As the world debates about the various merits of the Arab revolt—whether the revolution will produce an alternative political landscape or not—very little has been said about the Arab mindset. Yes, the Arab people have grown to become fearless against the despotic regimes, but this is an accurate description of their psychological state, not their mindset. The thinking process of the Arabs has experienced a massive transformative change and is rapidly reaching a level of intellectual maturity that is likely to yield an outcome contrary to Western expectations.
Consider the euphoria that greeted the banishment of Ben Ali from Tunisia, or the incarceration of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Initially, the Arabs concluded that this would finally lead towards a permanent change; one that is different from the present day autocratic systems and draconian laws. Instead, and within a space of few months, the Egyptians learnt that the regime not only survived, but was given a new lease of life through a military coup. The peace treaty with the Jewish state, despised by the majority of the Egyptians, remained firmly intact. The military, once the stalwart of the revolution, went from heroes to traitors overnight. Torture, imprisonment without trial, abductions by security forces, extra judicial killings, and sectarian strife, all prevalent under Mubarak, returned to haunt Egyptians with renewed vigour. Western protégés groomed in exile and presented as viable alternatives to the status quo were quickly repudiated by the masses. Islamists, once coveted by the faithful, are now ridiculed for sounding more secular than the secularists! Even the public enthusiasm for constitutional reforms and the presidential election has faded.
The Tunisian experience is almost as identical. Looking further afield, the same can be said for Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Jordan, Syria and some of the GCC countries. The narrative before and after the revolt, remains unchanged for many Arabs. For them, the Arab world is ruled by pro-western elites who are more interested in the preservation of Western colonial interests than the liberation of Arab masses from tyranny.
Right now, it seems as though any Western attempt to orchestrate political change in Arab countries is instantly rejected and thrown back. The dormant Arab mind is now awake, and is fast producing results that are diametrically opposed to the West’s longevity and primacy in the Middle East.
The learning curve, which consists of the sensation of the reality, contemplation and judgment, is no longer so steep for the Arab masses. So how have Arab minds changed?
It can be argued that over the past eighty odd years, the breadth and depth of problems faced by Arabs have grown in both magnitude and scope: The destruction of the Caliphate in 1924, Western occupation of Muslim lands, the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948, the successive Gulf wars, the war on terror and the physical reoccupation of Arab lands, have all left indelible impression on Arab minds. These deep-seated feelings of humiliation, indignity, and violation of Islamic values spurred many Arabs to think profoundly about these feelings. However, the West, through Arab exiles and her surrogates in the Arab world, fed the masses a diet of Western thoughts to confuse and shield the Arabs from the arriving at the correct judgment about the events that befell them. Subsequently, the thinking process or thinking cycle—feelings about the problems that in turn require connectivity and contemplation, which is then followed by judgment—was either broken, or skewed, in the favour of Western interpretations.
For many Arabs, this resulted in intellectual paralysis and stagnation of Arab societies. Severed from their natural feelings, the Arabs were unable to generate home-grown solutions to the problems they faced, and were forced to import Western solutions and ideas. Thus the thinking process was temporarily disrupted. What compounded the situation further, was the adoption of Western solutions. Such solutions rarely solved problems but further exacerbated and sometimes prolonged them, as they were often ‘copied and pasted’ without any real understanding of its origins and motives. This made the helpless Arabs more reliant on the West for their ever increasing portfolio of problems.
In this way, the West was able to keep its intellectual stranglehold over the Arabs and the wider Muslim world for many years. Only a few Muslims managed to punctuate West’s intellectual dominance and expose the inconsistencies of its ideology. However, the majority remained in stasis, and plummeted into the abyss of gloom and despair.
Today, this no longer appears to be the situation. The Arab thinking process is no longer fragmented and disconnected from its surroundings. On the contrary, it is vibrant, in touch with its environment, and takes solace from its rich Islamic heritage. The time taken to truly understand events is visibly shorter and the judgments more often than not are rooted in Islamic thoughts. Western thoughts and views are now routinely discarded. In its place a new constellation of Islamic concepts and values have sprung up. The concept of Khilafah(Caliphate), Jihad, Islamic politics, Ummah, unity, Shari’ah and a Khalifah (Calipha-single ruler for the Arab and Muslim world) is so prevalent now, that it is common to see these terms included as part of West’s lexicon to interpret the events in the Muslim world.