Islam and the Arab Awakening by Tariq Ramadan – Part 1

First challenge: don’t call them revolutions. Don’t call them revolutions because their outcomes are not clear by any measure. Don’t call them revolts because they reverberated across the Arab world and were carried out by the majority of the population. Call them uprisings because their effect is irreversible and will shape every generation to come.

Usually the biggest challenge in reading Dr. Tariq Ramadan is the inaccessibility of his language. Some paragraphs it took five or six readings to understand his point but when I do, I always pause and reflect. He always challenges my perception and adds to it.

This book starts by breaking down, in a rudimentary way, the origins and forces behind the recent uprisings in the Middle East. They were not the work of foreign interests, although they played a part, but they were not totally the work of local activists and young people in abstract. Dr. Ramadan argues that many of the movements that helped spur the uprisings were the culmination of years of training of local activists at the hands of foreign organizations on the techniques of organizing and mobilizing people. So much of the uprisings is owed to organizing on social media platforms, no doubt. He also argues, however, that without the genuine desires and aspirations of Arabs for social change and social equity these uprisings would not have happened.

Arab homelands have a history of turmoil which has spawned social and political movements. This book focuses on Islamic social and political movements. Dr. Ramadan explains the context behind the inception of Islamist movements starting in Egypt and stretching throughout the region. He explains that every Islamist movement has a context that must be considered and the danger of failing to do that. The danger is what we see today: after 9/11, any talk of Islamic political movement is deemed “terrorist” or “extremist” which has created a battle between “Islamism” and “secularism” in the Arab world. It is a battle that has seen Arabs only define themselves in relation to the West as opposed to have constructive dialogue about ways to move forward.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next month!

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