Hope Springs Eternal

Spring brings with it new life and new hope. It lifts human spirits after the depths of winter as we see the regeneration that surrounds us. Thus it was an appropriate title for the uprisings that occurred through much of the Arab world as a challenge to the rule of dictators.

These rebellions continue in places like Libya and Syria, where (at least in Libya) rebel forces are being supported in their efforts by the West.

As welcome as some may find this new emergence, it is wise to be mindful that spring also awakens many of nature’s predators that seek to prey on the weak and vulnerable.

It will be no different in the Arab spring, except the predators will be the hardcore militant Islamists associated with groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

I first raised my concerns in this regard with a young Muslim businessman a few months ago. He scoffed and maintained that the Islamists were a tiny minority of Muslims in the nations we were discussing.

I agreed but with the caveat that a militant and violent minority can subdue the will of the majority – particularly where Islam is concerned. The fundamentalists use passages from the Quran (the sura) and the examples of their prophet Mohammad (the sunnah) to make their case. As both are considered infallible under Islamic doctrine, those who ignore these tenets are deemed not to be ‘good Muslims’.

Of course being a ‘good Muslim’ is central to surviving under an Islamist regime so any dissent is crushed before it even begins.

We saw the first evidence of the Islamist agenda last week. In Egypt, pro-democracy demonstrators were set upon by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. With elections scheduled for this year, the Islamists look set to capture nearly 50 per cent of the seats. This should strike fear into the hearts of the West, supporters of Israel and all lovers of freedom.

In Libya, a defiant Gaddafi is battling NATO supported rebels that comprise Al Qaeda supporters who have previously fought allied troops in Iraq. The rebel leader maintains they are “patriots and good Muslims” adding that “members of Al Qaeda are also good Muslims”.

Try telling that to the families of the victims of Al Qaeda’s reign of terror.

It is a similar story in Tunisia where militants are polling one third of the vote with policies that include supporting a ban on women in the workplace.

Such approaches have led one young Egyptian woman to be quoted as saying “how about we leave the stone age and start treating women a bit better? Instead it is probably just getting worse and worse.”

As the optimism of spring turns distinctly chilly one female Tunisian writer lamented than “before we were asking for normal rights – now we are trying to preserve the rights we already have.”

It is a pointed reminder that we should always be careful what we wish for.

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