Washington does it. Israel does it. So does our own Furious Leader, Harper. They're all pushing this menacing narrative of an Islamic Revolution in the Arab world. Islamic as in Islamist as in radical Islam as in the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
French political scientist, Dr. Olivier Roy, in an essay published in the May edition of Harper's magazine counters that the current upheavals are decidedly secular and are being waged not over religion but for democracy. Professor Roy also contends that the outbreaks of these secular revolts for democracy are directly tied to declining American influence in the region.
...Commentators have been expecting to see Islamist groups - the Muslim Brotherhood and their local equivalents - either at the head of the revolutionary movement or lying in wait, ready to seize power. But the discretion of the Muslim Brotherhood has surprised and disconcerted them. Where have the Islamists gone?
Look at those involved in the uprisings and it becomes clear that we are dealing with a post-Islamist generation. For them, the great revolutionary movements of the 1970s and 1980s are ancient history, their parents' affair. ...Unlike their predecessors in Algeria in the 1980s, they make no appeal to Islam; rather, they are rejecting corrupt dictatorships and calling for democracy. This is not to say that the demonstrators are secular, but that they are operating in a secular political space, and they do not see Islam an ideology capable of creating a better world.
...Particularly striking is the abandonment of conspiracy theories. The United States and Israel - or France, in the case of Tunisia - are no longer identified as the cause of all the misery in the Arab world.
...These young people know that Islamist regimes have become dictatorships; neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia holds any fascination for them. Indeed, those who have been demonstrating in Egypt are the same kinds of people as those who poured onto the streets to oppose Mahmood Ahmadinejad in 2009. ...Many of them are religious believers, but they keep their faith separate from their political demands. In this sense, the movement is secular. Religious observance has been individualized.
...Today, paradoxically, it is the waning of U.S. influence in the Middle East, together with the pragmatism of the Obama Administration, that has allowed a native and fully legitimate demand for democracy to be expressed.
...The paradox of [recent] Islamization is that it has largely depoliticized Islam. Social and cultural re-Islamization - the wearing of the hijab and niqab, an increase in the number of mosques per capita, the proliferation of preachers and Muslim television channels - has happened without the intervention of militant Islamists and has in fact opened up a "religious market," over which no one enjoys a monopoly. In short, the Islamists have lost the stranglehold on religious expression in the public sphere that they enjoyed in the 1980s.
The utility of demonizing Islam has not lost any of its currency in segments of the West, notably the Rightwing. Their blank cheque support of Israel has been heavily dependent on the public seeing the Arabs as murderous cutthroats. For generations they have perpetrated the myth that the Arab peoples are barbaric and can only be kept in place by despotic rule. This myth has also enabled them to elevate Israel as the only civilized nation in the region, the sole democracy in the Middle East. Any weakening of that fantasy is dreaded in Tel Aviv where the Right under Netanyahu is beginning to feel the ground shifting under their feet.