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article imageOp-Ed: Who would be the biggest losers in an Islamic Arab world?

By Michael Cosgrove     Feb 1, 2011 in Politics
There is much talk going on right now in Western democracies about the potential threats a more Islamist Arab world may present. But those who would have the most to lose are not Western democracies -- they are Arab countries themselves.
It is still unclear how events will unfold in Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab countries whose citizens are showing signs of dissent and dissatisfaction with their rulers, but Western leaders are already making it clear they do not wish to see a shift toward an Arab world in which hard-line Islamic regimes become more numerous than they already are.
That scenario is possible, as the political developments in both Egypt and Tunisia demonstrate.
The Islamist party called The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is wisely playing a waiting game for the moment but is seems certain its public support will push it to become much more implicated in active moves to be a part of the power-sharing setup.
Its stated goal is to use the Coran and Sunnah as the "sole reference points for {...} ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community and state". The Egyptian army would not likely support out-and-out Islamic rule in the country, but it is probable the Brotherhood will be a force to be reckoned with.
Meanwhile, over in Tunisia, the big news is that Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the the Islamic Renaissance Movement Ennahda, arrived back in Tunis today after 23 years of political asylum in Britain after Ennahda was banned in Tunisa by the recently deposed President Ben Ali.
Ghannouchi said he will not run for political office in any future election, but added that the possibility of another Ennahda candidate being designated is not to be excluded.
This coincides with the party submitting a formal demand for legalisation to the Tunisian Interior ministry which, in the circumstances, will be obliged to accept. It is thus highly likely that Ennahda, which promotes the idea of Islamic governance with a dash of democracy, will become a force to be reckoned with, particularly as the political opposition to the subsisting remnants of Ben Ali's reign are both fragmented and sometimes bitterly divided.
A protest by Tunisians in Paris in solidarity with those back home.
A protest by Tunisians in Paris in solidarity with those back home.
Countries like Yemen, Algeria, Jordan and others also have the potential to evolve into states with an accrued role being played in their future by Islamist parties and movements.
This eventuality would change the world if it were to happen, but who has the most to lose? The West obviously does not want to see it happen but in absolute terms their fears are being overplayed. The Arab world, even if it were to be united around the banner of Islamist rule, would not represent a tangible threat, either in economic or military terms, to the West. But the effect of this kind of change would be staggering for Arab countries themselves.
Control of the Internet by Islamic states is almost universal to a greater or lesser degree, and that control would surely be increased in all countries concerned. This would automatically mean that their economies would suffer greatly in a world where business relies on rapid and global Internet access, from tourism to airlines, from industry to banking, these countries would suffer an instant loss in revenue and that, moreover, can already be seen by Moubarak's Internet crackdown which has lost billions to the country's economy in less than a week.
Political isolation in cases where Islamic regimes may become more hostile towards Israel and the West to the point where they become belligerent would also be a hindrance to investment and a foreign presence. Immigration from these countries would be more tightly controlled, as would cultural and scientific exchanges. Strong armies like that of Egypt would instantly lose Western aid, as would development projects.
This in turn would lead to a weakening of these countries' global influence and a snowball effect would be inevitable, with accelerated decline being just around the corner. And all this would of course slow down the world economy, which means that Western countries would suffer to a certain degree, although they would still be dominant.
But the brunt of these changes would directly affect Arab peoples themselves. They would be the biggest losers. More unemployment, less money, more government curbs on the freedom of the press, less individual freedoms, more restrictions on human rights, especially those of women, and less future prospects.
Let's just hope that that doesn't happen. The ongoing changes in Arab countries are long overdue and they are to be welcomed. But It would be a disaster if the people of the Arab world won their revolution only to reap the bitter reward for doing so by losing the precious few freedoms and material comforts they currently enjoy.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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