diumenge, de març 27, 2011

La verdad es que está retebonita

Y los orientalistas se rescan sus torpes cabezotas...



Revolutions: What went wrong in the west?

The lack of an Islamic takeover in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt has forced scholars and academics to rework their theories and acknowledge their deep-seated stereotypes on which they found their analyses [GETTY]

Many have been watching the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya with astonishment, not just because they seem to be coming out of the blue, but also because they have been amazingly civil, peaceful, unpretentious, and transformative.

There are still several other revolutions now in the making the closest one to the finish line seems to be the Libyan uprising.

The credit, of course, goes to the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and to whoever might ultimately follow; who knows who will be the next?

If we would like to define this moment and describe the stage at which the revolutions stand, there is nothing better than the proverb attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, as preserved in the traditional pious Muslim consciousness: the time for the greater struggle of building self has come.

Having succeeded in the lesser struggle of overthrowing the dictators, the revolutionaries face now the difficult task of keeping the momentum alive after reaching the peak.

It is easy to forget the reasons why these revolutions happened in the first place. It is ultimately up to the people of the region to decide the future direction of this transformation, but one must not forget that winning a battle does not guarantee winning final victory in the overall struggle.

C'est la vie

As we have seen since the French rose up against King Louis XVI in 1789, revolutions can go disappointingly awry.

Rest assured, as we speak there are many working behind the scenes just to reach that goal. One needs not be an expert to guess that horse-trading among domestic and international actors is well underway in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya.

The choice for the revolutionaries, their allies, and supporters is clear but fraught with peril: the revolutionary forces can change everything only to find that everything stays the same, like what eventually happened in Iran after the revolution of 1979, or they can start a Promethean struggle for the betterment of their societies piece by piece as part of a struggle for freedom, peace, social justice, and dignity, hand-in-hand with Les damnés de la terre.

Analysts in North America and Europe did not expect revolutions in the region, and those who did, did not expect them to come from these seemingly irrelevant and unlikely actors and to be this widespread and peaceful.

This blanket statement covers both the longstanding members of the media and academia. My question is simple: Why?

Why were the antennas of the media and academia unable to perceive that an earthquake of this magnitude was coming?

It is not that they were innocent of predicting things. Was it because social media had not been tested as a means for revolution and the pundits and analysts were not yet prepared to assess the impact of social media?

This was not the case. For everyone knows that a large part of the success of Obama's election campaign was due to its effective use of internet media to mobilise the Democratic base and the independents.

So, one cannot explain away the failure of being caught off guard via inexperience in social media's transformative power.

Furthermore, let's not jump to the conclusion about social media as the reason for or the facilitator of the revolutions.


The role of social media in the revolutions seems to be inflated more than it can bear.

Let's not forget that there was the Tahrir Square as a physical public space where people gathered and demonstrated.

True that social media facilitated the dissemination of information faster and better and therefore succeeded in bringing people together to organise collective action. As a facilitator it did a superb job.

However, still it did not have the means to inspire, give sense of how wide spread the uprisings were, and articulate and validate whether the protests were going to bring any result. This Al Jazeera did.

The role of social media in Tunisian and, especially, Egyptian uprisings was important, but as the Libyan uprising shows clearly, the role of Al Jazeera has been central and critical.

As a news outlet, Al Jazeera had already become the voice of the disaffected even before they protested. During the revolutions, it sympathised with the people, reported events from their perspectives, inspired them to seek better lives, encouraged them to push forward, and made them feel they had agency and power.

So hiding behind the sudden rise and novelty of social media to explain the failure to see this tectonic change is not convincing.

One needs to recognise where media and academia had preferred to focus their attention as a contributor to this failure.

The bogeymen of 9/11

Let's be honest. The spirit of the time marked by 9/11 revolved around the bogeymen of "Islamic fundamentalism" and "Osama bin Laden".

