As I noted in my column last week, the end of Moammar Gadhafi is the opening act of a new cycle of vendetta, power play and authoritarian rule in Libya, just like those Arab countries where other despots have been removed.
The bestial treatment meted out to Gadhafi in the last moments of his life illustrated the brutal nature of tribal ways. It was even more grotesquely underscored by the public display of the slain despot’s body.
There is no Arab version of Thomas Jefferson or Mahatma Gandhi waiting off-stage during this so-called Arab Spring to step into the ring and usher in a new dawn of freedom and democracy in the Arab world. The rebel leaders — men such as Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of Libya’s National Transitional Council — only a few months ago served diligently in executing Gadhafi’s whims. It is delusional to think these men will break the cycle of tribal rule and Arab despotism.
The new order, announced by the NTC leaders in Tripoli and accompanied by popular celebration with chanting of “Allahu Akbar” (God is great), will be the full implementation of Shariah rule. So there is no mistaking what this new order means. Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, minister of justice under Gadhafi’s rule, dutifully explained Libyan men may practice polygamy openly in accordance with Shariah.
But the midwives of the Libyan new order are the heads of Britain, France, the U.S., and Canada, the ever-loyal ally of the West’s three great powers. This bit of midwifery should end — though it won’t — the endless carping by the left about how western imperialism has regularly undermined Arab culture and politics.
In Tunisia, Libya’s neighbour and where the Arab Spring movement got started, the people have voted in sufficient numbers to give Ennahda the main role in devising the country’s Shariah-based rule. Ennahda is an Islamist party in the orbit of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabi-backed Saudi rulers.
In Egypt, the military oligarchy will either wear the Shariah robe itself, or find a sufficiently credible front man with the blessings of Cairo’s al-Azhar — the chief religious institution of the majority Sunni Islam — to declare the establishment of a new order.
We need to step back and take a longer view to understand the emergent shape of Arab politics. Arab despotism riding the tide of secular nationalism since the 1950s had been long discredited, and it is being washed away by popular unrest seeking a return to a more authentic and, hence, more legitimate political order.
This can only be, in the lexicon of Arab and Muslim politics, a Shariah-based political order. Democracy, in this system of political thinking, is merely a mechanism to establish this order.
Will the Arab system of Shariah-based rule be any different from what exists in Iran? The difference will be only in the margin, and not in substance.
For more than three centuries Arabs, as people of the Mediterranean basin, watched and felt the effects of Europe’s invention of the modern world of science and politics. But as the Arab Spring unfolds, Arabs are displaying how well they have assimilated principally Europe’s ideology of totalitarianism into their tribal ways legitimated by Shariah as Allah’s mandate.