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Addressing change


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THE Saudi king has called a summit of Muslim leaders for next month to address risks of ‘sedition’ within Muslim countries. It is not yet clear if this will be a purely Saudi-led initiative, or if it’ll happen under the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s aegis. Over the past few years, confronting change from within has become the biggest challenge for Muslim-majority states. However, even though the events of the Arab Spring have severely shaken the status quo, many Muslim autocrats remain in a state of denial. First and foremost, that is about clinging to power in a world that is crumbling around them. As in the case of Egypt, Middle Eastern rulers rallied to Hosni Mubarak’s support at first, frightened by the possible repercussions for them if a symbol of the old order collapsed. But, as in the case of Bahrain and Syria, sectarian dimensions have also crept in.

The lack of fundamental freedoms is what is driving the fury and anger against Muslim rulers. Apart from a handful of democracies, Pakistan — imperfect as it is — being among them, most Muslim-majority nations are either ruled by absolute monarchs or strongmen in republican garb. Democracy and representative rule need to be gradually structured into the systems so that people don’t take to the streets or, as in Syria’s case, take up arms and seek to violently overthrow the system. The often violent suppression of dissent in many Muslim countries has also been citied as a key factor behind the growth of extremism and terrorism. The mode of ruling countries through families and clans needs to be reconsidered. If the meeting in Saudi Arabia can succeed in discussing meaningful reform for the people’s welfare, it’ll be a considerable achievement. If it is just another OIC-like talk shop, or worse, an attempt to protect Muslim autocrats, the masses shouldn’t expect much from the summit. The proposed meeting also raises questions about the OIC’s utility, for the pan-Islamic body has been a perpetual underachiever. In short, Muslim leaders can choose to address and accommodate change, or wait for the anger of the masses to boil over into the streets.

Comments (11) Closed

Shankar Jul 24, 2012 02:30pm
Isn't democracy a western concept? Why not search for an equivalent locally?
Malak Ghulam Jul 24, 2012 04:19pm
When a Right of an Individual is maintained then that form of Government will be the most stable form. The right of Representation, the right of Expression, the safety of LIFE, the opportunity of economic growth and sustanance are so of the basic duty of the Government. When the LAW OF LAND does not address these basic rights no Form of Government is legitimate.
Fazal Jul 28, 2012 12:47pm
In the context of 1) losing elections to rival Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt despite funding the opponent, 2) materially supporting rebels in Syria who are unleashing fasad-fil-arz and are about to fail, 3) suppressing freedom movement in Bahrain by using brutal forces 4) and failing to stop the spread of protests in their own country despite using live bullets, this seems to be an SOS call by a highly scared and frightened regime of Saudi Arabia.
ASAD BHATTI Jul 28, 2012 10:09am
This is what one gets when Islam is not practiced in its true sense.
Muhammad Fartad Jul 24, 2012 01:26pm
I think the idea of OIC is no more relevant and OIC should be completely abolished. It is time to start new contracts among regional countries without the use of religion. The new blocks should be based on common economic interests so that people in the region can become prosperous. It is time break away the shackles of bigotry and hatred that come with any associations that are solely based on religion.
Cyrus Howell Jul 24, 2012 11:58am
"The most important achievement of Western civilization is the humanization of political authority, dividing it into separate powers, and establishing and keeping a balance between the separate powers. Western civilization has given priority to the individual and subordinated its institutions, laws, and procedures to this principle." The result has been innovation, scientific progress and relative justice for the individual. Muslim autocrats already have all the answers - for themselves.
Iftikhar Husain Jul 24, 2012 11:04am
It is a time of extreme worry for all all the muslim countries to show solidarity and think of unity. As pointed out in the editorial there is the question of fundametal freedom and providing education to the masses.
Danish Qadimi Jul 24, 2012 01:09pm
Or there is a third possibility: that things will continue festering like this for a long time. Arab spring happened in Morocco and Egypt where the average person (a senior doctor makes around USD 200 a month in Egypt compared to around 30-50 times that in Pakistan) is relatively poor and the lack of income was compensated by state subsidies. In other countries like Saudi Arabia although the overall GDP has declined dramatically and the average Saudi is not making headlines for their wealth, he is still very comfortable as the state provides tremendously for him (and extracts even more for its rulers). I suspect that there is little incentive for a Saudi or a Kuwaiti to rise up against their extractive rulers.
wanderer Jul 24, 2012 05:44pm
The question is not of fundamental freedom but freedom from fundamentalism. These monarchs are consuming what lakhs could use to live on and Arab spring is spreading. The Pakistan is the only state where influence of theocracy is spreading but in other Muslim world it is shrinking. The source of spreading of fanaticism in Pakistan is well known. Here money talks....
Alam Jul 25, 2012 02:02am
Unity of Muslim countries on 'sedition' means more killings and more violence of minorities within.
Adeel Ahmed Jul 25, 2012 07:14am
the agree with the thoughts and opinion of the writer.. the Muslim Dictators have to seriously think about their future and specially the future of the nations. They must acted to give the Muslim nation the basic rights and always keep one thing in mind that if this nation awaken up once they will lost everything what they have presently.. lets hope for some positive output at the end of the summit.