The hard truth: the Middle East is sick

The hard truth: the Middle East is sick
Comment: The region is riven with problems and the solutions put forward have only made the situation worse, says Salah al-Din al-Jorashi.
3 min read
Violent jihadi ideas are now stronger than they were before the Arab Spring [Getty]

Mohammad Abu Rumman gave me a copy of his new book The 'Islamic State' Organisation: the Sunni crisis and the struggle of global jihadism, which he co-authored with Hassan Abu Hanieh. The book is rich with information.

Today, the phenomenon of violent jihad has become part of a sick regional reality.

According to the book, this phenomenon did not emerge over the past few years. In fact, it its deeply rooted in Arab Islamic history and its fundamentalist and doctrinal system.

On the political level, this phenomenon is considered a product of contemporary "political Islam", with all its ups and downs.

When four oppressive rulers fell in a short time due to peaceful protests, we thought Salafi Jihadism was exhausted.

Sayyid Qutb was the father of modern Islamist thought, whose ideas were later pounced on by more violent ideologues, such as al-Qaeda's Aymin al-Zawarhiri.

Whatever Qutb's motives, it is undeniable his ideas led to the unleashing of political and religious extremism.

The late Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, thought the answer to defeating these ideas was to uproot the Muslim Brotherhood.

However, his security policy led to the formation of a series of groups which believed violence was the only way to replace "infidel states" with states governed by sharia law.

These emerging groups were able to grow due to a series of local, regional and international events. Afghanistan was the crucible for the "solidarity jihad" and the creation of the Arab mujaheideen, which then evolved into a "global jihad" that challenged the "far enemy" - the West and the US in particular.

Political Islam and the Arab Spring

But aside from Afghanistan in the years of Taliban rule, they failed in their attempts to seize control and create states on their terms. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia - all attempts ended in failure, and their violent methods became hated by those caught in the middle.

The Arab Spring was a new chapter in the region. The fall of four oppressive rulers in a short time due to peaceful protests was not only a blow to dictatorships - it was an apparent death knell to those who claimed violence was the only way to defeat them.

Events, however, were to dramatically change that outlook.

The first setback was the Brotherhood's failure to govern Egypt. The second was when the military and elites turned against democracy to face their Islamist rivals - a driving force for more radical groups.

In Iraq, the government of Nouri al-Maliki marginalised the Sunni section of society, leading to a brutal sectarian war.

In Syria, the regime militarised the revolution and fought peaceful protests with tanks and bombs.

The actions in these countries gave the violent jihadists an opportunity - and one which was siezed and which has led to the situation we now find ourselves confronting.

Such groups were buoyed by financial and military support from other governments, who thought they were protecting themselves with their support.

And so here we are, in a region that is sick with war, sick with extremism, and sick with duplicity.

Arab policies seem to lack the minimum level of rationality. Many governments continue to think they are the ones best able to manage the region's crises, while in fact they are the root of the problem and history will hold them responsible for turning hope into chaos and turbulence.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.