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Reform or Merely Revenge?

Reader comment on item: An Arab Prince Denounces Islamism

Submitted by Alex (United States), Dec 11, 2014 at 15:27

In 12+ years of studying the Middle East, the two developments that most surprise me were and are, first, the response across the Arab Muslim Middle East to the self-immolation of a Tunisian street-vendor with the events collectively known as the "Arab Spring," and now the uncompromising responses of Arab and non-Arab governments who have chosen to dig in their heels against most of the political actors for whom the Arab Spring presented unprecedented opportunities.

It seems like a strict logic of intransigence governs 1) Turkish PM Erdogan's involvement in the Syrian civil war, from his personal vendetta against Assad to his newfound and fully insane sponsorship of terrorism, 2) Sunni-Shi'ite tensions both within and between states, and 3) the GCC/Egyptian approach to dealings with the Muslim Brotherhood and its state and non-state allies, from Qatar to American Islamic groups. I feel like I am watching the geopolitical enactment of the Sicilian city that Michael Corleone visited in the first Godfather movie, where vendettas had eliminated most of the town's male inhabitants. My interpretation of the Bahraini Crown Prince's I presented comments, thus, is that they reflect a desire to stabilize and maintain his own future rule rather than any substantive commitment to reforming Islamic law. He sounds a lot like the noncommittal Tony Blair who Dr. Pipes identifies.

Most telling for me is that the Crown Prince as quoted above refers to Islam sui generis, not defining it against the "theocrats" of who he warns, failing to recognize the fundamental difference between extremism in Islam versus that of Judaism and Christianity, which have both obviously undergone the painful http://m.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/11/how-the-media-makes-the-israel-story/383262/historical processes of reform in light of modern values. I see the Crown Prince's rhetorical stance as a quietist foil to the tendency that Dr. Pipes wrote about in a previous article predicting that Muslim heads of state would soon emulate ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and declare themselves Caliph.

I remember reading Raphael Patai's comment that anthropologists had recognized a tendency towards extremes of behavior in Arab culture, and I cannot help but conclude that the Crown Prince's comments above fit into a pattern of Arab Muslim political actors adopting ready made rhetoric and ethical systems to justify changed positions.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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