Background Examination of Rising Violent Extremism in the Arab World
The demise of nationalism and the surge of communitarianism in the Arab world after the Arab Spring is an issue that has attracted the attention of many scholars around the world. According to Salamey, communitocracy and communitocratic politics are taking center stage in some of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries that recently forced dictatorial rulers out of power (12). During the Arab Spring, many political scholars believed that the Arab world was significantly influenced by Western culture and politics, and they now wanted democratic governance as practiced in the leading democracies around the world.
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A united force of people saw strong, wealthy rulers who had full control of their countries military, forced out of power in an unprecedented turn of events. Hosni Mubarak, a powerful Egyptian ruler who had a very strong influence in the MENA region, was forced out of power during the Arab Spring. He was lucky to have stayed alive because he realized that the wave was too strong to counter, and as such, he stepped out of power. Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan strongman who had ruled the country for decades and brought economic progress to the country, was the next victim of the revolution. He was not very lucky and died while trying to hang on to power. This wave moved from North Africa to the Middle East.
The events that followed the Arab Spring clearly indicated that politics and governance in the Arab world are unique. When the dictatorial rulers were forced out of power, the global society expected that the affected countries would finally embrace democracy. However, that was not to be. A new wave of transnational sectarianism erupted as ethnic and tribal violence became common. In a world that is increasingly becoming globalized due to the emerging technologies, one would expect that after forcing the dictators out of power, the communities in the Arab countries would embrace unity and nationalism. However, that has not been the case.
Libya is more divided today than before when it was under the rule of Gaddafi. Yemen is falling apart as Iranian Backed Houthis fight the Saudi-backed government and ISIS. The Kurds now want their independence. Instead of having a nationalistic ideology, people in these regions are embracing communitarianism. Salamey says that the rate of decline of nation-states in MENA region after the Arab Spring and the rise of communitocracy has led to the rise of violent extremism in the Arab world (18).
According to Fluhman, people who fought for democracy in the Arab world no longer identify themselves with their states (78). Instead, they are now fighting for ethnic superiority. The post-Saddam Hussein Iraq is deeply divided as a radical Sunni community fight the Shiite government. Violent extremism that is now becoming common in the Arab world is partly fuelled by the problem of identity politics and legitimacy to power. People are not only concerned with the knowledge of the ethnic background of those who are in power but also how they came to power. Violent extremism currently witnessed in Iraq is partly fuelled by the feeling that the current Shiite government was catapulted to power by the Western forces. As such, the Sunnis and Shia in the country do not consider the current government legitimate.
According to Sorell, the manifestation of contemporary regional fragmentations is embedded in identity politics (43). Violent extremism is, therefore, becoming common as different factions struggle for power. The communities know that they cannot get the power they desire through peaceful democratic processes. As such, they opt for armed violence as the only means through which their communities can rise to power.
In Libya, for instance, there has never been a united front on how the country should be governed. On the one hand, one community feels that their leader was brutally assassinated by another community that had the backing of foreign powers. On the other hand, the other community feels that they did the country a favor by eliminating the dictator, and hence they deserve to be in power. The oppressed community resorts to violence, and the government responds using military power.
Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has gained its power because of sectarianism and the rise in violent extremism. ISIS, unlike other terror groups such as Al Qaeda, has received a massive transnational backing as it is seen to support communities that feel oppressed by their current regime (Fluhman 56). It has become appealing even to the Muslims in Western countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany.
The deep-seated rifts along proliferation of tribal politics make members of different communities committed to such radical organization as a channel through which they can vent out their frustration and even claim power from communities they consider less deserving (Salamey 38). The post Arab Spring extremism politics is motivated by the success of the Arab Spring in countries such as Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.
The extremists believed that if violence forced strong military rulers such as Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi out of power, then it is possible that their armed rebellion can force the current rulers out of power. However, there is a fundamental difference between the two uprisings. Salamey says that the Arab Spring, such as that witnessed in Tunisia, was a near-nationalistic movement of a people who wanted democracy in government (27).
