Saturday, February 12, 2011

A giant has awakened after long centuries of slumber.

This genuinely democratic, watershed change is almost impossible to derail now, no matter what the scheming Israelis and their nervous patrons think.

What makes this movement that has captured the world imagination truly historic is the fact that it has rediscovered and revived the confidence and unleashed the fighting spirit of the long demoralized and dormant Arabs.

As an Arab writer wrote last week, the Arabs haven’t witnessed any significant victory or memorable achievement since the glorious victory of Salahuddin Ayuubi (Saladin the Great), the conqueror of Jerusalem, 800 years ago over the Crusaders. The legacy of the great warrior king lives on in the proud falcon that is the insignia of Egyptian Army, and that of numerous Arab countries.

Those marching on the streets of Egypt and elsewhere in the region give hope and a sense of purpose and direction to the faceless, long repressed multitudes across the Arab-Muslim world and beyond!

Suddenly, it’s cool to be an Arab, easily the most vilified, dehumanized and demonized character in Western popular culture. Those young people — and old — standing their ground at the Tahrir Square day after day with a simple yet defiant finality make you proud. (Who says democracy and Islam can’t be the best of pals?)
The Tahrir Square has elbowed out the Tiananmen Square and will remain seared in popular imagination for years to come, long after Mubarak is gone. No wonder people around the world, from Americas to Australia, are increasingly standing up to make common cause with the people of Egypt.

In his much quoted 2009 Cairo speech, and before that in the profound Inaugural address, President Barack Obama had reached out to the Arabs and Muslims, seeking a “new way forward.”
And people of the Middle East have given him just that: A new way forward! Yet all you’ve heard from Washington — and from other Western capitals — over the past two weeks is either deafening silence or diplomatic gobbledygook that means nothing. As usual, the best emanates from Israel. Netanyahu warns: “When there are rapid changes, as it happened in Iran, an oppressive regime of radical Islam will rise. Such a regime will crush human rights and will not allow democracy or freedom, and will constitute a threat to peace.”

Now we need lessons in democracy, freedom and human rights from those who have stolen someone else’s land imprisoning its population! Hillary Clinton seconds Netanyahu arguing, “revolutions have overthrown dictators in the name of democracy, only to see the process hijacked by new autocrats.”

What’s the West really afraid of? What’s it about Islam that so terrifies the champions of democracy and freedom of faith? But it’s not Islam, as Chomsky argues, but independence of the Middle East that worries the West.

In a fine dispatch this week from Cairo titled, Tehran 1979 or Berlin1989?, Roger Cohen pleads with the US and Israel to not handle Egypt the way they dealt with Iran after the revolution. He plumps for a more “nuanced approach” that helped the West bring down the so-called evil empire and regimes across Eastern Europe. So what’s it going to be? Tehran 1979 or Berlin 1989? Whichever way Washington and London go, it’s not going to be the Egyptians’ way. Gone is the time of the empire ruling by proxy. It’s time for the people of Egypt – and the Middle East – to chart their own future without the expert advice or promptings of the empire. Call it Islamic resurgence, Arab revival or whatever but a giant has awakened after long centuries of slumber. Change is in the air.

Aijaz Zaka Syed in Arab News. More Here.

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