Reflections on the Aftermath of the Arab Spring

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Jay Willoughby



On November 18, 2014, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, founder and board member,
IIIT; leader of the Malaysian opposition; and former deputy prime minister
of Malaysia, shared his “Reflections on the Aftermath of the Arab Spring” with
the general public at the IIIT headquarters in Herndon, VA.
He opened with “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle
and those in authority from among you” (Q. 4:59), which he considers one of
the Qur’an’s “most used and abused verses.” In addition to being used to support
democracy, it is abused by many others to demand the masses’ support
for dictators, authoritarian, and military junta rule regardless of how they are
treated. This verse also highlights an issue that has rocked the Arab world ever
since December 17, 2010, when Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set
himself on fire to protest the continued abuse and harassment inflicted upon
him by the Tunisian police force: the issue of governmental legitimacy, which
is a problem in both the West and the Muslim world. Anwar stated that the
government must represent a majority consensus, respect some process (e.g.,
democracy), and allow people the freedom of expression so that they can express
their support, disgust, or opposition.
The Arabs’ demand for legitimate governance has been on the mind of
IIIT as well, for its leaders have spent the last decade addressing this concern
from the point of view of the maqāṣid. Anwar traced this concern back to a
long-ago meeting when several of the IIIT founders were discussing why there
was no Muslim equivalent of the “Western canon,” the “Great Books,” a “great
intellectual tradition.” This was the start of an ongoing process to fill this gap
in contemporary Muslim literature.
The outbreak of Arab Spring clearly revealed that there is still a need to
deal with ethics in governance, for lasting reform can only be actualized in
the form of systems. The ongoing abuse, corruption, repression, and brutality
inflicted upon the people by their own leaders is, according to him, something ...

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