Sunday, 26 February 2012

Which Arab Season?

When the founding fathers of America  brought forth a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal they changed the world forever. Many believed that such a country could not long endure, that such a nation was neither possible,plausible or permissible. How wrong they were.

"Conceived in liberty" that men might own themselves, be their own masters was a shattering blow whose effects are still rattling dictators & enslavers.

 "The proposition that all men are created equal" gave each a stake in a nation of free men, a radical idea that would make men and women from all over the world patriotic citizen's.

That noble experiment in liberty worked, worked beyond the dreams of those founding fathers. America became a magnet for millions & a beacon of hope in some of the darkest days of humanity. Freedom made America rich & and those countries who followed that template of economic freedom also found prosperity.

 When vile men slaughtered the innocent on 9/11 in the name of Islam America & American's showed the tolerance of liberty: how many countries would see their people react so well? We mourned in Ireland, 3/4 of the first responders that died were Irish or of Irish descent. What is less well known is that the attacks left 30 Muslim children orphaned. America's strength from her founding principles was her ability to bind people from all faiths & countries as one free people. Osama Bin laden could kill civilians & knock the towers but he could not change that & the Armageddon of Islam versus the West was a creature of his perverted mind.

This is not to say that America was perfect, slavery darkens the past but the nation paid in blood, nor that those freedoms that made America great & rich are not being now radically undermined, but it is worth reminding ourselves of why & how the United States inspires.

In kleptocracies in North Africa, countries where business cannot be done without bribing some government official, where the army picks off the best business opportunities & the presidential family amasses billions that radical message of liberty is inspiring again. 

It is not Islamacists nor some terrorist factions that are behind the Arab Spring. That season is the child of ordinary freedom loving men & women, men created equal with us in their desire to live free,decent lives. They are inspired, not by Che Guevara or Lenin but by Steve Jobs & Larry Page. This is a capitalist revolution, much more Tea Party than Occupy Wall St.  

They may yet be betrayed as the partially have been in Egypt with the army retaining control. They may yet fail, as in Syria where the price of their failure will be slaughter, barbaric torture & even worse repression. As I write 100,000 civilians in Homs are cold, hungry & being slaughtered by Russian artillery. Sadly Israel, the one country that could stop the slaughter of Homs cannot intervene.

Powerful elites & kleptocrats do not give up their privileges easily & even if the protesters do succeed with free elections, the best organised & funded political parties in all these countries will be the Muslim brotherhood or its equivalent. That is a call to all free nations' civil society, not an excuse to repress.

I have seen it argued that America should have helped crush the movement in Egypt, for Israel's sake. That would have been a terrible betrayal of the founders, of the very idea of nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. If Israel can only be kept safe by keeping the people of Egypt in slavery then Israel  will never be safe. America has always been a friend to freedom: that policy has made the world a freer, safer place and made every free nation America's ally. Repression not only would betray Americas most profound ideals but would store up hatred & resentment for centuries.  

I have talked to men and women involved in the struggle to own themselves as free people in countries not run to enrich an elite. They want the right to work, open businesses & get on with their lives. For this, like the men of Valley Forge, they are willing to die. Many already have. Does it matter that they are Muslim? That they follow a different faith than I? 

When the riots in the British cities were at there height last summer 21 year old Muslim,, Haroon Jahan was one of three men murdered. Hours after holding his son as he died on the street his father Tariq Jahan was appealing for calm, for no further deaths or revenge attacks. On the worst night of his life Tariq's faith inspired him to save other families the grief he was enduring.  He succeeded & prevented a certain race riot breaking out in Birmingham.

As in Scott Fitzgerald said, the fundamental decencies of life are unequally divided. Just as the creeps from Westboro find justification in the Bible for picketing the funerals of fallen heroes, bad men will find justification for terror in the Koran. It may even be there but the men & women that that protest & hope for a better future are not those men. It would be Osama Bin-laden's greatest victory & a posthumous revenge if he succeeded blinding us to that.

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