the opposition, Al Wefaq finds itself in a critical position; a [to be or not to be] situation really … especially after backing up the decision of the worker’s union to put a hold on the strike! and do not be surprised tomorrow if the teacher’s union do much of the same after meeting with the Minister of Education …

Many feel that the strike is the last card that the opposition holds after mass protests were barred … and once that was called off … the PEOPLE of the revolution sent out messages to start a protest on Friday in defiance of the words of Sh Ali Salman … who urged everybody to NOT confront the army … but do people really listen? Are the people really under the reign of Al Wefaq? Does the 7 political societies acknowledge that this is indeed a “facebook revolution?” That people are tired of being deprived of their basic rights … of the right to speak and hold public assemblies

In conclusion, I hope all sides show restraints on Friday … blood spilt will only worsen the issue here

I hope Peace, Love and revolution hits our beloved country, Bahrain.