Author: Old Paradigms Irrelevant in New Mideast

Says «Things Have Changed» Since Arab Spring

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ROME, JUNE 16, 2011 ( The black-and-white dynamic of good against evil, or East against West, no longer works as a functioning paradigm in the Middle East, says the editor of a compilation of news reports on the Arab world.

Last Friday, Riccardo Cristiano presented «Caos arabo: Inchieste e dissenso in Medio Oriente» (The Arab Chaos, Investigation and Dissension in the Middle East) at the Rome headquarters of the Sant’Egidio Community. He said that the articles he translated from Arabic to Italian, written before the outbreak of the Arab Spring, show that «things have changed.»

He noted that the «scheme of ‘good against evil'» is no longer a functioning dynamic, and that «one cannot continue to say that the rights of Palestinians are defended, and then deny the rights of the Arabs.»

The author explained that the Arab Spring, the name given to a series of anti-regime protests that began to break out in the region in late 2010, is a «a movement of young people,» and that «today’s young people are demanding their rights.»

Cristiano also spoke about discrimination against Christians, but pointed out that «all minorities are discriminated against» in the Middle East.

Alberto Bobbio, the editor-in-chief of the Italian-language magazine Famiglia Cristiana, said that the compilation of articles «brings together several reflections by our Arab colleagues, where one’s life is at risk.»

«Suffice it to say that the book contains a list of the journalists who have been murdered,» he added.

Gabriele Checchia, the former Italian ambassador to Lebanon, said that the book demonstrates that there is a wager on this new vision of the Arab world, a «wager that does not have a sure result.»

He proposed Lebanon as a possible model for the Arab world, which must take into account the complexity of the region. «It is the expression of a tolerant, open Arab world, though also with violent episodes,» the diplomat said.

Dominican Father Paolo Garuti described the book as «a video camera inside a pressure cooker before it explodes.»

The priest noted that the youth in the Arab world no longer consider the West, or even Israel, as external enemies. He attributed this to the new «model of communication that the world proposes, and in particular the Internet,» and that new media «has very much changed the mentality of the youth.»

According to Father Garuti, «it will be difficult to deceive this generation with Islamic nationalism.»

Fighting for the future

Mario Giro, the director of international relations of Sant’Egidio, said that «young people are no longer afraid; they want their future. It isn’t a violent political plot, and that is why slogans against the United States, the West or Israel haven’t been heard.»

«What type of democracy will be born? Surely not our own,» answered Giro. He added that «the process will not go backward, even if there are retreats and unexpected after-effects.»

Giro explained that in the Arab world, 70% of the population is under 30 years old: «Hence, it is about countries without a determinism with regard to the future.»

Vatican reporter for the Italian newspaper Il Riformista, Francesco Peloso, praised the Vatican for its prudent position with regard to the war in Libya and the Arab Spring, and suggested that there has been a general lack of analysis and understanding of the complexity of the events.

Peloso called «The Arab Chaos» a book that «somewhat de-Islamizes our point of view.»

He explained that the «vision of this last decade has been vitiated by an ideological paradigm» that is to a large extent colored by «human rights violations and bloodshed.»

Behind the «chaos,» Peloso said, «a real world exists … where an unpredictable society emerges.»

The book, he added, «challenges those who don’t know which side to be on.»

«Lately,» he concluded, «something has been changing thanks to the vision of some local bishops who are saying ‘enough’ to the corrupt regimes and political leaders in power. It is a process that is still under way.»

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