Green Shoots From The Arab Spring

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01Heart And Soul2012120820121209 (WS)
20121210 (WS)

With the downfall of Hosni Mubarak, political revolution has already happened in Egypt. But is the Arab Spring now encouraging much wider change in the Arab world's biggest country?

In this edition of Heart and Soul, the writer, Christopher de Bellaigue, considers the potential for a new, more questioning attitude among Egyptians in the wake of the popular uprising, and asks if the result could be an increasingly critical approach to social, familial – and even religious – authority.

The programme explores a number of examples - from an apparent new determination to resist paying bribes to public officials, through a greater desire to see active debate rather than passive obedience in the classroom, to the growth of salafists - conservative Muslims who advocate more personal interpretations of Islam’s holy texts, and who reject reliance on the rulings of traditional Koranic scholars.

Though not all these phenomena were unknown before the Arab Spring, the political revolution does seem to have fuelled their growth. Key to many appears to be the disappearance of personal fear – one unmistakable consequence of vanquishing the Mubarak regime. Today, despite often remaining wary of the future, Egyptians are, it seems, fearlessly asserting their own views as never before, without seeking external validation.

Questions, however, remain - if a new, more assertive mentality is indeed emerging, who shares it – and crucially, who does not? And would such an increased personal conviction necessarily result in more pluralism, as is sometimes assumed in the west? Or could it give greater voice to Egypt's innate social and religious conservatism?

(Image: An Egyptian boy poses with a sign saying 'We Shall Over Come' in front of anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square. Credit: AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

TBC

02Heart And Soul2012121520121216 (WS)
20121217 (WS)

With the downfall of Hosni Mubarak, political revolution has already happened in Egypt. But is the Arab Spring now encouraging much wider change in the Arab world’s biggest country?

Many argue that the historic heartlands of Islam are engaged in a chaotic experiment with modernity. Coverage of the Arab Uprisings of the past two years has focused on the political drama; less scrutinised have been the changes in society that are part and parcel of the great experiment.

In the second of two programmes the writer, Christopher de Bellaigue, travels to Tunisia – the first country to experience the Arab Spring two years ago, but whose people now often find themselves divided and disillusioned. Will the new mind-set of free thinking survive the harsh realities of post-revolution?

(Image: A boy holds a Tunisian flag, Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

TBC