The Myth of Arab Spring

I have post my new article “The Myth of Arab Spring and Liberal Democracy” on my page at:

Abstract of the Article:

The term “Arab Spring” was popularized, perhaps invented, by the Western media in early 2011, when the successful uprising against unsavory strongmen like, Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, brought down the dictators. It emboldened similar anti-government protests in some other Arab countries, while a wave of terrorism and bloody offensive from Pakistan to the shores of Mediterranean was ravaging the Muslim lands. It was, basically, a series of anti-government protests, uprisings and rebellions, spread across the Middle East rather than a struggle for the rule of the liberal democracy in the Arab lands. Its purpose, relative success, and outcome remain hotly disputed among foreign observers and world powers, looking to exploit the changing political scenario of the Middle East. But the events in the Middle East went in a less straightforward direction. Egypt and Tunisia entered an uncertain transition period;  Syria, Libya, and Yemen are drawn into a civil conflict, while the wealthy monarchies in the Persian Gulf remain largely unshaken by the events. Use of the term Arab Spring is today viewed as a myth or an inaccurate and simplistic movement that disappeared just as the spring gone without flowering. It has, however, left behind a big question: Is the Arab World going to be revisited by a real “Arab Spring” or is the challenge of “Islamic Khilafat” going to end its prospects of democratic modernity?

For all the manifest corruption, for all the scandal of flaunted riches and abused power, the heart of Islam still beats strongly. Is there a possibility that the Arabs should not emphasize that religion is far above politics, or at least in the beginning stage of a nation’s political order “one serves as an instrument of the other.” The Arabs can find a way to liberal democracy by following what the renowned America poet Walt Whitman reflected about liberal democracy in USA: “For I say at the core of democracy, finally, is the religious element. All the religions, old and new, are there.” The concept of “Twin Tolerations”—the minimal boundaries of freedom of action that must somehow be crafted for political institutions vis-a-vis religious authorities, and for religious individuals and groups vis-a-vis political institutions, intertwining liberal democracy with the belief of the religious oriented masses—can help the political leaders indigenize initially a form of theo-liberal-democracy based on the Islamic concept of  “rights of the people are more venerable than the rights of God.” The real problem with the Arabs and the Muslims in general is that for the believers religion supersedes politics, while the modernists seek liberal democracy free from the shackles of religion. However, there exists a symbiotic relationship between a religious adaptation and the liberal-democratic formation.—— Mirza Ashraf.


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“Lee Smolin And Status Of Modern Physics” Interview by Jose Boswell

Lee Smolin argues that it is not the timeless laws of universe that controls it but the ‘current moment’ that dictates the future moment. A thought provoking interview( F. Sheikh).

Adam’s Opticks: Hi Lee, central to your thesis as outlined in Time Reborn, and in its recent follow-up The Singular Universe (co-authored with Roberto Mangabeira Unger) [5], is a rejection of the “block universe” interpretation of physics in which timeless laws of nature dictate the history of the universe from beginning to end. Instead, you argue, all that exists is “the present moment” (which is one of a flow of moments). As such, the regularities we observe in nature must emerge from the present state of the universe as opposed to following a mysterious set of laws that exist “out there.” If this is true, you also foresee the possibility that regularities in nature may be open to forms of change and evolution.

My first question is this: Does it make sense to claim that “the present moment is all that exists” if one has to qualify that statement by saying that there is also a “flow of moments?” Does the idea of a flow of time not return us to the block universe? Or at the very least to the idea that the present moment represents the frontier of an ever “growing” or “evolving” block as the cosmologist George Ellis might say?

Lee Smolin: Part of our view is that an aspect of moments, or events, is that they are generative of other moments. A moment is not a static thing, it is an aspect of a process (or visa versa) which generates new moments. The activity of time is a process by which present events bring forth or give rise to the next events.

I studied this idea together with Marina Cortes. We developed a mathematical model of causation from a thick present which we called energetic causal sets [6]. Our thought is that each moment or event may be a parent of future events. A present moment is one that has not yet exhausted or spent its capability to parent new events. There is a thick present of such events. Past events were those that exhausted their potential and so are no longer involved in the process of producing new events, they play no further role and therefore there is no reason to regard them as still existing. (So no to Ellis’s growing block universe.)

AO: Can you help me understand what you mean by a “thick present”? I’m confused because if the present moment is “thick” rather than instantaneous, and may contain events, it seems like you’re defining the present moment as a stretch of time, which looks like a contradiction in terms. Similarly, when you say that the activity of time is a process I’m left thinking that events, activities and processes are all already temporal notions, and so to account for time in those terms seems circular.

LS: I can appreciate your confusion but look, think about it this way: the world is complex. What ever it is, it contains many elements in a complicated network of relations. To say what exists is events in the present does not mean it is one thing. The present is not one simple thing, it is the whole world, therefore it contains a vast complexity and plurality. Of what? Of processes, which are dual to events.

AO: One of your main objections to the idea of eternal laws comes in the form of what you diagnose as the “Cosmological Fallacy” in physics. Your argument runs that the regularities we identify in small subsystems of the universe — laboratories mainly! — ought never to be scaled up to apply to the universe as a whole. You point out that in general we gain confidence in scientific hypotheses by running experiments again and again, and define our laws in terms of what stays the same over the course of many repetitions. But this is obviously impossible at a cosmological scale because the universe only happens once.

