JEDDAH – The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt provide examples of largely peaceful transitions of power after decades of unflinching authoritarian rule. Yet change in these and other Arab countries caught the world by surprise.
Talk of an “Arab Spring” has dominated Western media and political debate for months now. Many Muslims living in the West are also watching events in the region closely, hoping that their co-religionists will soon enjoy greater rights, freedoms, and protections under the rule of law, much as they have done for many decades.
But there is no guarantee that such transitions will have peaceful outcomes. Indeed, the current situation in Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen is extremely worrying, and finding workable political solutions in these countries will challenge not only the Muslim world, but also the West and the entire international community.
It would also be wrong, however, to define the relationship between the Islamic world and the West solely in light of today’s Arab mass movements. There is another aspect to the relationship: Islam in the West – that is, issues concerning Muslims living within Western societies, particularly Europe.