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The Arab System Between Citizenship and Failure of State!

The Arab System Between Citizenship and Failure of State!

Saturday, 16 May, 2020 - 10:00

After colonial powers withdrew from several Arab states, systems that were called nationalist at the time rose to power and raised powerful slogans describing their devotion to land, dignity, freedom, and autonomy, only to swiftly become repressive, terrorizing their own people as they failed to fill the post-independence political void. They were also financially and administratively corrupt, and since their culture was militaristic, they entrenched tyranny and dictatorship. There were indeed cultural and social transformations, but these were a manifestation of mutilated liberalism, and its byproducts were more similar to spaces contaminated by racism, corruption, sectarianism and sectarian discrimination.


The value of citizenship was not paid attention to; rather, civil conflicts and wars, thuggish and chauvinistic behavior, isolation, backwardness and ignorance became headlines. They certainly got rid of colonialism at the time, but they became dependent on it in different and more severe configurations and forms.


It was natural that the concepts of the age of “enlightenment” would transit from France to Egypt and the Arab world, but it was not reflected in the political scene, as evidenced by the disregard of the political systems of the time for the values that had emerged during this period, as the Arab countries were colonized with the complicity of some Arabs under the big hoax that they wanted to spread these values.


However, they tyrannized, reaping its fruits, looting its money and violating the dignity of its people. The enigma is that these political forces, symbols, and voices took advantage of the citizenship card to confront colonialism, and after independence was achieved they threw citizenship against the wall and did not care to establish a state of law and institutions. This absence reinforced the system’s authoritarianism at the expense of the peoples’ rights and dignity. Many peoples suffered immensely and were weakened and debilitated, which made them susceptible to isolation and silence, proving that these military systems had indeed succeeded in turning the Arab mind off, hindering the Arabs’ Enlightenment and suspending their growth. They soon became prisoners of partisan, factional, and sectarian slogans, unconsciously turning into servants for these slogans.


Historically this regression continued until the Arab system that existed before 1967 started to fracture. Throughout most of the second half of the 21st century, this system started to collapse over several stages, and the system in the region became dysfunctional and some countries collapsed. Twenty percent of Arab countries lived bitter experiences, while some of them were classified as failed states for a lack of a citizenship program such as Sudan, Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Yemen, while unofficial forces rose, such as ISIS, Hezbollah, and the Houthi Movement, which clearly reveals the internal fragility of these countries and their lack of a framework that would organize their relations and contain their struggles and crises.


In light of wars, partisan and ideological conflicts, it is normal for there to be division as the idea of citizenship has not yet been established. An important question remained raised about the ability of Arab societies to break away from their crises to become modern societies. They cannot do so as long as political elites are weak, political and cultural awareness is lacking, ideological and tribal affiliations still dominate social identity, and an organized social base is still absent. Thinker Hisham Jaait sees that conceiving of this transformation necessarily requires the preparation of suitable conditions for religious reform, industrial and technological modernization, and intellectual and social enlightenment.


Revolutions, coups, transformations, and peaceful elections and ballot boxes have all taken place and the Arab problematic, along with crises, struggles, and disputes, have all remained. This opens the door for a question about what political system is best fit to fulfill human ambitions? Monarchies have proven that they are more effective and successful and are closer to the people by being able to deal with events and overcome crises and hardship while many republican systems failed to do so.


Professor of Sociology, Halim Barakat, was accurate and perhaps correct when describing the nature of Arab societies as half “regressive and dependent” as a result of the global capitalist system, poverty, the rising levels of in inequality between classes, and tribal, sectarian, racial, regional and local affiliations, and the dominion of the authoritarian state. Barakat pointed out that the nature of Arab society is “traditional and patriarchal, and leans toward authoritarianism at several levels”.


Arab society views it as a “transitory phase between modernism and heritage”. However, in its cultural aspect, it is “expressive and spontaneous, however laden with repression and taboos”. Social relations in the Arab society are characterized by the personal and by overpowering the notion of collective over the individual.


Arabs bear the reason behind their failures. Conspiracy theories and blaming others no longer resonates with people. Beginning a political and economic reform process in the Arab world is not a luxury but the only way out. It is a necessity because many of the current political modes are no longer fit for the current stage, especially that the world is going through a transition phase before solving the coronavirus crisis that has made things more complicated.


There is a substantial difference between an objective critique and self-flagellation. There is no complete escape from colonial discourse and the features of the failed state toward independence and international competition without Arabs carrying out a critical revision of their circumstances. This revision needs to be grounded in political realism, free enlightened thought, and a political will for reform.


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