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Shaadaab S Bakht: The uncommon power of the common man
January 30, 2014
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Truth doesn’t always need a Mandela to prevail. It needs commitment, sacrifice being its most powerful face. The hawker from Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, Mohammed Bouazizi, proved it. He was not a political scientist trained in statecraft or a Western-educated revolutionary groomed in conditioned social morality, but he had one big factor in his favour: Conviction.
His home had two mattresses but only one reality: Scarcity. Scarce colour, scarce walls, scarce furniture, scarce plates and scarce food. One of the mattresses was being used by him.

To fight the scarcity he used to vend vegetables. He had a family of eight living in Sidi Bouzid.

Bouazizi, 26, died because they, who usually ate his vegetables in order to control their fat, thought that he had violated the law. The argument was almost laughable because it was being applied by a cop who was serving a leader, who himself had reportedly transferred $5 billion to an unknown location.

The United States was asked to join Europe in the hunt for the money by a senior US legislator after the leader fled the country.

Representative Howard Berman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had made the appeal for an investigation in letters to US officials Hillary Clinton, Tim Geithner and Eric Holder.

“I understand that the Tunisian government has asked the United States for help in locating and recovering these assets,” Berman had said.

What was Bouazizi’s fault? Like every day he was out with his cart of vegetables on December 17, 2010. But on that day everything changed. A cop seized his unlicensed trolley. Bouazizi tried to settle the issue by willing to pay a fine of $7, but it didn’t work. The policewoman allegedly slapped him. A devastated Bouazizi went to the authorities but they refused to see him. But he was convinced that they had to be fought. And he did that with the world’s most potent component: life, his own life. He set himself on fire and died in hospital on January 4.

The subsequent unrest in the streets of Tunisia finally consumed President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s 23-year-old authoritarian rule.

Well, the late Bouazizi, his conviction had to pay off. And it did. We saw that in many Arab countries. We saw that in Tunisia. On Sunday Tunisia adopted a new constitution.

It is a big stride towards real democracy in the country that without doubt began the Arab Spring revolutions and has largely avoided the chaos and violence now plaguing the neighbours it inspired.

After years Tunisia’s charter has been praised as one of the most powerful designating Islam as the state religion and ensuring freedom of belief and sexual equality.

What Tunisia has decided to do is not manipulate, but live out a religion that can safely take total credit for stopping the pre-Islamic practice of female infanticide. If that isn’t  respect for women what else is it?

Islam is being manipulated by many not followed, it was very well argued at a Finnish conference.

“Those of us living in Muslim countries have the impression that Islam is manipulated to keep women in a lower position,” Salwa Abou Khadra, a delegate said.

Also the Tunisian decision to allow freedom and protection of belief is a position that was taken by the Prophet (PBUH) himself through the Madinah Charter. So Tunisia has not broken new ground. But, thanks to an ordinary man, the extraordinariness of Islam will get the face it deserves.
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