ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Understanding the Politics of Resistance in West Asia

Martyred But Not Tamed: The Politics of Resistance in the Middle East by Ram Narayan Kumar (New Delhi: Sage Publications), 2012; pp xxi + 332, Rs 450.

The politics of violence has so regularly reared its ugly head in the recent history of west Asia that analysts find it hard to project a peaceful future for the region. Even the “Arab Spring” that saw, in quick succession, the ouster of Presidents Ben Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya never quite lived up to its democratic promise and soon morphed into a muddle of political games and military operations. Easy binaries of good fighting evil also do not work for Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq and Syria, where violent clashes, or outright civil war, have added to the instability of an already volatile region.

The messy situation in much of west Asia seems to vindicate experts who have long cautioned against the undesirable consequences of democratic reform for parts of the world where political Islam is on the rise. Amy Chua (2003: 226) is among those who predicted that rapid democratisation of the Arab states would be likely to be “a recipe for extremist politics, dominated by ethnonationalist (if not fundamentalist) parties unified in their hatred of Israel and the west”. However, what is extremism for some represents, for others, a sane and overdue reaction to the imperial designs of western powers and their regional allies.

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