Spring, But Not European-Style

(Ha'aretz) Shlomo Avineri - The processes under way in the Arab world were perhaps done an injustice when the media rushed to dub them the "Arab Spring" - along the lines of the Prague Spring of 1968 or Eastern Europe in 1989 - for this raised hopes that these dramatic changes would lead to democracy and freedom. It's enough to hear the despair voiced by liberal and secular groups in Egypt, not to mention the Coptic minority's resounding silence, to realize that Egypt is not on a smooth path to democracy and liberalism. Given a choice between an Islamist government and a military junta, Egypt's odds of having a democratic future are slim. The harsh truth is that the Tahrir revolution was a revolution of the educated middle class, which does not represent most of Egyptian society. Over the past century, the Muslim world experienced quite a few attempts at modernization and secularization imposed from above, by an elite educated on Western ideas that sought to recreate secular, Western societies at home. However, because the majority of the population was religious and conservative, these processes were carried out by force. But ultimately, you cannot impose modernization and secularism when most people feel these are alien concepts. The writer, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is a former director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry.

2011-12-16 00:00:00

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