Mideast Violence Shows ‘Arab Spring’ Still a Work in Progress
Anti-American violence sweeping the Muslim world has brought a sobering reminder in the West that the heady revolutions of the “Arab Spring” that removed entrenched dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have yet to bring democracy and stability to the region.
The United States played an especially important role last year as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Moammar Kadafi lost power after decades of autocratic rule. But the leaders who have succeeded them have not yet measured up as reliable Washington allies amid mounting pressures by radical Islamists seeking to stake out a dominant role for their religion.
Muslims angered by a crude anti-Islam video produced in Southern California by a Coptic Christian zealot have poured into the streets of major cities in at least 20 countries. The eruption of unrest and vandalism has been directed against U.S. diplomatic missions, schools and commercial icons such as KFC and McDonald’s.
The demonstrations and destruction were instigated by Islamic militants, many linked with Al Qaeda, who are attempting to steer the volatile societies emerging from the Arab Spring toward Islamic law, known as sharia, and their narrative that only violence, not political change, will solve age-old problems of economic disparities and sectarian tensions, several Middle East experts said.
“The Arab Spring is still in motion. It’s not over,” said Ed Husain, senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, observing that the revolutions have brought both positive and negative changes.