But what’s wrong with the idea of cautiously extrapolating from the laws we derive in the lab, and treating them as working hypotheses at the cosmological scale? If they fit the facts and find logical coherence with other parts of physics then great… if not, then they’re falsified and we can move on. As an avowed Popperian yourself, are you not committed to the idea that this is how science works?

In addition, wouldn’t the very idea of “laws that evolve and change” make science impossible? How could we ever confirm or falsify a hypothesis if, at the back of our minds, we always had to contend with the possibility that nature might be changing up on us? Don’t we achieve as much by postulating fixed laws and revising them on the basis of evidence as we might by speculating about evolving laws that would be impossible to confirm or falsify?

LS: To be clear: the Cosmological Fallacy is to scale up the methodology or paradigm of explanation, not the regularities.

Nevertheless, there are several problems with extrapolating the laws that govern small subsystems to the universe as a whole. They are discussed in great detail in the books, but in brief:

  1. Those laws require initial conditions. Normally we vary the initial conditions to test hypotheses as to the laws. But in cosmology we must test simultaneously hypotheses as to the laws and hypotheses as to the initial conditions. This weakens the adequacy of both tests, and hence weakens the falsifiability of the theory.
  2. There is no possible explanation for the choice of laws, nor for the initial conditions, within the standard framework (which we call the Newtonian paradigm).

Regarding your questions about falsifiability, one way to address them is to study specific hypotheses outlined in the books. Cosmological Natural Selection, for instance, is a hypothesis about how the laws may have changed which implies falsifiable predictions. Take the time to work out how that example works and you will have the answer to your question.

Another way to reconcile evolving laws with falsifiability is by paying attention to large hierarchies of time scales. The evolution of laws can be slow in present conditions, or only occur during extreme conditions which are infrequent. On much shorter time scales and far from extreme conditions, the laws can be assumed to be unchanging.


“Terrorist Attack in Copenhagen” By F. Sheikh

Another hideous and senseless terrorist attack in Copenhagen took innocent lives. Our sincere sympathies to the family and friends of the victims. We condemn such hideous acts unequivocally.

Unfortunately the knee jerk reaction is going to be as usual to increase the security measures. Unfortunately the problem is not the security measures but many alienated and angry Muslim youths, many of whom have no jobs, are discriminated against at every level in Europe. These are European born youths who are treated as aliens in their own country. More than 50% of the jail population in France is filled with Muslims which are prime target for extreme version of Islam.

Mr. Valls, PM of France, while reflecting on Paris terrorist attack said;

“A territorial, social, ethnic apartheid has spread across our country”

He cited “daily discrimination” against those who do not “have the right family name or the right skin color, or because the person is a woman.”

I hope some concrete action is taken on what Mr. Valls is acknowledging.     

‘Extremist Ideas’ By Amia Srinivasan in LRB

The proclamations by the West that terrorists cannot change our way of life seems hollow considering the self-punishment and flagellation the West is inflicting upon itself to prevent terrorism. The West is gradually peeling away at its civil liberties that distinguished it from repressive regimes and made it what it is today. Below is a Security Bill being passed in London and soon may be passed by other European countries. These measures are hardly a solution to integrate minorities and seem more likely that it will further alienate and agitate the angry minority youths under scrutiny. There is dire need to provide jobs to these minority youths rather than double down on measures that are more problematic rather than solution. (F. Sheikh )

The Counterterrorism and Security Bill 2014-15 has all but completed its swift passage into law. Sponsored by Theresa May and Lord Bates of the Home Office, it promises to expand the state’s paranoid reach in predictable ways: new powers to seize passports and bar UK citizens from returning home; a requirement that internet service providers collect data on users; a provision that airlines and rail and shipping companies may have to seek permission from the Home Office to carry certain groups of people.

More novel is the bill’s requirement that schools and universities conduct surveillance on their students. Section 25.1 states that education institutions are among the ‘specified authorities’ – along with councils, prisons, hospitals and police chiefs – that must ‘have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. The Home Office has published guidance notes on how this duty is to be fulfilled. Administrators must conduct ‘risk assessments’ to uncover ‘where and how’ their students might be drawn to extremist ideology, including ‘non-violent extremism’. All staff members should be trained in ways to ‘challenge extremist ideas’, and if they find anyone who appears ‘vulnerable to being drawn into extremism’, refer them to local anti-terrorism panels for ‘support’. It isn’t only students who will get the benefit of these panels; the bill will mean that any member of the public can be referred to them by a specified authority.

In addition, all visiting speakers must be vetted for their anti-extremist credentials at least two weeks in advance, and their lecture notes and slides scrutinised. Maybe this will help procrastinating academics to plan their lectures ahead of time. Or perhaps they will just stop speaking. Lords Macdonald and Pannick have moved an amendment to Section 25 pointing out that, in addition to the duty to fight terrorism, educational institutions ‘shall also have due regard to the maintenance of academic freedom and freedom of expression within the law’