Knowledge production in Europe and North America has developed primarily in the context post-9/11 propaganda tsunami created by the Islamophobic ranting of far-right extremists, whose opinions no longer even merit a serious response.

So, many sensible analysts found it expedient to combat the anti-Muslim/Arab propaganda with debunking propaganda's arguments.

They all shuffled from class to class, campus to campus, temple to temple, and NGO to NGO to explain Islam and Muslims.

Yet, even in the back of the most-respected pundits' and academics' heads the fear was that these bogeymen might have been much more real and widespread in the "Muslim world" than they were willing to admit

This goes for those who strove to forge a common ground between Muslims, Arabs and the West in a spirit of objectivity, empathy, sympathy, experience, and scholarly honesty, and sought to strengthen the cross-cultural dialogue and understanding by debriefing the European and North American audiences after generations of misinformation.

Despite their best intentions, they all ended up being wrong about a lot of things in the process.

Even the progressive journalist Robert Fisk's initial reaction to the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings was disappointingly paradigmatic.

Let's dialogue, Muslim. I want to understand you!

As far as I can see, the recent scholarly and learned discourse on Middle Eastern societies has been shaped by two sympathetic narratives intended to inform the public and battle the far right-wingers' bigotry.

The first narrative had to do with the observed. The explanation went that Islam was not an inherently violent religion; fundamentalism and terrorism were marginal historically, demographically, intellectually, and politically.

The majority of Muslims belonged to more peaceful Muslim movements and currents of thought and despised bin Laden's type of extremism.

The second was about the observer and went along these lines: The "Westerners" ought to develop and nourish cultural and religious dialogue and understanding so that we overcome the temptation to think that all people were like "us".

Muslims had the right to be different and think differently. Secularism might not be a universally applicable experience, certainly not in Muslim societies.

So the lesson was that the "Westerners" had to learn, understand, and accept Muslims and Arabs as they are without imposing their "Western" categories on them.


But somewhere in all of this there was a fatal flaw: the good-hearted, progressive, pro-peace activists, pundits, and academics still followed the trend du jour analyses firmly within the framework of "Muslim religiosity" and "cultural understanding".

They affirmed rather than denied the basic premise of the conventional wisdom that when it came to Muslims and Arabs, all was about "religion".

Was it because the ubiquitous and perhaps unconscious thinking that Muslims and Arabs were different? I do not know.

But the fact is that almost no one had envisioned any real alternative to those dictators except the various shades of "fundamentalism" and the nebulous category of "Islamist movements".

Mubarak and Gaddafi's overworked canards about "fundamentalism" was not simply their own, it was also that of much of our political leadership, media pundits, and scholars wittingly or unwittingly.

Therefore, the discourse about Islam as a construct in the progressive media and academia was, by and large, similar to Marie Antoinette's oft-quoted but always mis-attributed, "qu'ils mangent de la brioche".

Good-hearted true, but it showed no understanding and solved no problems.

Inconvenient facts and the failure of the paradigm

Fortunately, a beautiful theory is being spoiled by an inconvenient fact.

The revolutions are forcing all of us to confront the nature of our own thinking. Pundits and many academics found that they had not only miscalculated the real dynamics of these societies, but also knowingly (or more disturbing, unknowingly) indulged deep-seated stereotypes as foundations for analyses, which come across as shameful reminders of the caricature we describe as "Muslim" or "Arab" society.

The inconvenient, but certainly long due and welcome, truth is that the uprisings made us see that labour organisations, students, women, professional groups, in a word the civil society, provided the shock troops for the revolutions.

Looking back at the history of the last century or so, it is hard to imagine how we missed to see these dynamic groups, which have been an integral part of political reforms in the region since the late nineteenth century. They suddenly fell below our radars in the post 9/11 world.

The fact that various components of the civil society staged the revolutions has been a matter of grief for some. Had "Islamic fundamentalism", as a scholarly as well as media construct, played a major role in these revolutions, they would have affirmed the forecast, fit the existing paradigm, and therefore validated the traditional analyses.

