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Monday, March 21, 2011

Revolution in the Middle East


I've hesitated to write anything on the situation in the Middle East just so I could wait and see what was going to happen first. Basically, what we have is people uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, and now Libya. Are these Islamic uprisings? That is the question I hope to answer for you, if you're exploring for answers. How will Israel be affected? Yet another question to be answered. So, let's look at what's going on here.
Egypt: You have a President who came to power on the heels of the assassination of Anwar Sadat, because of Sadat's friendliness to Israel. How long ago was that? It was 30 years ago. That smells of dictatorship, obviously, despite democratic elections every so many years. The problem with democratic elections in the Arab world and most of the rest of the world is that there is no one standout or even standout opposition candidate to the one already in power. There are also too many candidates to choose from on the ballot so that the incumbent basically rides in uncontested. Mubarack should've been ousted years ago, despite his "pro-Western" stance on some issues. He cared little for the West or his own people, other than to stay in power. The people finally saw through it, took what happened in Tunisia, as a sign that the people can change government, and took control. This has been said to be the first government to be brought down by Facebook and/or Twitter. Protests were organized via Twitter and/or Facebook groups. If you want to know why the government was so interested in shutting down the internet, this is why. Now the elephant in the room is whether or not this was an Islamic revolution. I don't think so. Look at the age of the population that organized the protests. They are mostly 20-somethings. They are very Westernized Arab culture. They may be Muslim in name, but many of the country's Christians joined in the protests as well. People suggest that the Copts have been marginialized in this conflict, but they were marginialized before, so, what's the difference?  Mubarack was a dictator and it took one Arab Muslim country overthrowing their government to spark a movement across the Middle East that shows no signs of letting up.
Jordan: Okay, I'll admit it. I'm as confused about this one as anyone. Jordan is perhaps one of the most Western-friendly nations in the Middle East. They have a very Western-minded King and Queen who have studied in the U.S. Queen Rania has put forth efforts (and been heavily criticized for it) to establish shelters for battered and abused women. And yet, protests have shown up in Amman. I have been hard-pressed to find any adequate news coverage on this. Basically, this appears to be quite minor, even though the King did abolish his government to make way for changes in order to appease protesters. Since then, I've rarely seen a peep. I doubt this one will go anywhere.
Yemen/Bahrain: Yemen has been dealing with Islamic terrorism for years. Several of the 9/11 hijackers came from and trained in Yemen. Yemen is also where Samuel Zwemer spent many years as a missionary, starting a hospital there that is still functioning. Not much has been made of the Yemen protests. More has been made about the Bahrain protests, particularly in light of the fact that the government has been attempting to crackdown.  Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy, much like many current monarchys around the world. Once again, this appears to be copycat, but is no different than protests that happened in the 1990's in Bahrain. Islamic in either case? Probably not.
Libya: My prediction on Libya is that the people will win through the help of international forces. Gaddafi has been in power for 40 years. Who thinks he is willing to step down? He has already shown that he is willing to kill his people to remain in power. He has defied international calls to stop the fighting against his people. He has threatened military action should sanctions be placed on Libya. The U.S. and U.K. have launched missile strikes against military targets in Libya as a show of force. Now, is this an Islamic revolution? I don't think so either. It is another revolt to replace a dictator. In this case, however, it is people from all ages revolting, young and old, unlike the Egyptian revolution.  Gaddafi is more a hardline Islamic leader than either Saddam Hussein or Mubarrak were (they were hardly Islamic). Even so, you would hardly know it, despite his parties where he holds Islamic education seminars. Gaddafi is little more than a rich oil baron and I think his people finally see it. I don't necessarily agree that we need to take military action against Libya as this seems rather hypocritical of our President.  He's the one calling for drawdowns in Afghanistan, when the mission has never been completed and corruption is rampant there, and also praised the Iranian elections last year as fair and balanced despite obvious rampant corruption. I think that Libya would eventually play itself out as Tunisia and Egypt did.
In all, we have not seen the end of the shaping of the current Middle East. When all is said and done, new leaders will arise, new constitutions will be written, and we'll see a younger, more Western, less religious Middle East (at least one can hope on this last part). God is sovereign and has allowed such to take place for His divine purposes. He is the one who has set kings in authority and is the one who removes them from authority (http://esv.to/Rm13.1-7). If we watch Fox News on these issues, one would think that the Muslims are setting up another Caliphate and are ready to begin another crusade to take over the world. I think that the younger generations have had enough of being suppressed and are showing it. They want freedom and are expressing it. What we can do is that the doors to the Gospel will be flung open so that Christ's name can be shared and glorified. I pray for God's Church to be added to daily through these revolutions.