Even though Islamists did not spearhead the Arab Spring, their parties are now benefiting politically from the uprisings.
The Ennahda party in Tunisia has won the elections and the same goes for Morocco where Abdelilah Benkirane, leader of the Justice and Development Party, has become the new prime minister. Islamists in Libya are definitely going to play a major role in the shaping of the country given that their fighters were the most loyal to the rebel cause during the recent civil war. Finally in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is poised to win around 40% of seats in the on-going electoral process.
At first glance this might seem as a particularly grim picture of the political turn that the Arab Spring is taking. Many argue that this “hijacking” of the revolts is going to lead to a variety of issues emerging, such as gender discrimination, implementation of Sharia law, and the curtailing of social and cultural liberties. All these points are very valid and need to be addressed.
There is however an element of acceptance that needs to be brought in: Islamism is a reality in the Middle East, and the only way to tackle its ideals efficiently is to let it into the political realm, even though this sounds like a very distasteful option.
Every single political force in the world has failed at some point and there is no reason to expect any less from Islamism. Just like capitalism and communism are flawed in so many different aspects, Islamism will lose support because of its failure to address issues such as economic development, youth unemployment or food security. The beauty of democracy lies in the alternation of power.
Allowing Islamists to take power is risky but it is necessary. Excluding them from the political game as they have been for the past 30 years will only radicalize them and will always make them appear as the underdogs to the population. As a recent Gallup poll has shown, Egyptians have made it clear that what they care about the most is inflation and job security. If Islamists fail they will be voted out, thus showing their populations that they are unable to resolve all the problems.
It is absolutely crucial to defeat the Islamist ideology in the public arena and not through violence or through containment. Blocking them from government will not make them go away; it will only create more instability.
Photo Credit: Naeem Meer