However, the paradigm utterly failed. Even the Islamist movements jumped on the band wagon of the popular uprisings (and belatedly at that) and came across as willing to negotiate with the other actors and embrace a pluralistic society.

In addition, the revolutions are deflating the ultimately hollow concepts of "religious dialogue" and "cultural understanding" as a framework for understanding "Muslims" and "Arabs" with the same speed that a needle would deflate a balloon.

That is a good thing both concepts helped only highlight and emphasise Arab and Muslim exceptionalism.

They promoted mediocre and irrelevant groups with essentialist views of "Islam" and "Muslims" as partners in such undertakings at the expense of engaging more relevant actors in Middle Eastern societies.

In a sense, this has been a project to create a prophecy that would ultimately fulfil itself and affirm our pre-conceived ideas about "Muslims".

Thanks to the revolutions, we now have been forced to rethink whether the categories "Muslim" and "Arab" have any meaning at all.

It is time to approach three hundred million Arabic speaking people and more than one billion people professing Islam as their faith in their own ways not as "Muslims" but as an integral part of human society within the context of particular social experiences, needs, aspirations, worries, and grievances, which are as real, complex, and the same as that of the most other peoples around the world.

It might indeed prove disorienting for the media and academia to see Muslims as individuals from various walks of life (women, students, workers, and professionals) and as members of diverse and competing social classes, who can raise their voices demanding jobs, better wages, freedom, participation, and independence.

But those who still prefer to see nothing other than chants of religious slogans may do so on their own peril as the events of the recent revolutions are changing the way we see the region once and for all.

It is called ezber bozmak in Turkish – breaking the routine. Indeed, revolutions are teaching us a lesson, or so one would hope.

Dr. Hayrettin Yücesoy is an Associate Professor of History at Saint Louis University and author of Messianic Beliefs and Imperial Politics in Medieval Islam (Columbia: South Carolina University Press, 2009) and Tatawwur al-Fikr al-Siyasi inda Ahl al-Sunna (Amman: Dar al-Bashir, 1993).

dissabte, de març 19, 2011



Scholars Sing the Praises of Eurovision

Kitschy Song Contest Wows Academia; 'Rampant Snobbism'

Scholars increasingly see Waterloo as a pivotal event for Europe. The song, that is, not the battle.

The Eurovision Song Contest is one of the biggest televised events in the world. So what if it's lowbrow? Each year, countries from across Europe select musical acts to represent them and battle it out on live TV. WSJ's Dan Michaels reports.

ABBA's breakout hit grabbed global attention when the Swedish quartet won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. The televised competition has also given the world Olivia Newton-John, Julio Iglesias, Céline Dion and the song "Volare."

Each May, about 40 countries from Iceland to Azerbaijan select bands to represent them in the battle, which first aired in 1956. More than 125 million people now watch it live and can vote by phone for their favorite act.

Tastemakers cringe. The contest is routinely savaged as being everything from a lowbrow hash of unoriginal pop to total camp. The winner in 1998 was an Israeli transsexual named Dana International with a song called "Diva." In 2006 the contest was won by Lordi, a Finnish heavy-metal band whose members dress as monsters, singing "Hard Rock Hallelujah." Ireland's 2008 entry was a sock-puppet turkey.

Eurovision Winners

Associated Press

ABBA stood with their producer and conductor after winning in Brighton, England. From left are producer Stig Andersson, Benny Andersson, Annifrid Lyngstad, conductor Sven-Olof Walldoff, Agnetha Faltskog and Bjorn Ulvaeus.

See winners of the Eurovision Song Contest and hear clips from their songs.

Eurovision Videos

But 125 million Eurovision fans can't be wrong, argue a new band of academics. Instead of focusing on musical merits, they examine issues like "the concept of European community"; victories for "culturally peripheral nations"; and a "pan-European identity" fostered by the contest's ban on voting for one's own country.

