Browsing through a copy of the International New York Times on a flight from Dubai to Jeddah, I read Roger Cohen’s article “The Arab Withering”. He reviews Robert F. Worth’s book “A Rage for Order”. Cohen has a style of his own. It’s not just a book review but an analysis of how he himself views the sorry state of the Arab world especially after the Arab Spring. It is a chronicle as Roger Cohen states of “shattered hopes, lives, families and societies”.
The book as Cohen relates is frank and reveals a new dimension of where we are at present. It reflects on how historical baggage added weight to a present Arab world incapable of carrying on. It reinforces what Arabs used to talk about for years about Arab societies fractured by dictators for their own personal selfish gains and the plague that exists in the Arab world as exemplified by sect, tribe and the Mukhabarat (secret police) which has dented any effort to build a civil society.
It’s a realistic but sad appraisal of the Arab world post-2011. Frustration levels are high and the level of despair has reached such a height that incoherent calls including a return to the old order in some states are being made.
Two things impacted me in the last four weeks. The first was the Arab Youth Survey 2015 and the other was the Arab Media Forum 2016. Here I met and discussed with participants the situation in the Arab world. I saw hope, a yearning for progress and a desire to have peace and stability. There was a total rejection of Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) and its barbaric practices of obscurantism and political Islam. We cannot continue like this anymore. The narrative of hatred, conspiracy theories and repression should stop. Enough blood has been spilt.
The only way forward is to create a climate of confidence, build civil institutions and focus on the real problems facing us, such as education, health, water shortages and population growth. The Arab people want to live in dignity. They want to be stakeholders and not statistics in a despotic rentier state system. They want to breathe, to feel free, to govern and be governed by states that believe in the rule of law.
They want to live. Are the Arabs asking for too much ?