The united front taken by the revolutionists of different communities during the Arab Spring is missing in the current extremist politics witnessed in these countries. It has changed from a people fighting bad leadership to a community fighting the other. As would be expected, the community in power will try to fight the resistance believing that they are protecting their interest (Fluhman 71). It is easy to fight a ruler than an entire community, and that is why violet extremism witnessed in most of these countries has resulted in more deaths than succeeding in installing new rulers.
When conducting a research project, it is important to come up with clear research questions that can help in collecting the relevant data. As Fowler notes, asking the right questions helps in getting the desired outcome in a research process (82). Communitarianism and the rising violent extremism in the Arab world is a very sensitive issue and scholars must be specific in questioning its cause, nature, and possible future trends. The following are the research questions relevant to this study.
- What are the primary causes of the rising violent extremism in the Arab world after the Arab Spring?
- What are the current driving forces behind violent extremism the Arab world?
- Based on the past and present trends, what is the possible fate of nationalism and democracy in the Arab world?
According to Fawcett, the rise and fall of liberal transition in the MENA region and has had serious repercussions in political leadership (54). Instead of having united countries, fragmented sectarian and tribal realities have emerged (Demir 78). The spirit of nationalism has departed the people who once fought to have democratic governance. When Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was forced out of power, Mohamed Morsi El Ayat became the first democratically elected president of Egypt.
Egypt had previously been ruled by dictators, but a major milestone was made towards democracy following ascent to power by Morsi through a democratic election. Egypt was expected to be more peaceful, united, and focused on achieving political success that had been witnessed in other parts of the world. However, that was not the case. When he came to power, communitarianism took the center-stage of his rule. He became surrounded by a click of political activists identifying themselves as Muslim Brotherhood.
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Morsi embraced the concepts of Hobbesianism, trying to create absolutism in his governance approach. He justified his actions stating that the current instability in Egypt required a powerful ruler capable of bringing back the rule of law (Alfadhel 34).
However, he forgot that he was one of the revolutionists who had spent years trying to fight authoritarianism during the regime of Hosni Mubarak. Cracks began to emerge in the society and it was not long before the people went back to the streets to demand his resignation from the country’s top office. The problem was also witnessed in Iraq after Saddam Hussein. As opposed to the expectation of Western political scientists, these countries became very unstable after the introduction of democracy. The democratically elected leaders failed to demonstrate the legitimacy of their power to the people. They failed to appeal to people outside their communities.
Causation Theories of Violent Extremism
When looking at the causation theories of violent extremism in the Arab World, communitarianism comes ahead of others. As defined in the section above, this theory justifies the superiority of one community over others. Fawcett says that the narrow-mindedness of the people who put to practice this theory is epitomized in their belief that their destiny is defined by their society, not their nation (56).
That is why they are willing to embrace violent extremism to champion for the rights of their communities at the expense of the national interest. The belief that the Sunnis are superior to Shias or Shiites and vice versa makes it easy for the extremist to wage a war, not because they believe the current regime is unable to meet the national interests, but because they believe having their own in power is the only way to legitimize power. A country like Egypt had never practice democracy in its 5000 years of existence, as recorded in Fawcett (78).
When a time came for people to choose their own leaders, each community was keen on having their own in power, and the moment they failed in such attempt, the elected leader would be viewed as illegitimate. The problem was also witnessed in Yemen. Talani says that communitarianism is not a concept unique to the Arab world (34). In the 2008 United States presidential elections, majority of the African Americans voted in Barak Obama because they considered him one of their own. In Africa, political leadership is closely defined along ethnic lines. However, what is unique in the Arab world is the emergence of violent extremism politics.
The strong conviction that if one of our own is not in power then we must rise in arms is an ideology that is very strong in the Middle East and North Africa. In these regions, winning elections through democratic elections do not give an individual a universal legitimacy to be in power, especially in the eye of the other community. That is why President Morsi of Egypt was forced out of power by the military junta because he was seen as an outsider by the powerful sectarian military commanders.
Rational Choice Theory is another causative theory of violent extremism. The theory holds that when presented with a number of choices, one would always make a prudent and logical decision based on the choice that will give the highest satisfaction. When the Arab countries such as Egypt, Libya, Iraq, and Tunisia were ruled by dictators, the people were not given the opportunity to choose their leaders.