"It could be destabilizing to some people that the idea of European culture is satin pantsuits and guys dressed up as monster rockers and screaming fans," says Karen Fricker, a lecturer on drama at the University of London and a prominent Eurovision researcher.

One skeptic is Terry Wogan, who hosted Eurovision programs in Britain over a period of 37 years. "It's a song contest," he told members of the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the event, in 2009. It's "not about asserting your place in the [European] Community."

Officials at the EBU, an association of national broadcasters, are flattered by the spotlight. "We were surprised to find there was such a large group of people working on scientific research about the Eurovision Song Contest," says EBU spokesman Sietse Bakker.



Over recent years, dozens of scholars as far afield as Georgetown University and New York University's Abu Dhabi campus have begun analyzing Eurovision. They hold symposia and write in academic publications ranging from the European Journal of Political Economy to the Journal of Queer Studies in Finland.

To link these Eurovisionaries, Ms. Fricker, an American, and Milija Gluhovic, a professor of theater at Britain's University of Warwick, in 2009 set up the Eurovision Research Network. Its website lists nearly 90 members.

During last year's Eurovision contest in Norway, the group conducted a daylong seminar at the University of Oslo titled "Setting the Agenda for Eurovision Studies."

One presentation was "National Differences at the Eurovision Song Contest: The Seven Essential & Interconnected 'Dimensions of Meaning.'" Another offered case studies of entries from former East Bloc countries, where the contest is widely considered a sign of integration with Western Europe.

Prof. Gluhovic and Ms. Fricker in July were granted funding of more than $50,000 by the British government for a series of conferences this year, under the theme "Eurovision and the 'New' Europe."

The first workshop, "European Margins and Multiple Modernities," was held Feb. 18 near London. It examined "the binary of barbarian East/civilized West in current European public life," a blurb said.

The second workshop, dubbed "Queering Europe," will focus on gender issues and links between Eurovision and the gay community, in which the contest is extremely popular.

Eurovision was conceived in 1955 as a way to link old rivals using new technology. EBU representatives from 23 Western European countries meeting in Monaco agreed to televise a live international talent show—an ambitious goal at the time. The first contest, staged in Lugano, Switzerland, drew entrants from just seven nations.

Dutch musicologist and cultural historian Lutgard Mutsaers watched it as a three-year-old and says she has seen every Eurovision since. But as a lecturer on popular music at Utrecht University in the 1990s, she kept silent about her fascination. "It would have been professional death to say I was interested in it," Ms. Mutsaers says. "Snobbism is rampant in Continental European music studies."

One of the first pieces of academic work on Eurovision was Swedish musicology professor Alf Björnberg's doctoral thesis from 1987, which analyzed his country's song selection. Despite Sweden's liberal culture, "It was regarded as rather a curious and lowbrow thing to do," he recalls. After he had done some further research, his work on the subject languished for nearly 15 years.

A decade ago, two American academics revived the field. Ivan Raykoff, an assistant professor of the arts at the New School in New York, and Robert Tobin, now a professor of foreign languages and cultures at Clark University, in Worcester, Mass., were both intrigued by Dana International's victory. Although Eurovision has never been broadcast in the U.S., the two wrote papers on it and discussed it at international conferences. Marking the contest's 50th anniversary, they posted a call for academic research on the Internet.

"We got a flood of papers," recalls Prof. Raykoff. The resulting volume, "A Song for Europe," published in 2007, is billed as "the first interdisciplinary academic study" of Eurovision.

Contributors included Ms. Mutsaers, who wrote about how the Dutch broke racial barriers with Eurovision's first nonwhite entrant in 1964, and Prof. Björnberg, on performers opting to assert their ethnicities and shun Europop. Few submissions came from Western European countries, where Eurovision began and is now scorned by intellectuals. Only one French scholar offered a paper, "and I didn't really understand what he was saying," recalls Prof. Raykoff.

