How the Arab Spring Brought Revolution to Europe

Published November 20th, 2019 - 11:18 GMT
Tahrir Square in July, 2013 /AFP
Tahrir Square in July, 2013 /AFP

The 2011 revolutions that swept across the Arab world brought radical change to Europe’s shores in ways the continent could not have predicted. First, by exporting Islam with the refugee and migrant crisis, the Arab world, without intention, forced Europe to acknowledge its Christian identity. Following this realization, the Arab Spring inspired the same kind of conservative opposition against out-of-touch, bureaucratic elites in Europe.

 

The 2011 Arab revolutions were in large part driven by conservative, Islamist views outside the main liberal cities. The more rural, traditional areas in Muslim society expressed their discontent towards a lack of religious liberties.

​​​​​​​And with increased economic hardship combined with decades-long corruption among the ruling class, the people found a reason to properly protest to express their discontent. As a result of the religious oppression felt among some of the local populace, previously banned extremist groups like Ansa al-Sharia or Hizb ut-Tahrir felt the freedom to openly take to the streets.

The more fundamentalist adherents of Islam felt the secular, nationalist Ba’athist regimes imposed a series of repressive measures prohibiting them from expressing their faith freely. The governments at the time justified these rules on the basis they prevented extremism, but the local population was not satisfied.

And with increased economic hardship combined with decades-long corruption among the ruling class, the people found a reason to properly protest to express their discontent. As a result of the religious oppression felt among some of the local populace, previously banned extremist groups like Ansa al-Sharia or Hizb ut-Tahrir felt the freedom to openly take to the streets.

The Muslim Brotherhood went from being an underground organization to becoming a mainstream party pledging to fight corruption and implementing an Islamist-inspired view on society. The revolution which took place in the liberal cities, and was more secular in nature, was overwhelmed by these conservative forces.

While the Arab revolutions were taking place behind the gates of Europe, the continent was still dormant. Europe was going through an apathetic phase of its own. It had been ruled since the end of the war by similar establishment parties promising little change except some minor GDP growth projections.

While the Arab revolutions were taking place behind the gates of Europe, the continent was still dormant. Europe was going through an apathetic phase of its own.

Yet, the crisis of the Arab Spring brought Europe to an awakening. When the Arab revolutions soon ensued into conflicts, waves of migrants and refugees demanded to be accepted in the neighboring continent to be saved. Europe, to begin with, had no idea of what it was getting itself into it. But forced by the moral standards it has set itself after the tragedies of WW2, it decided to open its gates to the newcomers.

At the time, the industrial parts of Europe were almost dead. Jobs were outsourced to cheaper production abroad, leaving entire towns deserted with their people forgotten. Combined with mass migration, the issue became too much to bear.

The first kind of populist protest came through Brexit. Working-class people from industrial towns were forced to leave their homes to find opportunities in the cities at incredibly competitive rates for low standards of living. In addition, they now had to compete with a new entry of labor from abroad. They also didn’t always get along with the newcomers, who had a very different view of society from their own.

Religious groups like Britain First began marching on the streets demanding their nation’s Christian faith be defended against a rising tide of Muslim immigrants unwilling to assimilate, many coming from those same Arab countries that had taken part in the revolutions.

Large parts of the British population came to the conclusion the system was no longer working for them. The more conservative political parties like UKIP, stressing an end to mass migration, started emerging. Religious groups like Britain First began marching on the streets demanding their nation’s Christian faith be defended against a rising tide of Muslim immigrants unwilling to assimilate, many coming from those same Arab countries that had taken part in the revolutions.

Rennes, western France, Jan. 7, 2015 /AFP

In mainland Europe, previously marginal parties like the League in Italy, Vox in Spain, the AfD in Germany, and National Front in France, went from receiving single digits to double digits if not leading figures in national elections. They decried that Europe was being threatened from Islamic mass immigration the continent was not ready, or willing, to accept.

In mainland Europe, previously marginal parties like the League in Italy, Vox in Spain, the AfD in Germany, and National Front in France, went from receiving single digits to double digits if not leading figures in national elections.

Brussels bureaucrats were blamed for being too remote from the basic needs of ordinary people to understand the chaos that was ensuing. Unlike Britain, mainland Europe was also experiencing high rates of youth unemployment and little to no economic growth. In a similar way to the Arab countries that had previously revolted, the people of Europe had been forgotten by a ruling class who denied their right to a dignified life. 

The migrant and refugee wave in 2014 also made Islam a topic of increased contention, as terrorist acts began to take place across the continent. The years between 2014 and 2016 saw more people killed by Islamist terrorist attacks in Europe than all previous years combined with the highest rate of attack plots each year.

Daesh, or ISIS, was the group which inspired most of the terrorist attacks, and many of its members had entered or re-entered Europe as fake asylum seekers during the migrant crisis. The deadliest attacks of this period involved the November 2015 Paris attacks with 130 people killed, the July 2016 Nice truck attack with 86 people killed, the March 2016 Brussels bombings with 32 people killed, and the May 2017 Manchester Arena bombing with 22 people killed. 

The deadliest attacks of this period involved the November 2015 Paris attacks with 130 people killed, the July 2016 Nice truck attack with 86 people killed, the March 2016 Brussels bombings with 32 people killed, and the May 2017 Manchester Arena bombing with 22 people killed. 

In the midst of the rise in terrorism, European politicians were caught off-guard. The continent was not used to dealing with religious fundamentalism of any kind. It had been ruled by decades of secular liberalism, making it passively tolerant to almost every kind of difference. Europeans were quickly forced to rediscover their identities went beyond simple charters of human rights.

Europe saw a conservative uprising, inadvertently because of, and similar to, the Islamist conservativism that had shaped much of the revolutions in the Arab world. 

The nations of Europe began to develop a sense of pride born out of resentment towards what they perceived to be a foreign menace. Many began to realize their identity was rooted in millennials of traditions, inspired in large part by Christianity. Europe saw a conservative uprising, inadvertently because of, and similar to, the Islamist conservativism that had shaped much of the revolutions in the Arab world. 

 

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Al Bawaba News.


© 2000 - 2019 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

You may also like