However, the Arab Spring made them realize that they can choose their leaders and that violence can be part of the process of getting the kind of leadership they want. During elections, people choose leaders from their own ethnic groups believing that they stand the best chance of championing for their interests (Fawcett 67). When they realize that their preferred leaders fail to take power, violent extremism becomes the only instrument they can use to have their way.
Relative Deprivation Theory is another important causation theory of violent extremism in the MENA region. According to Salamey, this theory holds that a people may take actions to champion for change as a means of acquiring something possessed by others which they believe belongs to them or should be shared (67). This theory can help in explaining the violent extremism in Iraq. When Saddam Hussein came to power in 1979, he moved with speed to take control of important state resources.
The oil and gas, banking, and the military quickly fell under his control. To ensure that his place as the head of state and government was secured, he ensured that all important military positions were held by people of his background, the Sunni Arabs. He also appointed them as head of major corporations in the country. Talani says that at the peak of power, the Sunni Arabs- which is only a fifth of the country’s total population- controlled most of the country’s wealth (54).
The Kurds, Shiite, and Shias started to champion for change, believing that toppling Saddam Hussein from power and replacing him with one of their own would help them get a share of the national cake that they felt they deserved. When the movement for change received support from the United States-led international coalition, Saddam was finally overthrown. After the Interim Iraq Governing Council led the country to a democratic election, Jalal Talabani who is a Kurdish came to power.
He ruled for nearly ten years before handing over power to another Kurdish, Muhammad Fuad Masum. The pattern that they fought against is repeating itself and it has led to the emergence of violent extremism. It is, partly, the reason why ISIL emerged in this country. The unrepresented communities feel that the current government is only keen on enriching their communities and completely ignore national interests.
Assessment of Theoretical Successes or Shortfalls
Communitarianism is one of the theoretical concepts that have successfully explained the possible cause of the rising violent extremism in the Arab world. It demonstrates that as the communities fight for their interests at the expense of national interests, nationalism takes a back seat. Instead of sharing the national resources and power, communities resort to war as a way of gaining absolute power. Rational Choice Theory is also another very good theory, but its main shortfall is its inability to explain the rationale behind one’s decision to forego national peace and opt for violence just to ensure that one of their own gets to power (Sapelli 56).
State of Knowledge in this Discourse
The discourse has attracted a number of scholars and experts who have tried to understand explain the political forces in the Arab world. A number of theories, some of which have been discussed above, have been put forth to help explain the phenomena in the region. However, these scholars still believe that the current state of knowledge in this discourse is insufficient (Demir 88). More research is needed to help create an understanding of the current political events in the Arab world.
Proposal for a Thesis
Violent extremism is increasingly becoming a global problem that not only affects countries in the MENA region but also other countries in Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific, and Africa. Studies indicate that communitarianism is one of the possible causes of violent extremism. When people identify with a given community within the country and believe that they as a community should be in power, then political violence becomes unavoidable. When the international community intervenes to help restore peace in these countries, they become a target of terror attack based on the community they are seen to support Fawcett (90).
According to Alfadhel, ISIL, which is currently considered the largest and most dangerous terror group because of its ability to recruit people all over the world, was partly created by the emerging communitarianism in the Arab World (45). To address this problem, scholars and experts will need to understand the drivers of communitarianism. Understanding forces that make people to identify strongly with their community instead of their nation should be identified as the stakeholders try to find a lasting solution. This research will examine violent extremism with special focus on communitarian drivers.
According to Demir, violent extremism is becoming a global concern (97). In a globalized society, there is always an attempt by various global states to offer help to countries suffering from civil strife. However, when they give direct or indirect support, it is always viewed as a support to a certain community, not the state (Sapelli 78). Recently, Russia came under attack when two bombs were set on busy rail tracks in what political and security experts link to its activities in Syria. Only one of the bombs went off, killing a number and injuring many others. The United States, France, Germany, and United Kingdom have been targeted by these extremists because of their direct or indirect involvement in the conflicts in the MENA region.
