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What if the whole domino set falls? What then? Will a new hopeful Middle East arise from the ashes of its former self or will it end up being the theocratic extremist monster of the world, a title it seems to hold today.
The Middle East has yet to wrestle with issues of separation of church and state in any conclusive manner. Although the debate has been raging on for centuries among Islamic scholars, the current changes taking place in the different countries of the region offer a unique opportunity for the debate to take center stage.
With the recent uprisings suggesting that change is in fact being created from the ground up, the degree of separation between organized religion and the state will be dictated by a newly empowered national audience. In doing so, this debate will be contentious and at times slightly dangerous. However if the Middle East is to ever be expected to fix the fundamental issues that currently plague its various institutions, it must learn to do so on its own. That would entail no course correction interventions by world powers, no matter how difficult it is to fight back the urge.
It would be naive to think that democracy and direct public participation will lead to any single government in the region being composed entirely of liberal, western oriented public servants. Islam is a part of the social fabric of these societies. Like evangelicals in America, religion is the preferred narrative of many in the region. The responsibility of figuring out how to temper both religion and liberalism so that they may coexist will fall to the people of the Middle East and they should knowingly invite this new challenge. After all, it is their history and their future that will be at stake.
The president of the United States can lead the international community in this regard by issuing a public statement promising to leave the Middle East dictate its own future. Such a statement would go a long way in fortifying a sense of confidence and ownership among the people. It would simultaneously help dispel whatever rumors and hyper conspiracy theories to come in a region that has a seemingly over abundance of both. However with the unfortunate intervention in Libya,
How exactly the individual countries in the Middle East will look like in the future is quite frankly impossible to tell with any degree of certainty. However a strong combination of both conservative religion and liberal ideals might be the dominant feature of the region, with each country inching towards one or the other. In either case, both will face numerous and ongoing challenges. Conservatives will have to temper their brands to fit within a framework of democracy, while liberals will have to make liberalism fit and adapt into the larger cultural narrative.