Many pitches came from academics raised in the Soviet Bloc. Prof. Tobin calls the contest "a barometer of the boundaries of Europe" because it's more inclusive than the EU or NATO. "Even people in Belarus can say they're part of something European," he says.

Despite researchers' intense analysis, most say they still appreciate the spectacle's campiness. "You have to have a good sense of humor and admit there is a level at which it's funny," says Prof. Tobin.

Write to Daniel Michaels at daniel.michaels@wsj.com

Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Creo que estoy de acuerdo


19 marzo, 2011 - Lluís Bassets

No es una guerra, todavía, pero es justa

No es en propiedad una guerra pero es justa. La acción militar decidida hoy en París a partir de la resolución 1973 del Consejo de Seguridad cumple con todas las condiciones exigidas para la guerra justa o llamada también ‘ius ad bellum’ (derecho a hacer la guerra). Es justa la causa: se trata de proteger a la población libia y de impedir que Gadafi termine aplastando a sangre y fuego la revuelta contra su dictadura. Hay una autoridad legítima que la ha autorizado, la más legítima de todas las que tenemos a nuestra disposición: el Consejo de Seguridad de Naciones Unidas. La intención o el objetivo que se persigue es el correcto, y viene incluido ya en la causa. También lo es la proporcionalidad de los medios de acción, hasta el punto de que no se desencadena en propiedad una guerra sino una acción de policía o protección aérea. Es el último recurso, puesto que Gadafi ha sido ya conminado a un alto el fuego y a retirar sus tropas a los cuarteles, mientras que el dictador y sus hijos no solo no han cumplido ninguna de las condiciones exigidas, sino que además han intentado engañar a la comunidad internacional declarando un alto el fuego que en ningún momento han aplicado. Finalmente, tiene el propósito obvio de alcanzar la paz y abrir el camino a la plena soberanía de los libios para que se doten del Gobierno que consideren conveniente.

Siendo una acción militar de gran complejidad y amplitud, no es una guerra, cuestión que merece algo más de explicación. Tiene límites: en sus objetivos y en los instrumentos de acción, y en una guerra, en cambio, no hay límites. En sus objetivos: sirve para proteger a la población civil. En sus medios: sólo tiene autorización para impedir el sobrevuelo de la aviación de Gadafi y para impedir el ataque también terrestre contra la población civil, pero no puede poner tropas terrestres sobre territorio libio. Estamos así ante una vasta acción de policía internacional, enérgica y dura, para la protección de la población de un país que se halla en una situación de máxima vulnerabilidad, porque está siendo atacada desde el propio poder en plaza. Los ciudadanos de este país son quienes deben derrocar y sustituir al tirano, pero dada la desproporción de fuerzas, es la comunidad internacional la que debe evitar el baño de sangre y ayudarles en su tarea. Entre los objetivos de la acción se cuenta mantener la integridad territorial de Libia y la soberanía nacional, ahora secuestrada por Gadafi.

Soberano es el Estado que sirve para proteger a su población. El gobierno que no protege a sus ciudadanos y que por el contrario se convierte en su principal enemigo no merece seguir gobernando. De ahí lo adecuado de la respuesta internacional. Es una hipocresía extrema escudarse en la condenable represión saudí en Bahrein para devaluar la resolución de Naciones Unidas. Lo ha hecho el jeque Nasrallah, líder de Hezbola, en Líbano, pero lo hacen también otras voces desde la derecha más reaccionaria, que apuesta por mantener el ‘status quo’ en Oriente Próximo y tiene los máximos recelos ante el despertar democrático de los árabes. Es el caso de la Liga Norte en Italia o del Frente Nacional en Francia, dos de las fuerzas que han rechazado la resolución de NNUU.

