As Europe watches Arab unrest, fears over oil, migration shade its response
Some have criticized Europe for responding slowly to the upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt, though the EU was quick to condemn Libya's violence.
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In a recent TV debate involving France's position in the Arab uprisings, Jean-François Copé, who is head of the ruling party in France and chiefly responsible for promoting its anti-burqa law, faced off against Tariq Ramadan, a leading European scholar of Islam and grandson the Muslim Brotherhood's founder. The debate quickly turned into a small argument.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Copé: "Isn't it written in the founding charter of the Muslim Brothers: 'The Koran is our constitution, Jihad is our way, martyrdom is our hope?' "
Mr. Ramadan: "It is a slogan.… Is it not said in the French national anthem 'let impure blood be spilled in our furrows?' Did you reduce France to that? You cannot reduce an organization to a slogan."
"Those who demonstrated in Egypt are precisely those demonstrating in Iran against [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad," wrote Olivier Roy of the European University of Florence in "The Post-Islamic Revolution," a recent essay that quickly made the rounds here. "They might be believers, but they separate that from their political demands: In this sense the movement is 'secular,' because it separates religion from politics."
Mr. Roy argues that while Europe is seeing Arab uprisings through the lens of Islamism, colored by 1979 Iran, pluralistic politics in Egypt will likely sap the Islamists' position, not reinforce it. "Youngsters know that Islamist regimes have become dictatorships; they are neither fascinated by Iran nor by Saudi Arabia."
Cameron in Kuwait took a different European view on the uprisings, saying that “Some would claim that Arabs or Muslims can’t do democracy, the so-called Arab exception. For me that is a prejudice that borders on racism.”
While Europe has largely been on the sidelines in the Arab uprising – or taken cues from the White House – it is beginning to act. A significant nudge came when 5,500 Tunisian immigrants arrived last week on Italy's Lampedusa Island in the Mediterranean. The figure is now 6,000.
The European Union has announced $23 million in immediate aid to Tunisia and $350 million by 2013 in addition to monies promised to Egypt by Ms. Ashton today. The EU has also said it will undertake a deeper and more serious effort to support elections, the writing of constitutions, and civil society.