Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Liberalism in the Arab World?

by Ronald Meinardus

The Globalist

May 28, 2014

Egypt’s selection of a new strong man, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who will take over the presidency after a strained effort to mobilize unenthusiastic voters and who — if one looks at his rhetoric — seems to be even less inclined to exercise “liberalism” than even Hosni Mubarak did, certainly does not augur well for a future of more individual freedom in Egypt.

In fact, Sisi’s rhetoric demands that people sacrifice for Egypt. A recording of an off the record conversation caught the former general say, “People think I’m a soft man. Sisi is torture and suffering.”

Promoting liberalism in the Arab world is a Herculean task. It is no exaggeration to say that liberalism has an image problem here. Many, if not most Egyptians have a negative view of all things liberal.

Many perceive liberalism as against their heritage and culture and in contradiction with religious teachings.

The allegation that liberals and their ideas are inspired by outside forces and have no homegrown roots is probably the biggest challenge for liberals and liberalism in the Arab world today.

It is crucial that Arab liberals confront this allegation. To assert that the idea of individual freedom is foreign — and, therefore, not compatible with Arab cultural and religious beliefs — borders on racialism.

Anyone who holds this view suggests that the people living in this region are either not ready for liberty or — even worse — not capable or not willing to live as free men and women.