News

Maajid Nawaz

In the short to middle-term we’re going to experience chaos in the Middle East. The questions we need to ask ourselves s how we use the generation gap as a force for change. The revolutions happened because there were a whole generation of people in these countries whose expectation were not being met.

But how can we stop the revolution being hijacked? What causes civil war? What causes stability? What causes development?

Civil wars happen when there are competing vision of the social contract that people are willing to fight for. Stability happens when one vision becomes dominant – but unless there’s a consensus, there’s no development. You have a dictatorship. What binds a society is a frameworks of ideas that sits above politics – a consensus on politics in unhealthy – that’s the one party state. Developing countries need to have vibrant politics.

IN the 50s and 60s there was a consensus emerging around Arab socialism. In the 80s and 90s a new civilisational consensus emerged – islamism. These uprisings gave us hope for a new consensus: democracy. The young people were democrats. They were a loose consensus to remove a dictator – but they didn’t agree on the vision of the future.

We need to roll our sleeves up. The islamacists had a social movement. Ideas + narrative + symbols + leaders = social movements. Al Queada has all of those. The revolutionaries have not had this.

He spent 13 years as a leader of an extremist organisation. He was sentenced to five year in Egypt – but Amnesty took up his cause. His was not a terrorist organisation, just an extremist one. Amnesty’s intervention opened his mind to human rights. He was able to discuss these issues with a huge range of political prisoners from islamacists to gays. His thinking matured. And when he left prison, he resigned from his organisation, and started building  mirror to undo its work. His organisation worked for democratic culture. Elections are not the same as a democratic culture – you need freedom of thought and speech, of association, to join any political party… The elections arise out of the culture. No-one was preaching these values. Khudi was what they created – Pakistan’s movement for radical democracy.

Bringing about a democratic civilisational consensus take commitment and hard work. Why pick it? The only system that he believes absorbs and caters for those competing social contract factions, different generations and lasts beyond one period is democracy. if that vision is to be achieved – we have to be as prepared to fight as hard as those who oppose them.