There is no doubt that the Islamists have won themselves a bad reputation locally and internationally over the decades. But this does not mean that other Arab political movements and trends have done better. Not at all.
The exponents of pan-Arabism, for instance, have promised their followers over half a century or so, a united Arab world stretching from Mauritania to Iraq, but all they have achieved in actual fact is fragmentation and disunity.
They have also produced the worst dictatorships ever. That is why many Arab people are now striving to topple the so-called ‘nationalist regimes' which have wreaked havoc on their societies during the long dark years of their rule.
In other words, those secular regimes have failed miserably politically, economically, culturally, and socially. But funnily enough, they are still warning their peoples of the danger of Islamic rule, which, in their opinion, will take Arab societies back to the dark ages.
These nasty Arab nationalists have failed to mention that it is they and nobody else who have brought their countries to a standstill in all spheres and walks of life. What is the use of allowing women to dress freely and at the same time destroy political, cultural, and economic life?
I am by no means trying here to advocate the so-called Islamic cause or awakening. Not at all. I would very much want to see modern secular advanced Arab states. But I find it quite disgusting in actual fact when I see the official media trying to demonise the Islamists in a desperate attempt to halt the advance of the ongoing revolutions.
It would be quite naive and actually stupid of Arab demonstrators and protesters to stop their intifadas just because some Islamists are taking part in them.
Enough is enough. Arab dictators and their allies, locally and internationally, have overused the Islamist scarecrow to remain in power. This big lie that the Islamists are going to muzzle peoples' freedoms is just disgusting and pernicious.
It is surrealistically funny when one hears an Arab dictator talking about freedom. When Arab autocrats warn their people about Islamic rule they must remember that they have themselves throttled all kinds of liberties. It takes you months in certain Arab republics to obtain a permit from the various security apparatuses to get married or to hold a wedding party, or even open a snack shop.
We have all seen the Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan, Syrian, and Yemeni presidents raise the Islamist bogey when they felt they were about to be brought down by their peoples.
Muammar Gaddafi, for instance, warned the West that Al Qaida would rule Libya if he left power. Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali tried to scare his people and the West by raising the bogey of the Al Nahda Islamist party. Hosni Mubarak used the Muslim Brotherhood scarecrow for decades to frighten his people and the rest of the world. Now, the Syrian regime is doing something similar.
The Bashar Al Assad government is giving Syrians the impression that the Islamists are going to slaughter the followers of other sects if they come to power. This is, of course, nonsense. In actual fact all the so-called nationalist Arab dictatorships are blood-stained. They should feel ashamed to accuse others of blood-letting.
It is time to stop raising the Islamist threat in the face of those clamouring for change and revolution. The Moroccan novelist and thinker Attaher Bin Jalloun is well-known for his animosity towards the Islamists. He has criticised them quite harshly over the years. But he hardly agrees with the premise promulgated by Arab dictators regarding the danger Islamists pose.
He argued in a lecture in Lebanon recently that the Arab revolutions are not going to be exploited by the Islamists. Arab people are not going to let anybody misuse their sacrifices, Islamist or otherwise.
Bin Jalloun went even further to argue that even the term ‘fundamentalists' is a fabrication of the western media, which exploited their existence in certain Arab countries for vested interests.
The western media, he adds, has succeeded in portraying the Islamists as monsters in Arab and international eyes, and so Arab peoples were forced under the presumed Islamist threat to waive many civil basic rights to Arab despots.
Even in Egypt, Bin Jalloun remarks, the number of fundamentalists is not that much, nor is it frightening. The so-called Islamist danger which is talked very much about is in actual fact a nasty trick used by Arab dictators in cooperation with the West to threaten the opposition and to unnecessarily frighten the people, and this has to stop.
As far as I am concerned, it is quite beneficial to make use of Islamist influence in the Arab world to rally support for the ongoing revolutions. It is high time to stop accusing the Islamists of being fond of forbidding and banning things. As a matter of fact, it is the Arab so-called secularist dictators who have been banning and forbidding their peoples for decades of doing almost anything.
Dr Faisal Al Qasim is a Syrian journalist based in Doha.