A recognized expert on Islam who is director of the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies says that the Arab Spring – the surge of Islamist influences in nations throughout the Middle East and across North Africa – eventually will implode.
There are several reasons for this, but a primary factor is that Islamic factions will not join together, said Meir Litvak, who is an associate professor at the Department of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University in addition to his other duties.
“We may see a more Islamist Middle East but not a unified Middle East,” he said, “because of the local identities and local agendas of each local Islamist agendas … this is an illusion.”
He explained as the regions become more Islamic, the failings of the system of Islam become apparent.
Litvak spoke at the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy that was held at the Hoover Institute in Washington today.
“Arab spring is a misnomer and has not turned out well,” he said. “Islamists have kidnapped the revolution.”
He noted that the movement so far has been run under the leadership of just one faction: the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that espouses a worldwide caliphate under its control.
Litvak said despite the democratic appearance given by youth mobs supposedly fighting for democracy, the fundamental impetus behind the revolutions has been “a desire to identify with Islamism.”
The root of this desire, according to Litvak, is that, “Islam provides the most authentic identity … because it is rooted in local culture … and it is not an imported ideology like liberalism.”
He said, “Islamism offers a central identity vis a vis threatening Western civilization.”
But there are structural problems that mean the movement won’t be sustained, he said.
“Islamists will fail for two reasons,” he said.
Firstly is because of economics. Litvak explained, “Islam as a religion never dealt with economics except for very vague ideas.”
He said, “Islaminomics is a modern invention.”
This problem, according to Litvak, will lead to enormous economic short falls as Islamist nations attempt to “apply legal solutions to economic problems.”
This means the application of Shariah religious law to economic policies, which are being merged with Marxist principles.
Secondly, despite the rise in Islamist ideology, there will not be a unified Islamic caliphate, he said.
He explained, each national Islamist groups is heavily tied into nationalist identities and national interests. And he cited how if there was going to be a unified caliphate, that there would be a strong lack of cohesion.
“The Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt will want Cairo as the capitol, Hamas will want Jerusalem, the Arabian Peninsula will want Mecca,” he said.
Besides an absence of unity because of regional interests, he said, the new Sunni-Shiite divisions are growing, thereby inhibiting Islamic unity.
In Syria, he said, “The last revolutions have been a Sunni revival … the events in Syria have divided the Middle East along Sunni-Shiite lines.”
He said that difference now prevails even over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He added that Syria stands a great chance “of disintegrating into sectarian enclaves with sectarian cleansing.”
He warned it may even now be “too late” to avoid Syria’s takeover by Islamists.