Arab spring – surprise surprise?

arab spring Arab spring – surprise surprise?

Today the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad publishes an article written by professor of policy science John Grin and myself about the apparent ‘surprise’ of the Arab spring – or in terms of English Al-Jazeera: a region in turmoil. For those who speak Dutch, find it here: Arabische lente kwam niet als verrassing, in English: Arab spring did not come as a surprise.

In 2006 an official scientific government advisory board published a report about the dynamics in islamic activism. It was a 3 year study, very well documented, 234 pages, showing how new islamic thinkers and movements were connecting with democracy and human rights. However, in just 1 day most politicians had given strong, condemning reactions, calling the advisory board naive and the report ‘nonsense’. The report was so unwelcome that the board was threatened with reorganisation and even abolishment. There was no discussion about the content, about islam and the development of Dutch foreign policies in the light of new democratic movements in muslim countries, the fear of fundamentalist islam being predominant. John Grin and I published our ideas about this taboo already in 2006 in NRC Handelsblad.

Fear is a bad adviser, also in the debate about islam, human rights and democracy. Now in 2011, we face a lack of insight in what is really happening in Arabic countries, how Arab spring evolves and what that means for Dutch foreign policies… as if the turmoil couldn’t have been predicted. Politicians are ‘surprised’ by the events and stay silent. Or is that because they are busy reading the 2006 report after all?

Other blogs that may be interesting for you:
Portrait du décolonisé – Albert Memmi
How much spring is the Arab spring?
Ramallah: Jews removing Christians from the Middle East

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