As protests escalate in countries in the middle east resulting in various degrees of repression by their authoritarian governments, a lot of nonsense is being spouted by commentators here. Juan Cole tries to set things straight by listing top the top five myths about the protests.
Meanwhile in Libya, Gadhafi seems to have gone completely berserk in his attempts to forcibly quell the protests in his country and Cole provides some insights into that situation.
Meanwhile Yemen’s leader seems to be also digging in his heels and it looks likely that he will increase his use of violence to repress protests.
Juan Cole isn’t the best source on the Arab Street. He is borderline Islamicism apologist. It is a fact that the uprising across North Africa and the Mid-East has strengthened organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood. In Bahrain the “pro-democracy” activists among other things want the state to impose curbs on the movement and socialization of the country’s large South Asian expatriate population. They have also demanded that the state repeal the current family law, which among other things places a minimum age of consent of women at 15 years. The object of Juan Cole’s admiration, Qardawi, is on record demanding death for apostates.
Juan Cole is a myth maker when it comes to the Arab world. While Saudi Arabia may have harsh laws against women in its books, the reality for women from the lower economic classes in other Arab countries is not at all different.
Juan Cole also trots out that other pseudoexample of Muslim nations not electing Islamicist parties, quoting the case of Pakistan. For Cole’s information, in Pakistan the constitution deems to derive its legitimacy from the Quran and proclaims Pakistan to be an Islamic state. All political parties in Pakistan regardless of their economic orientation simply follow different shades of Islamicism. Bangladesh is a better example and more honest, but then it is trying to become truly secular in restoring the relevant clauses to its constitution. Indonesia is historically a syncretic culture and though it is nominally Muslim, its largest population cluster in Java has continued with its centuries long engagement with Hinduism and Buddhism, which has found its way into every walk of life. The aberration is Malaysia which reserves educational and economic opportunities for its Muslim majority and Jim Crows its Tamizh Hindu minority to bizarre lengths.