For instance, the sympathizers of Muammar Gaddafi blame France and United States for the fall of leader they believe had a vision for the country. They blame these foreign powers for the current political and economic problems in the country. Given opportunity, these extremists may not hesitate to attack the United States or France. Talani says that one of the possible drivers of communitarianism that leads to violent extremism is divisive politics (45). The political class present themselves as the tribal champions and portrays other tribes as the villains. A government that cannot assert its authority and legitimacy becomes an easy target (Fawcett 97). Rulers who fail to understand that their position of power makes them nationalists and symbol of national unity are also responsible for the emerging communitarianism.
The intended research project will not only focus on collection and review of existing literature but also on collecting and analyzing primary data from political experts, political leaders, and some of the individuals who have been members of sectarian groups. In this section of the proposal, it is important to explain the data sources for the study, the method that was used in collecting primary data, and the analysis. Data that will be used shall come from primary and secondary sources. Secondary data sources will include books, journal articles, and reliable online sources. Primary data will be collected from participants sampled for the study, as discussed below.
Sampling and Sample Size
Violent extremism is a major issue of concern here in Lebanon and many political experts have been analyzing the phenomenon over the recent past. It is possible that the researcher can get numerous people who can provide expert opinion and firsthand experience on this issue. However, the limited time available for the study will make it necessary to sample a manageable population for the study.
The researcher will use stratified sampling to identify the participants. Stratified sampling is considered appropriate because of the different groups of people needed for the study. The stratum identified for the study includes political analysts and scholars, political leaders, and current of former members of the extremist groups such as ISIL. The researcher understands that it may not be easy to find a current or former member of such extremist groups willing to take part in the study. However, the stratum was included just in case there will be some luck to find the participants falling in this group. The sampled participants must be living within the city of Beirut. A sample of 20 participants will be appropriate for the study.
Primary Data Collection
Primary data collection will be done through direct interviews. The time available is limited and as such, mailing the questionnaires will not be appropriate. Some of the respondents may not send back their response in time. The researcher will take two full days to interview the respondents. A questionnaire will be used to collect the needed data.
Analysis of the collected data will be done using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Although the research will be qualitative in nature, trying to explain the communitarian drivers, it will also be necessary to have some quantitative data that will explain the magnitude of the problem. Phenomenology, ethnography, and case studies will be used in qualitative analysis.
Timeline for the Project
The project will take two weeks. Within that period, the researcher will conduct a further review of literature, collect and analyze primary data, and compile a report on the findings and conclusions made.
Validity and Reliability
The researcher will be keen on ensuring that validity and reliability of the study is enhanced. The researcher will use triangulation method to reduce relying on one source of information. Any form of biasness and stereotyping will be avoided in the all the stages of research.
The researcher will be keen on observing ethical concerns expected in an academic research. In cases where administrative authority is needed, the researcher will seek permission before engaging the participants. The researcher will explain the relevance of the research to the participants and the importance of them being part of it. The anonymity of the respondents will be observed.
The researcher has an open mind when planning for this study, expecting to learn a lot and come across new knowledge, some of which are not captured by the recent studies. However, based on the recent studies, the researcher expects that one of the communitarian drivers is divisive politics. When politicians sell their candidacy on ethnic background, relating social and economic problems of their community with the fact that they are not in power, then people tend to believe in such narratives. Poor governance is another plausible cause of violent extremism.
Preliminary Analysis of my Examination of Violent Extremism
According to Alfadhel, analysis of the post Arab Spring politics clearly shows that in a highly globalizing society, essential protectionism responsibilities has been transferred into the hands of community from state (89). A phenomenon of double movement and the emerging communitarian orders clearly challenges assertion of unitarianism at state level. Globalization was expected to bring people at state level much closer than was the case in the past.
However, the post Arab Spring politics shows that communitarianism is becoming stronger than was the case before. People are increasingly becoming less trusting of the state instruments to protect their interests. The events going on in Syria can justify the growing suspicion that people have towards the government. As Talani states, one of the fundamental responsibilities of the government is to protect its people from both internal and external attack (67).
However, the Syrian government has been accused severally of using chemical weapons against rebels in an indiscriminate manner that led to death of many civilians, women, and innocent children. Instead of the state being the source of protection, it has become a threat to its people. People in Idlib Province, northern part of Syria, now rely on the communitarian rebel groups to offer them protection from the government. A double movement that is simultaneously stimulating communitarianization of politics and globalization is emerging in this country. The government and the rebels have resorted to the use of arms to champion for their course. As globalization take shape in the Arab world, sectarian violent extremism is becoming more common than it was in the past.
