Monday, June 1, 2015

The Spring of the Arab Monarchies

 Arab Spring

Published in Arabic: Middle East Transparent [1]

Salman Masalha || 
The Spring of the Arab Monarchies

"Here we are, approaching the end of the fourth year of the uprisings that erupted in more than one country across the Arab world, from East to West. I intentionally say 'uprisings,' since what happened in recent years in all these countries cannot in any way be termed 'revolution' in the political science sense of the word.

"A look at the political systems in the Arab countries where the people rose up challenges us with fundamental questions that we must answer honestly and unequivocally, without sentimental slogans that paralyze reason. The questions that we must inevitably pose to the public are: Why have these outbreaks and uprisings taken place in some Arab countries and not in others? How do these countries differ from each other? What caused some countries to emerge from these uprisings without bloodshed, while bloodshed is still the defining characteristic in others?

"Four years on, the observer can discern several aspects of the coalescing picture concerning the type of political systems common in the [Arab] world. The Arab world appears to be divided into two parts [in terms of regimes]. The interesting thing is that these popular Arab uprisings mainly struck countries with republican regimes, while the monarchies and emirates remained outside this [cycle] of uprisings. This phenomenon should be deeply discussed, and we Arabs should ponder its circumstances. We [cannot] bury our heads in the sand or ignore it as if it did not exist.

"To understand this phenomenon, we must look at the nature of Arab societies, far away from slogans that arouse emotions but are unhelpful and do not pave the way to a thorough examination of the events around us in order to emerge from our Arab crises. When I say 'the nature of societies,' I mean the social heritage that has continued for hundreds of years, passed down from the pre-Islamic period to Islam, and to the present day.

"Since Arab societies are tribal in nature, the various forms of monarchies and emirates are the natural continuation of this ingrained social structure in which tribal loyalty comes before all else. Therefore, once colonialism was gone from Arab countries, the monarchies and emirates took its place, in a natural way that is in line with the nature of tribal society.

"But the global struggle between the two main power blocs following World War II shook the Arab world, and as a result, there were several military coups that toppled several monarchies. These were not 'revolutions,' though that is what they were called, but mere military revolts that grabbed power while hiding behind lofty slogans such as socialism, liberty and democracy, and other empty rhetoric. In effect, all these coups were nothing more than a usurpation of Arab societies. None of these regimes [that spouted] the rhetoric of Arabism actualized a single one of the slogans they had touted – on the contrary, they appropriated and squandered these peoples' sources of income. Furthermore, they provided no freedom or socialism whatsoever. But above all else, they ruled with an iron fist, tyrannizing everyone.

"Yes, these lands of false Arabism are the very ones in which the Arab peoples rose up – while the Arab monarchies and emirates were spared this calamity and bloodshed. This is not because of their petrodollars, which is what some ignoramuses on the left try to say – since some Arab monarchies, such as Jordan, are not at all wealthy but have also escaped [regime] destabilization. The answer is simple: In addition to what I said above, we must compare the monarchies' relationship with their people to that between the republican regimes of deception and their people. A simple comparison will clearly tip the scales in favor of the monarchies. 

"Crushing tyranny, enslavement, and impoverishment of the people have become the attributes of the regimes of false slogans, while over the years the monarchies have become more sympathetic towards their peoples, despite the justifiable criticism that could be levelled at the failures of these monarchic regimes. However, if we strive for the truth about ourselves and about those around us, we must recognize reality as it is, for better or for worse.

"The tribal nature of Arab societies is deeply embedded in the past, and its roots date back through Arab history to the pre-Islamic era. Statements attributed to the new Saudi king Salman bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz, as cited in an article by Talal Salman, [editor of the Lebanese newspaper] Al-Safir, may clarify this matter. Talal Salman, who met the Emir Salman some four decades ago, said: 'The emir Salman (now king) summarized the issue to me in simple sentences: 'We are the sons of this land. We are not foreign messengers or occupiers. We are not Albanians like the family of Muhammad 'Ali [Pasha][2] that ruled Egypt for 150 years. We are the sons of the sand and the palm, sons of the sun and the moon. [Salman] was quiet for a moment and then added with a smile: 'It is enough to tell you that one of our ancestors is Musaylimah the Liar.'[3] (Al-Safir, January 26, 2015). 

"In other words, the tribal roots that stretch throughout history are authentic Arab roots, not just Islamic ones. It is true that [these tribal roots] – as the shrewd  king candidly stated – stretch as far back as Musaylimah the Liar himself, for better or for worse. His revelation indicates the depth of [these] roots."


[1], March 1, 2015.
[2] Muhammad 'Ali Pasha (1769-1849), considered the founder of modern Egypt, was an Albanian Muslim who served as an officer in the Ottoman Army. He was appointed Ottoman governor of Egypt in 1805, after thwarting the advances of Napoleon's army.
[3] Musaylimah bin Habib Al-Hanafi was a contemporary of Muhammad who also claimed to be a prophet. He is considered a false prophet in Islam, and therefore is referred to as Musaylimah the Liar.

Translated and published by: MEMRI

For Arabic, press here


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