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Democracy in Arab world   

Kuwait Times - 07 May, 2012
Author: Sawsan Kazak

Most Arabs just do not understand democracy. I can make this statement because I am an Arab. It is like making fun of your own family, it is only acceptable if you do it, no one else. Looking at the recent, or should I say ongoing, activities in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, to name a few, one cannot really see any concrete progress. The Arab World was amazed at the power of protests and the strength in numbers as they watched Libya, Tunisia and Egypt overthrow their leaders and are still watching Syria fight on. But can Arabs that have lived under practical dictatorship for most of their lives, understand the responsibilities that accompany freedom?

I know I am making quite a big generalization when I say that I do not believe many Arabs comprehend ‘democracy.’ Given the recent actions in the Arab World, especially Egypt, it is easy to see that the concept of democracy is somewhat lost. Just because you are allowed to do something, does not mean you have to do it all the time; like protesting for instance. Having the freedom of choice means being responsible for the aftermath of that choice.

A democratic government is one that is ruled by the majority, a concept that is hard to apply to any Arab nation owing to the many groups, sub-groups, minorities Arabs like to place themselves in. People in the Arab world segregate themselves by their country, then by their religion, then by the sect of the religion they practice, followed by the political group they support, then by the area they grew up in, then by the street they used to play at as children, then by the European football team they cheer on, and finally the way you like your eggs in the morning.

When you see all these divisions, and there are even some I did not mention, it is hard to see a majority come out of that. If the Arab people would vote, or side with what is good for them, their country and the future of the nation, then they would understand democracy. Instead, most people living in Arab nations have blind allegiances to sects, religious leaders, political parties, football teams, and support them to death; sometimes literally.

I am not saying that because most Arab nations do not seem to understand how to apply democracy to their cultures, that democracy should be scrapped. What I am saying is that democratic reform is going to take time and a lot more education before the people in Arab countries can see past their little groups and make decisions based on the bigger picture.

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