When examining the rise in violent extremism, it will be important to discuss briefly the ideology of Ba’athism. Ba’athism, as championed by a section of the Arab world, is an ideology that is a complete opposite of communitarianism. According to Salamey, Ba’atists seeks to promote pan-Arabism, social progress, and political pluralism in the Middle East and North Africa (43). It is opposed to political pluralism and champions for one-party states.
The proponents this secular ideology argue that the Arab world will be stronger if it is united as opposed to acting as single states to face globalization and global problems. The ideology of Ba’athism is very strong in Syria and Iraq. It partly explains why ISIL, a radical movement of extremists, has emerged and remained very strong in the two countries. ISIL is currently one of the greatest champions of Ba’athism as it tries to create a united Arab World under its rule. However, it is intriguing is the fact that Syria and Iraq- seen to be the countries where Ba’athism is strongest- are still chained in violent extremism largely attributed to communitarianism (LeTendre and Wiseman 34).
The coexistence of Ba’athism and communitarianism in the two countries strongly indicates that those championing for pan-Arabism are not sincere. They use pan-Arabism when it suits them, especially when they want to appeal to the global Islamic community, and reverts to communitarianism which is their actual drive when they fight the current regime. Ethno-sectarian communitarian principles which are strong in this region has led to intra-civilization class in the post Arab Spring Arab world (LeTendre and Wiseman 23).
It is important to note that the ethno-sectarian principles are not only held by those fighting to topple the current regimes in the Arab world but also those who are already in power. Some of these countries were not significantly affected by the Arab Spring, but communitarianism runs deep among the people and their rulers. It explains the deep suspicion and sometimes hatred that the governments of Saudi Arabia and Iran have towards each other.
Violent extremism emerge when communities become convinced that the current state instruments are not adequately addressing their interests and that their voices are ignored and sometimes suppressed using state machinery. The state becomes the enemy that must be destroyed. That is the case in many Arab countries such as Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, and Egypt. In Syria, for instances, there is a deep-rooted mistrust between the government and the rebels (which include Sunni Arab rebels, Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, and Salafi Group) (Esposito et al. 78). The ISIL is also fighting the Syrian government.
On one side, the government of Syria under President Bashar al-Assad has held a hard line position that the rebels are terrorists that it cannot negotiate with and has to be eliminated through force. On the other hand, the rebels have also held hard line positions arguing that the current government under President Assad has committed crimes against humanity and thus must be forced out of power. To achieve their goals, the rebels and the government forces have resorted to violence. The Assad government is backed by his Alawites community, which is part of the Shia Islam and the Russian forces. On the other hand, the rebelling communities, apart from ISIL, are backed by the United States’ forces. It is a perfect example of a communitarian violent extremism that is taking a global shape.
According to LeTendre and Wiseman, one of the most worrying trends in violent extremism is its vicious cycle (54). The events that take place during the attacks and counterattacks leaves no one innocent. When a young boy witnesses his parents, siblings, or friends being murdered by the government forces through chemical weapons, a deep hatred and desire to revenge settles in his heart. He has a reason to fight to death. To such a young boy, his fight will be justified. He will be seeking justice for his murdered loved ones. The only way to get the justice is to attack the government forces and communities that support the government.
In the quest for justice, other innocent lives will be lost and the desire to revenge will be created. The vicious cycle that is created in the attacks and counterattacks results into a scenario where people are willing to lay down their lives for the sake of their community. Violence becomes the only language they can use and the only language they can speak. This problem is not unique to Syria. Iraq (following the end of Saddam Hussein’s rule) and Libya after the Arab Spring have faced the same problems.
Assessment of the Success and Failure of PVE
Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) has been a concern of many stakeholders not only in the Arab world but also at global level. As Talani notes, this problem is now affecting many countries, thus PVE is taking a global level (78). Several approaches have been taken to address the problem, including the use of military forces. However, in this section the focus will be on communitarian and educational approaches.
