In the region from Egypt to Iraq we see many revolutions, embedding many layers. Some call for freedom and justice and ousting tyranny such as the Syrian regime. Others call for democracy and modernity with greed for vengeance, whose followers seek a change in the regimes, which may lead to civil wars to dominate the other and the different.
These revolutions are matched, and echoed sometimes, with what we may call as the Sunni revolution. We see it in Iraq against a regime labeled with Shiism and following Iran, where the just demands are mixed with a desperate nostalgia to the Saddamist era. We see it as well in Syria, in the only available color for the revolution against the regime of the Alawites.
Here too we can see a clear confusion between righteousness and justice, and between a religious label that becomes more and more obvious, and more and more dangerous. We see it as well in Lebanon, with a fair desire to stop the marginalization of the Sunnis that reached in some cases the form of physical assassination, but we see it too in an unfair desire to launch a Salafi hardline movement which will endanger the fragile structure of Lebanon. We see it too, in a very special way, in Gaza district, where we witness among the Sunni of Gaza the return of the prodigal son, through their renewed alliance with their “brothers” in religion. We see it somehow in Jordan, where the Muslim Brotherhood gaining weight and importance under the title of the electoral system reform, targeting a slow responding regime.
What happens in the “little Levant” gets its strength from what’s happening in Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood assumed power, without forgetting the moral support from Tunisia (and Libya and Morocco)
This Sunni revolution is a response to the historic changes of the 70s and 80s, when Hafez Assad became president of Syria, and the Iranian revolution triumphed, and “Hezbollah” was established. This was at that time a Shiite revolution which grew in adequate soil, and a favorable environment, represented by many movements at many levels. What contributed in highlighting it as a Shiite revolution was the decline in the power of Sunni decision centers: Egypt was alienated because of Camp David, Iraq was lost in its Gulf War that was initiated by the recklessness of Saddam Hussein, while the Palestinian revolution was displaced by the Israeli invasion of 1982 from Lebanon to Tunisia.
The political outcome
It is already bad enough to see the religious dimension floating above other sociopolitical dimensions, but there were the tools of the trade as we say. But the real judgment on the Sunni Revolution, which is indeed many revolutions with particular nationalist characteristics, is related to the political outcome. This leads us to a previous period: when Europe had direct contacts with this region, there were two Sunni voices, one represented by Rafik Hariri all the way to al-Khedeiwi Ismael including Nouri al-Saeed, while the other voice started with Ahmad Ourabi, continued through Jamal Abdulnasser and Saddam Husein. The second voice was the loudest since the 1950s and it evaporated the only dreams of stability in the nationalist states, which was the only fruit of our interaction with Europe. At these times there was a Sunni bred curse that put “the Causes” at the level of “the nations”, before that it grows, at least in the Asian part of the Arab Levant, by a small military minority.
Today, the last judgment on the Sunni revolution is really depending on its ability to continue what was interrupted with the absence of the symbols of the first voice. Will it launch the slogan: Long live the nations, or will it adopt the behavior that serves this slogan?
(Lebanese journalist Hazem Saghieh is a senior columnist and editor at Al-Hayat daily. He grew up in Lebanon during the golden age of pan-Arabism. Saghieh’s vision for a united Arab world was shattered when the Israelis emerged victorious from the 1967 war.)
*This article was first published Dec. 31, 2012. Link: http://alhayat.com/OpinionsDetails/467955.