Tawakkol Karman in a new, brave world

Written by : Dr. Hider Ibrahim Ali 

The Norwegian Nobel Committee consistently surprised Arabs with good or frustrating news. Arabs were just looking forward to Nobel Literature Prize to go to the Arab poet Adonis who had been always put on a list of nominates for the prize. They have not aspired to Nobel prizes for sciences, medicine or economics; cut your coat according to your cloth! 

This year, the Arabs' speculations transcended the expectation Adonis would get prize to aspiring to honoring the Arab Spring's uprisings. The surprise, however, was that the Peace Prize went to a Yemeni young women with an Islamist political background and that is why this year's prize implied many indications. It can be said that the prize of this year was an honor of itself since it added values needed in the age, which many insist on describing as the age of the clash of civilizations or demonizing the West. Karman added a popular speech the committee has not heard before. 

It was the first time the committee heard a winner say: I award this prize to the Yemeni people and the youths of the revolution as well as the nations that aspire to freedom. And it was the first time a winner gave the prize money to her country's empty budget within the demand to recover the public funds stolen by the regime. All these attitudes were new to the prize and reflected a shift in the philosophy of the prize itself. 

The prize was awarded to the Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist LeymahGbowee and Tawakkol Karman "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work". We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society, the statement added. 

This prize reflected an additional value because the committee did not come out as conventionally as the committee used to understand peace. The committee supported the peaceful revolution in Yemen. Maybe the words of revolution and peaceful appear contradictory. However, this is another kind of peace which means no use of weapons in conflict resolution but overthrowing military dictatorship which reached power through tanks and continued in power through violence and oppression. 

The revolution was a way to rehabilitate protest, sit-ins and political strike. So, Karman considered the prize a victory of the revolution through recognition of the world to her role which embodied and was as an extension of the role of the youths who led the Arab revolutions and all activists of the Arab Spring, "as she said". And this means the committee dropped its caution in order to avoid that awarding the prize to Karman such interpretation or understanding. 

In this context, Karman continued to say the prize was as conviction of the then Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and confirmation he no longer had legitimacy. There are new dimensions of awarding the prize to Karman, the veiled daughter of the leader women in the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen and who is "I don’t know whether she continues to be or not" a member in the Brotherhood. 

Giving the prize to Tawakkol was an effective response to Islamophobia which some insist to be a key factor of the relationship between the Muslim world and the West. First, it was noticed that the Islamist Tawakkol talks about the international community not the West and this is a big difference as the international community which has recently taken shape on human values which serve all people on the earth not on religious basis. 

These values are focused on human rights, democracy, the woman status, welfare and social justice. Secondly, it is wrong or rather fraudulent to talk about the West as conception or described except if we deliberately mean misunderstanding primarily through convicting the geography which is known as Western Europe and describe it as a united civilized and political zone. In France, there were De Gaulle and Sartre at the same time, Italy had Mussolini and Gramsci and German Hitler and Habermas. 

The Western Europe gave the world Mafia, doctors without borders and amnesty international. Thirdly, the West demands us tacitly, through giving the prize, to accept the other's difference. There is a government which prevents wearing Hijab at school and official institutions and there is a government which gives highest prizes to a veiled woman. This is a message there should not generalization of stereotypical and rigid models to the whole West. 

On the other hand, Tawakkol completed the other face of the new world and that was the civilized Islamic understanding of the present time and heritage. Some nastily tried to provoke the other camp or what is known as the seculars by saying the prize this year went to a veiled Muslim woman. As if these were not peace and democracy fans. The Muslim Brotherhood now are among most of those calling for a civil state with an Islamic background. Were Islamists adopting such ideology in the 1950s and 60s? 

Youths who were talking about ignorance of the 20th century are now seeking to integrate into the globalization of the 21st century on condition their specificities. The Islamist youths are among those who love computer and internet most and those who join computer colleges and institutes. Therefore, the Islamist movements must not be seen the same and so is the West. Even those most extremist Islamist groups, when they joined politics, they realized it is possible to collide with history and time. 

Ironically, when Karman was celebrating the prize, her Islamist party was meeting and then her father Abdulsalam Karman stood up and apologized for his daughter's misaddress of the government. He was a big fan of the president Ali Abdullah Saleh. This is the clash of generations within the same Islamist movement or rather inside the one house. 

In thought, there is an important law which is known as dialectics and that is when a thing produces its opposite and then restructure this opposite. Yemeni president, neither ousted nor ruling at the moment, tried to play the card of woman dignity and honor during the first days of the revolution. He was talking about promiscuity of men and women at revolution squares till late at night.

I was surprised when I heard some veiled women on TVs responding to Saleh's campaign. Their responses were convincing and strong. I was very surprised about the preliminary impression about the veiled women. Days before that, I asked a Yemeni at a symposium“what would the black blocs to freedom?” That Yemeni replied: “you just let freedom come first and then they would know what to do about it. 

Karman was right when she dedicated the prize for the sake of the Yemeni women. Obviously, this social issue came out to streets and squares not only was discussed at the prestigious meeting halls. It is a different situation and could be fast and radical. Karman is a model of the civil society activists who is helping them to avoid being impressed by accusation of selectionism, elitism and isolation from the masses. 

The symbolism of presence inside a tent for months. Some accuse her of extremism and exaggeration in such situation in particular. However, whether she meant it or not, she started an activity to purify the civil society activists surrounded by accusations. Despite her uniqueness, she is presenting a model which can be generalized. Karman launched a new brave world full of adventures and promises. Indeed, even the smallest creature can change the course of the future.