Communitarian and Educational Approaches
It is in the interest of everyone to have peace, going by the Rational Choice Theory. As explained in this theory, the extremists are rational people who are expected to choose peace instead of war because of its obvious benefits. Efforts towards prevention of violent extremism have been made at various levels. The communitarian approach has been used to try and influence communities from taking arms against other communities or against the government when championing for their rights. The international society has been working with community leaders to dissuade the youth from joining extremist groups.
The United Nation, Red Cross, and other international organization have not only been offering material but also emotional support for those negatively affected by violent extremism. The aim is to ensure that victims do not become extremists. The aim in this case is to break the vicious cycle of revenge discussed above. Sometimes the victims and those under threat of attack by the government or other communities are offered asylum in foreign countries. Such processes not only protect the lives of the asylum seekers but also eliminate possible counterattacks. It is important to look at the successes and failure of the communitarian approach that has been used by various stakeholders.
The communitarian approach taken to prevent violent extremism has registered some level of success. The effort by the international community to protect communities under threat of violent extremism has bore fruits even though it may not be to the satisfaction of everyone. Europe, Australia, and a number of Asia countries have offered millions of Syrians, Yemenis, and Iraqis asylum over the past five years.
By allowing a community to leave to avoid a possible attack, a situation is created where the extremists do not find their targets. Their targets are moved to other countries where their safety is assured until such a time when the causes of hostilities shall have been addressed. Those who are rescued from the possible attacks by other communities may have resentment towards the extremists who forced them from their homes and possibly looted or destroyed their properties.
However, the resentments will not be as strong as would be in situations where they see their loved ones murdered. In the refugee camps, they often receive counseling to help them overcome the problem of having to flee to another country and start life afresh. These efforts have helped fight the vicious cycle of violent extremism.
In a communitarian system, people respect those who are designated as communal heads. Efforts have been made by the international community to reach out to these leaders and convince them to dissuade their people from engaging in armed conflict. Talani says that considerable success has been achieved through this approach (88). Sometimes it forces the international community to use threat to convince the leaders of these communities to avoid violent extremism.
In other cases, they are offered amnesty. In Sudan, the government was forced to not only offer amnesty to John Garang and his rebel soldiers but also accommodate them in the government. The deal brought to an end a long battle between the government forces backed by the northern communities and Garang-led militias backed by the southern communities in Sudan. The deal made the southern communities feel that they were adequately represented in the government, making it unnecessary to continue the war.
It is important to appreciate that the communitarian approaches to prevention of violent extremism has not been a perfect success. Talani says that some of the efforts have only helped in creating a temporary halt to the problem (95). Some of the extremist often have strong conviction to fight for their communities based on the past to the extent that if their leaders are eliminated or forced to work with the government, they find alternative leaders.
The communitarian efforts have failed to help the militias who were radicalized because of their painful past. It takes more than threat and amnesty to convince such extremist to embrace peace because they are prepared to fight to death. The American veterans are often taken through long periods of counseling to help them overcome posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because they spent a few months in war torn regions and witnessed executions or were directly involved in such gruesome processes.
For some of these extremists, they witnessed their loved ones butchered. After that, they got into war and executed hundreds of those considered enemy. Without any form of professional counseling, the society expects them to become normal citizens. They may try, but without help, they often find themselves in radicalized groups because that is the only language they understand.
According to Fawcett, lack of good will is another factor that has made communitarian approach fail in preventing violent extremism (99). When the community leaders get to the negotiation table, they hold on to the strong suspicions and hatred towards the other community, making it difficult to eliminate violent extremism. When the leaders are under pressure to reach a deal, they curve in and agree to stop violence.
However, their drive in such circumstances is to get the benefit offered or to avoid the consequences that may arise if they reject the deal. It means that their drive is not to create peace and bring to an end sectarian violence but to avoid the repercussions or get the benefits. Such deals cannot bring last peace. When the threat or the benefits are eliminated, nothing will stop them embracing violent extremism as a way of championing for their communal rights.
