Al-Ahram Weekly Online   15 - 21 December 2011
Issue No. 1076
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

The Tunisian model

Tunisia once again is showing the way forward for the Arab Spring. This week, it confirmed its head of state, secular President Moncef Marzouki, a former dissident and human rights advocate, who will govern alongside Tunisia's Islamic Ennahda Party Secretary-General Hamadi Jebali, as Prime Minister, in a coalition representing the broad spectrum of Tunisia's society.

The remarkable turn-around from oppressive corrupt dictatorship to enlightened democratic government in 10 short months will go down in history as a model of progress.

Marzouki visited both India and South Africa in his studies of peaceful transformation of society away from colonial exploitation and racism, the sorry legacy of all colonies, whether British or French. Tunisians are fortunate to have as their head someone who has studied and who understands the evil of imperialism as an economic and political system, having personally suffered imprisonment under the previous regime.

Already, political forces outside the coalition are trying to promote tension between secularists and devout Muslims. Fortunately for Tunisia, its state structure was not destroyed during the revolution. Thus attempts to promote civil war and destroy Tunisia's chance to chart a peaceful way towards a democracy better suited to Arab reality, incorporating the tenets of Islam, will surely fail.

Egypt's own revolution took inspiration from Tunisia. Egyptians continue to cast their votes across a country with 10 times the population and a much more sensitive geopolitical location, it is essential that Egypt finds a balance between the secularists and the majority with a strong desire of to adapt Islam to the needs of modern-day Egyptians.

It is vital that Egypt's next head of state, too, understands the real objectives of the Western powers, who continue to try to shape Egypt's future to their agenda. In Egypt they have an excuse to barge in. Unlike Tunisia, Egypt has a large Christian minority. With a commanding majority, Egypt's Islamists have a great responsibility on their shoulders.

Tunisia's experience will be much more relevant to Egypt as we chart a new course in our political and economic lives than words of advice from Egypt's distant benefactors in Washington and their Middle East think tanks staffed by Arabists and Arab expatriates versed in the ways of empire. We must not slip back into the subservient mindset that characterised governments under British and more recently American tutelage.

Egypt has a fine history of charting an independent course, though international pressures undermined it, bringing Egypt to its present sorry state. We must forge a new alliance with our neighbours, drawing inspiration from our great cultural and spiritual heritage, free of the designs of Western powers.

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