Leaders of the Arab Spring sought to assure the world’s elite in Davos that the rise of political Islam is not a threat to democracy, and pleaded for help creating jobs and satisfying the hunger of their people for a better life. Politicians, activists and entrepreneurs from countries that have cast off dictators and held free elections in the last 12 months were prized guests at the World Economic Forum, where they asked for patience, understanding and investment.
The new prime ministers of Tunisia and Morocco, both chosen from Islamic parties, dismissed Western worries about a surge of political Islam across North Africa and sought to dispel the notion that the promise of last year’s protests had faded.
“I do not believe the new regimes should be called political Islamist regimes. We must be careful with our terminology… For the first time in the Arab world, we have free and honest elections that led to democratic regimes,” Tunisian Prime Minister Hammadi Jebali told a Davos panel.
Twelve months ago, stunned Davos delegates watched live television images of crowds surging into Cairo’s Tahrir Square in a political earthquake few had anticipated. Arab officials and civil society activists urged Western executives and commentators not to demonize the Islamic movements that have gone from prison to parliament and the corridors of power in a year of stunning transformation.