Assessment of the Success and Failure of PVE
Communitarian and Educational Approaches
Education is a powerful tool that for years has been used to transform the global society. In the past every community had its own system of education. However, the Western education has come become the universally accepted form of offering new knowledge to the young minds. As one of the ways of fighting violent extremism, stakeholders have tried to use education to steer young minds off extremism. According to Talani, many countries in the Arab world are now integrating PVE into their curriculum as a way of empowering learners to have a broader global outlook towards life beyond their community (101).
They need to understand that once one is academically empowered, then the geographical borders that define states may not limit their success or way of life. Salamey argue that the educational approach was embraced because of the belief that the illiterate and semi-literate individuals are more likely to fall victims of divisive extremist politics (26). Through education, they are capable of making personal interpretation of the political trends and socio-economic forces in their society.
Education is also likely to empower them economically. With proper education, the young adults, who are the primary targets of politicians with divisive communitarian politics, will be economically empowered through employment of creation of jobs. The fact that most of the youths in some of the volatile regions in the Arab world are unemployed makes them easy targets of extremism.
Their impoverished life means that they have nothing to lose when they go to war. In fact, they believe that their lives can be better if they succeed in war. With good jobs and education that enables them to make personal interpretations of the events happening in their society, the educational approach was expected to change the mindset of the extremists who often opt to sacrifice their lives for the sake of what they believe to be the well-being of their communities.
According to Salamey, the educational approach used in the fight against violent extremism has achieved some level of success in parts of the Arab World (32). Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are some of the countries that are still ruled by the royal families but not affected by the Arab Spring. The stability of these countries during the Arab Spring may be attributed to flourishing economy and a leadership that has been able to legitimize itself. However, it is also important to note that these countries have also tried to empower their citizens through education.
In Qatar, for instance, learners in public schools do not have to worry about school fees because the government pays for their education. The level of literacy is comparatively higher than that of countries such as Syria and Yemen (LeTendre and Wiseman 57).
The youths have the capacity to understand the political events within their country, at the regional and then at global level. Government did not use force to suppress rebellion in the country and neither was it forced to demonstrate its legitimacy to the people. Instead, it is the academically empowered youths found no course to topple their government. They knew that communitarianism cannot benefit them more than nationalism had. According to Demir, the academically empowered youth find it easy to engage their leaders through various platforms (43). As such, their issues can be addressed by the leaders in a way that makes violent extremism irrelevant.
According to Talani, using education to fight sectarianism and violent extremism has been a universal success story (19). In Egypt, the literacy levels are very high, but it was one of the countries affected by the Arab Spring. It is also one of the countries where communitarianism and violent extremism are taking shape post Arab Spring. Talani argue that the failure of education to empower the youth to rise above sectarianism and violent extremism may be attributed to the dwindling job opportunities and increasing cost of living (31).
When the youth fail to get gainful employments after school, they become idle and frustrated. They can easily end up falling into the traps of divisive politicians and community leaders. They can easily be convinced that their problems are caused by poor the governance and favoritism towards a section of the society.
As Fawcett puts it, educational empowerment should be followed by economic empowerment to make the people find value in life (56). With good education and stable jobs, people will resent violent extremism because they have a lot to lose when the country is plunged into anarchy. However, when the youths are educated but lack jobs, they consider violent extremism as the only way to champion their grievances. They have nothing to lose when the political systems and structures fail. In fact, they embrace the thoughts that when the current leadership falls, a better leadership may be created that is capable of taking care of their interests.
The declining nation-states and emerging decentralized communitarian structure of governance is an eventuality that not many political analysts had predicted during the Arab Spring. As shown in this paper, the Arab Spring was largely viewed as a movement that that was driven by the desire to have democratic and nationalistic governance that can protect the interests of all instead of just a few members of the society.
However, the real driving force of the Arab Spring- which many experts failed to understand early enough- was the emergence of communitarianism and communitocracy. People had lost faith in the state and believed that communitarianism was the solution to their problem. As such, different communities united to fight the common enemy, which was the establishment. After that, the cracks created by communitarian culture, security, and economy begun to emerge. While many had believed that the revolution would create a more nationalistic attitude among the people in a globalizing world, communitarianism emerged triumphant. Communitarianism is the primary cause of violent extremism in the Arab world as each community tries to gain power militarily.
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