Moral Outrage
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The Arab Transformation of 2011

In just one year, the Arab and Muslim world has undergone a total transformation.

It started in Tunisia, North Africa a year ago, when a 26-year-old street vendor decided he couldn’t take it anymore. Faced with constant petty police harassment and no recourse when he complained to the authorities, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, and with that one act overturned decades of mostly docile popular obedience under the jackboot of Tunisian dictatorship.

Suddenly the whole region was ablaze with the fierce yearning for change: Two-thirds of the Arab and Muslim population is under 25. People are young, educated, wired, connected and they want exactly what they see the rest of the world enjoying: freedom, democracy, dignity, jobs.

After Tunisian dictator Ben-Ali fled, the revolt spread to Egypt, the leader of the Arab world. The people took to Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, and in a remarkable 18 days, forced down one of the region’s enduring leaders, a great ally of the United States and Israel, Hosni Mubarak.

So what does all this upheaval mean for the region, and for the United States? The big fear has always been whether Islamist parties would emerge strongest and turn the Arab world toward Islamic fundamentalism.

Because the dictators allowed no political space, the only political activity came out of the mosques. With the first Arab Spring elections now taking place, this experience is now paying off. In Tunisia a moderate Islamist party won the most votes in October elections, yet they are at pains to insist their Islam is not at odds with democracy. They point to Turkey, where an Islamist party presides over a secular democracy.

In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood won the biggest block in this month’s parliamentary elections. But a more puritanical Salafist party named Nour came in a strong second.

There and across the Arab world, minorities, such as Christians, are watching the outcomes carefully, and so, of course, are the women. Having fully participated in all the revolutions, they want their rights enshrined in their future constitutions.

[Excerpts of ABC article by Christiane Amanpour]

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