Ni la resolución ni la acción militar son insignificantes. Llegan tarde, pero no llegan demasiado tarde. Llegan a tiempo para evitar lo peor y a tiempo para dar vida de nuevo a la revuelta contra Gadafi y abrir el camino hacia la transición. Con estos mimbres el margen de acción es amplísimo. Sobre todo si sigue contando y manteniendo el consenso y el apoyo de la población libia y de la mayoría de los países árabes. La mayor baza de un dispositivo como el que se está organizando son los ataques a las fuerzas militares que se desplacen entre ciudades o apoyando a las fuerza rebeldes que se desplacen también de una ciudad a otra: el primer golpe aéreo contra cuatro blindados de Gadafi va en esta dirección. Militarmente a Gadafi solo le queda la posibilidad de atrincherarse en Tripoli para negociar la rendición y su salida. Sostener a sus tropas mercenarias sobre la extensa geografía libia, con el desequilibrio de fuerzas que tiene en el aire y en el mar, es una tarea imposible que le conducirá a la derrota rápidamente y a quedarse sin recursos para la defensa final.

Gadafi se halla cercado. Tiene enfrente a toda la comunidad internacional incluidos los países árabes en transición, Túnez y Egipto, pero también a los que quieren evitar nuevas revoluciones. La vía reformista, que permita el mantenimiento de los regímenes en plaza actualmente, pasa por eliminar al tirano libio. Los déspotas árabes que queden le deberían estar agradecidos, porque han ganado tiempo para reprimir a sus revoltosos y encauzar las energías revolucionarias. No cabe pensar, en cambio, en un ataque directo a Gadafi, inicialmente al menos, aunque según como evolucionen las cosas puede haber una escalada en los objetivos militares: no es una guerra en propiedad pero no puede descartarse que se convierta en una guerra abierta. Para proteger a la población civil nada mejor que liquidar al dictador. Pero no se puede hacer poniendo en riesgo precisamente a la población civil. Los bombardeos indiscriminados o los ataques a fuerza de Gadafi emboscadas en las ciudades deberán quedar tajantemente excluidos.

La acción emprendida a partir de la resolución 1973 es muy peculiar. Es tan legítima como la primera guerra del golfo o la invasión de Afganistán. Es tan moral como la guerra contra Serbia por Kosovo. Tiene incluso algo en común con la guerra de Bush en Irak: se trata de una coalición de voluntarios, con una muy notable característica, que no la dirige Estados Unidos sino Francia. La votación el jueves por la noche en el Consejo de Seguridad demuestra, de otra parte, un alto grado de consenso internacional. La abstención de China y Rusia, dos países con derecho a veto, es un voto condescendiente. La abstención de Alemania es, sobre todo, un problema para Alemania y para la Unión Europea, pero desde el punto de vista práctico también sirve: Merkel pone a disposición sus aviones-radar Awacs para actuar en Afganistán y libera así a los Awacs estadounidenses, que podrán colaborar en el cerrojo sobre Gadafi. Su participación en la reunión de París demuestra su compromiso político, aunque no militar, con el derrocamiento del dictador.

Estamos de nuevo ante un giro inesperado en la dinámica de las relaciones internacionales. Esta vez es consecuencia de la sorpresa árabe, una auténtica novedad histórica, de las que hace época, trastoca liderazgos y obliga a cambiar el paso a todos. Ban Ki-moon ya no es el peor secretario de Naciones Unidas de la historia. Sarkozy se está salvando. Los déspotas árabes se palpan la ropa y se convierten al reformismo. China y Rusia se apartan amablemente. No sabemos qué es Alemania. Israel se halla perpleja y asombrada: no es el ombligo del mundo y ni siquiera lo es de Oriente Próximo. Obama no actúa como el líder del planeta. Todos estos hechos constituyen la promesa de que vamos a seguir viendo cosas extraordinarias en los próximos tiempos.

Muy bueno sobre la mujer árabe y las revoluciones


Arab women: the powers that be


Saida Sadouni does not conform to the typical image of an Arab revolutionary. But this 77-year-old camped out in the bitter Tunisian cold for more than two weeks in front of the prime minister's headquarters, leading the historic Kasbah picket that succeeded in forcing Mohamed Ghannouchi's interim government out of office.

