Islamic Fundamentalism: An Introduction

By Lawrence Davidson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
The Arab Spring and Islamic
Fundamentalism

In December 2010 the Arab world began to change in a process that has been popularly called the Arab Spring. It began in Tunisia and spread the next month to Egypt. Subsequently popular protests broke out in Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, and Libya. In all of these cases Islamic fundamentalists have played important roles. As we will see, not all of these revolts were successful nor harbingers of spring. In some cases suppression of popular aspirations for a more equitable and democratic political environment has brought the prospect of stark winter.

We know the conditions that make outbreaks of unrest probable: chronic economic problems such as high unemployment, inflation, and erosion of local enterprise due to “free trade”–engendered competition; rampant corruption that often results in the concentration of wealth in the hands of a ruling elite; and entrenched power that uses harsh repression, causing the “security services” to themselves become criminal forces of a criminal regime. In all the Arab countries that experienced popular unrest starting in 2010, some or all of these problems had persisted for decades.

Against this backdrop there was an evolutionary pattern to the unrest characteristic of the Arab Spring:

First—The default positions among the population of dictatorships are fear
and passivity.

Second—Against this background, something horrendous or inspiring may
occur. Whatever the event happens to be, it is enough to overcome the

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