We are witnessing the rebirth of the Arab world.
Mubarak resigns and with him ends the age of dictators, repressions and lack of freedom in Egypt. Egypt is the intellectual and cultural leader of the Arab world and enjoys the affection and respect of all Muslim nations. If Egypt embraces democracy, democracy will become the norm in the Arab world.
The revolutionaries in Egypt have now inherited a complex challenge. They must sustain their endeavours long enough to ensure that the transition is systematic and comprehensive. Cosmetic changes will only create opportunities for new tyrants to emerge. It will not be enough to redraw the organisational chart of the Egyptian government and rewrite the constitution, it is also important that initiatives to strengthen civil society and foster a culture of tolerance and compromise are undertaken simultaneously. The revolutionaries must realise that unless the economic reality of Egypt is altered expeditiously, there is a chance that this revolution could degenerate into chaos and disarray.
The baton has now passed from Tunisia to Egypt. The rest of the Arab and Muslim world will have their eyes glued to what happens in Egypt now. It has once again become the beacon of hope for the Arabs. Will it realise their collective dreams?
The Egyptians will have to lead through example and what they do will not only cement Egypt’s future, but will either inspire or discourage people in other Arab nations in their quest for dignity and self-governance.
This is also a moment of truth for the West. How they engage with this historical opportunity to transform the region will determine how the new Arab world will relate to the West. If they allow only Israeli interest to guide all western policies in the region, with complete disregard for the aspirations of 300 million people in the region, the anti-Americanism and anti-West sentiments will remain. An enlightened engagement with post-Mubarak Egypt could transform Muslim-western relations.
I am proud that the US demonstrated steadfast support for the will of the Egyptians through this entire crisis, putting the interest of Egyptians above all else, as did the English.
The French, once again, showed — remember Algeria 1992 — that they would rather hobnob and vacation with dictators than support democrats in the Arab world.
For a long time, the West has been on the wrong side of history when it came to the Arab world. Now is the time for redemption. The West can and should offer help in two areas.
Firstly, an immediate economic package: If the European Union and the US, perhaps along with rich gulf Arab nations, can put together an economic package that can provide immediate relief to Egypt’s poor and offers incentives to young entrepreneurs as a democracy dividend, it may be helpful and will act as a gesture of goodwill. Perhaps we can declare this summer as a summer to vacation in Egypt. I am already reserving tickets as I write this article. Let the Egyptians know that we like Egypt, but we love a free Egypt. Perhaps Muslims in the West can dedicate their 2011 zakat (obligatory Islamic charity) to Egypt.
The second thing that the West can do is to help more than they already are with the transition to democracy, through initiatives that will strengthen civil society and democratisation beyond the electoral process. One way to do that will be to intensify engagement and partnership between organisations that are dedicated to human rights and democracy development.
I have been writing since I heard the announcement that Mubarak has stepped down. Now, I want to thank God and relish this moment. It is truly epochal!
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2011.
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