"I have resisted French occupation. I have resisted the dictatorships of Bourguiba and Ben Ali. I will not rest until our revolution meets its goals," she told the thousands of fellow protesters who joined her. She is today widely hailed as the mother of Tunisia's revolution, a living record of her country's modern history and its struggle for emancipation.

Sadouni is one of many Arab women from older generations who have joined the revolutions in their countries after decades of political activism. But most women activists today tend to be in their 20s and 30s, highly politicised yet unaffiliated to any organised parties -- young women such as Asma Mahfoudh, of Egypt's April 6 movement. This 26-year-old's interests had until recently been no different from those of any woman of her age. While surfing the net in 2008 she stumbled on calls for a general strike to demand an end to government corruption.

This initial encounter with protest "marked the beginning of a new chapter" in her life, as she puts it. Ever since, she has been an avid campaigner for change, joining a struggle that culminated in the ousting of Hosni Mubarak.

Even in ultraconservative Yemen demonstrations against the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh have been led by a charismatic young woman, Tawakul Karman. She has campaigned since 2007 to demand political reform. When she was arrested in January, the authorities were forced to release her following a wave of angry protests in Sana'a. What has inspired these women and thrust them into the heart of protest is the yearning for change and political freedom that is sweeping across the region.

The Arab revolutions are not only shaking the structure of despotism to the core, they are shattering many decades-long myths. Foremost among these is the perception of the Arab woman as powerless and enslaved, forced into a cage of silence and invisibility by her jailor society. That is not the type of woman that has emerged out of Tunisia and Egypt in the last few weeks.


Not only did women participate in the protest movements raging in those countries, they have also assumed leadership roles there. The virtual and real battlefields have been incubators of female leadership. Arab women have been proving themselves through continual action on the ground, rather than in endless polemics behind closed doors.

These revolutions have been characterised by the open politics of the street, through which leaders have been tested, matured and approved. The movements have grown organically from the bottom, unrestricted by party hierarchy, age or outdated gender roles. The open parliaments of Kasbah and Tahrir Square -- where people met, communicated and expressed their political views freely -- brought everyone closer together, promoting collective identity over divisions of class, ideology, gender, religion and sect.

Another stereotype being dismantled is the association of the Islamic headscarf with passivity, submissiveness and segregation. Surprising as this may be, many Arab women activists choose to wear the hijab. Yet they are no less confident, vocal or charismatic than their unveiled sisters.

This new model of home-grown women leaders represents a challenge to two narratives. The first of these, which is dominant in conservative Muslim circles, sentences women to a life of childbearing and rearing, lived out in the narrow confines of their homes at the mercy of fathers, brothers and husbands. It revolves around notions of sexual purity and family honour, and appeals to tradition and reductionist interpretations of religion for justification.

The other is espoused by Euro-American neoliberals, who view Arab and Muslim women through the narrow prism of the Taliban model: miserable objects of pity in need of their benevolent intervention -- intellectual, political, even military -- for deliverance from the dark cage of veiling to a promised garden of enlightenment and progress.

Arab women are rebelling against both narratives. They refuse to be treated with contempt, kept in isolation, or be taken by the hand, like a child, and led on the road to emancipation. They are taking charge of their own destinies, determined to liberate themselves as they liberate their societies from dictatorship. The emancipation they are shaping with their own hands is an authentic one defined by their own needs, choices and priorities.

There is, and will be, resistance to this process of emancipation, as recent attacks on female protesters at Tahrir Square indicate. But the dynamic unleashed by the revolution is irreversible. Those who have led the struggle to dismantle the old regimes will no doubt remain at the forefront in rebuilding the new order on its ruins. Tahrir and Kasbah Square are now embedded in the psyches of Arab women and have given voice to their long-silenced yearning for liberation. -- Guardian News & Media 2011

Soumaya Ghannoushi is a researcher at the School of Oriental and African Studies, specialising in North Africa