Current Turmoil of Middle East & Emergence of Ideological Identities

February 18, 2015

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi Originally the Middle East has been the home to many ethnic, religious, political and social divisions that outlined the current political map of this region. A combination of numerous historical and political diversifications resulted in these divisions and led them to adopt different approaches according to the experiences and circumstances. Therefore, the current tensions and conflicts unfolding in the Middle East are the outcomes of lengthy accumulations dating back to many centuries ago. A sizable portion of Muslims and Middle Easterners in general tend to adopt the idea that due to conspiracies and hidden agendas the Middle East has been the aim of many super powers, ever since the expansionist policies started being implemented. Therefore, for the sake of containment and maximizing wealth extraction, colonial powers like the British Empire adopted the policy of “Divide and Rule”, to prevent the emergence of unified fronts and strong oppositions. Personally, I tend to ignore any notion of conspiracy and the allegations of hidden agendas, since any observer would affirm that POLITICS has no religion and no faith. Common and mutual interests are the factors mandating the implementation of political policies around the world, and as far as each side is able to deliver their portion of partnership, the relationship would remain binding and enforced. However, the intention of this article is not dissecting the policies and events that resulted in those divisions, or whether there are conspiracies being architected by hidden powers. The intention of this article is presenting the unfolding of current divisions taking place in the Middle East, which are very unique due to their new nature and outcomes.

Introduction and preliminary background

The ruling elites of the Middle East have depended on a combination of redistribution of wealth and ideology to contain their masses and acquire legitimacy, in the post-colonial era. Therefore, due to revamping of global political affairs, these systems were not able to maintain their competitiveness and their ability to develop new means of governance. As a result, the political shifts that took place during the cold war era and post-cold war era, forced the Middle Eastern states to adopt old fashioned methods of governance and containment, which included coercion and compulsion. Therefore, the priorities of the states became matters like, political survival, mass containment, favoritism and reaffirming legitimacy through coercive means. Due to these realities, the basic necessities like security, housing, economic reforms and employment were famine and unavailable, which resulted in emergence of radicalism and constant instability. Finally, the phenomenon of Arab spring ravished the Middle East, and what was sought to be due to economic, transformed into full-scale political uprisings, which were demanding political reforms and civil liberties.

Emergence of New groups and divisions:

The uneven experiences of what is called the Arab Spring introduced new sets of ideologies and schools of thoughts, which don’t even have any roots on the historic grievances of this region. Fairly quick and blood-less revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt in new identities, which the Middle East is not even familiar with, and has made them very unpopular even though they might be rational and legit in concept.
  • Arab-Feminism: Emergence of Arab-Feminism as a way to express the long journey of Middle Eastern and Muslim women with oppression and marginalization. The phenomenon originated in Egypt, when few women decided to adopt un-orthodox methods in expressing their de-satisfaction with the status of women in their society. Few women chose to use nudity and what was considered as obscenity, as a way to express their feelings. Therefore, the later-on efforts to revive any notion of Arab-Feminism were faced with sever opposition and diligence.
  • Neo-Modernization ideologies: Emergence of Neo-Modernization ideologies in the Egypt and Tunisia were the outcome of ambiguous agendas for reform. Apparently, the masses in Tunisia and Egypt did not expect a rapid fall of their regimes, and this rapid change in the system resulted in a political vacuum, which pushed many sides to expedite the presentation of their visions for the future. Therefore, everyone acknowledged the necessity for reform and modernization, but the means and methodology for this reform was questionable and cautiousness was the evident policy of all political actors. Therefore, all the presented road-maps for reform and modernization were seeking external models for the purpose of implementation in Egypt and Syria, and the social, political and historical nature of these countries was not taken into consideration.
  • Islamic-secularism: Emergence of Islamic-secularism is directly linked to the previous point, which resulted in those two countries being ruled by Islamist parties. Along with majority of the Middle Eastern masses, the Islamist parties were not in a position to believe the possibility of them being the rulers of Egypt and Tunisia. In addition, nor the masses in Egypt and Tunisia were going to accept full scale of Islamic systems in their country, due to the secular nature of the previous regimes in these two countries, which lasted for decades. Therefore, those Islamic parties developed a system based on selective extraction from western ideologies and Islamic concepts. As a result, the Islamist were trapped in a state of contradiction within their own principles and ideology, and due to lack of experience their effort to succeed in governance failed dramatically in Egypt and on a lesser scale in Tunisia.

Rest of the Middle East

Due to the bloody and destructive nature of the conflict in Libya, Syria and recently in Yemen, rest of the Middle Eastern states realized the necessity to introduce some sorts of liberties and economic reforms to anticipate the possibility of uprisings in their countries. However, due to emergence of global social media phenomenon and the impossibility to limit and contain the deliverance of information, the states had acknowledged the impossibility of preventing influence of other uprisings on their own masses. Therefore, bogeys like sectarianism and ethnic tensions were mobilized in a way that prepared the Middle Eastern masses to adopt new norms and ideologies.
  • Isolationism: the idea of isolationism has never been part of Arab and Muslim mentality, due to the commonalities that exist among the nations of this region. Even, during the era when pan-nationalism and Arab nationalism was the prominent ideology in the Middle East, the notion of “UNITY” or some sort of unified aspect was desired. Therefore, the Middle Eastern governments were able to indirectly convince their masses to accept the idea of isolationism for the sake of securing their stability and economic superiority. Lebanese citizens started requesting for some sort of isolationism to prevent the leakage of the Syrian conflict into their country, and the Iraqis are welcoming the idea of separation and isolation as an alternative to secure their borders and societies. The Gulf States are currently less enthused about the idea of a unified currency or a Gulf Union similar to the EU, and the idea of collective security is finding less sponsors than few year ago. Due to this reason, we witnessed the Kuwaitis did not join the Saudis when they interfered in Bahrain, and the Emiratis started to actually point fingers at other Gulf States for incidents and events taking place in the Middle East. The Qataris chose to take their own path and enter an adventure by funding different radical groups in different troubled regions, and at the same time they were investing billions of dollars on a global scale to promote their own country as a rising regional power and a global soft power.
  • Neo-Radicalism: this phenomenon might seem disturbing due to the term “RADICALISM”, but its existence is linked directly to the political developments taking place in the Middle East. Neo-Radicalism is referred to adoption of radical approaches by the Arab and Muslim masses in general, which includes all aspects. The radicalism discussed here, includes al ideologies and tendencies, and it is not conclusive to Islamic radicalism, as the radicalization of the Arab and Muslim masses is developing very drastically. This phenomenon even includes the Egyptians and the Tunisians as well, which has transformed the Middle Eastern masses into a fire under ashes that is ready to be blazed with the smallest breeze.
The reality, which the western powers are mandated to acknowledge is the fact that Middle East is passing through a renaissance, and this renaissance will bring drastic and unpredictable changes to the region. In addition, the global powers must realize that Middle Eastern masses have become very segregated due to these developments and the commonalities, which unified the Arabs and Muslims are no longer evident and feasible. Therefore, the policies of common-interest and collective security are no longer legitimizing their alliance with the Middle Eastern regimes. The world in general would not accept authoritarian regimes and eventually these systems will either diminish or transform, so it would be in their best benefit to enforce new policies, which would enable the masses of Middle East to make the process of transition as fluent as possible.  

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