Address: 4/2, st 216. Degla, Maadi. Apartment 34. Cairo, Egypt.
Amr is a Middle East expert and writer. His expertise include geopolitics, history, Islam, comparative culture, and Middle Eastern politics. He authored a book and several international studies on energy. His articles on Islam and the Middle East are quoted by several Phd dissertations.
Amr used to be a jack of all trades that has had his experiences merging into Middle East expertise and self-orientalism. He studied Electrical Engineering, environmental engineering and innovation. He worked for several years in the technical and business fields and have gathered hands-on experience on institutional set-up in the Middle East and business culture. He has travelled extensively to gain a comparative perspective on the region.
Scroll down to read a selection of his writings in chronological order.
Resistance to Change
Muslims (including oriental Christians) suffer from an inverted inferiority complex from the West, which is manifested in their stances on change and reform, an issue that has, strangely enough, been dominating politics and cultural discourse in the Muslim world starting from the time of Napoleon’s penetration of the Ottoman empire by his invasion of Egypt in the turn of the 19th century.
The first stance, which is predominantly middle/upper class mainstream, is for copying the technical aspects of Western civilization without a proper overhaul of the main institutions in order to fully assimilate the new methods. Resistance to change stems from a tenacious adherence to traditions. Paradoxically enough, an overt fascination with the modern institutions and traditions is expressed, which, if anything, points towards a blind spot in the collective mind. The inverted inferiority complex here is expressed in the belief in the superiority of traditions- despite the awe held at modern ones- and the origin of the modern technicalized methods in the Islamic world.
The second stance represented by Islamists of all stripes- whose base is the provincial middle classes- such as the Salafists and MBs, and even the cherished Sufis, is that of the rejection of the modern world accompanied by a futile attempt to resurrect a distant past and reinvent the wheel. MBs, however, and recently some Salafists, tend to overlap in some respects with the first group though their vision for institutions is of course more traditional. This rejection of modernity and feelings of superiority are self-evidently the markers of an inverted inferiority complex.
The working classes, which are the majority, tilt towards Salafism because of its egalitarianism, as the post world war 2 revolution in media and information , as well as the proliferation of socialism in the developing world for a short period, has directed their attention towards their miserable situation- relatively speaking of course.
On discussing the Middle East, Western media uses terms like liberal, left wing, socialist, secular, bourgeoisie, etc., to describe the different political factions and social portions in the region. The used terms can be sources of misunderstanding for readers not familiar with the Middle East because the terms stand for something totally different in the region.
Liberal stands for those who don’t oppose sexualized mingling, or dress codes that are not too conservative. They usually support policies that sustain the status quo provided that they include an outer look of a Western democracy. They are for freedom of expression that doesn’t border on blasphemy or call for sexual emancipation. They usually don’t mind alcohol so long as it is not served on religious occasions.
Secularists support freedom of belief but mostly for mainstream Abrahamic faiths. They oppose corporeal Islamic punishments but don’t mind incorporating elements of sharia into the law.
Socialist is either about hating the bourgeoisie and rich and calling for nationalizing the economy, or it is about not despising the poor along with some philanthropy. Developmental policies of the Brazilian type are totally off the agenda.
Left wing nowadays means a mix of elements of intersectional feminism, vague shouts about freedom, cries for the poor, and snide remarks about regimes.
Bourgeois means flaunting expensive gadgets and lavish brands on every possible occasion, tipping generously, talking about emigrating to Canada because the country has become unbearable, as well as showing off intimate knowledge about the private lives of Hollywood stars.
Time Bomb in Syria
American withdrawal from North East Syria and the expected subsequent Turkish invasion will have far-reaching implications on the convoluted and overlapped multiparty conflict in the Levant and wider Middle East. Turkey will most probably resettle Sunni Arab refugees in the area, which in a polarized Middle East with boiling religious and sectarian sentiments will give a breath of life to Sunni insurgency.
The wrath of Jihadism, whether from ISIS, Al-Queda, or the variety of clones they spawn, will be directed at Assad, Russia, and Shiite militias.
The dispersion of Kurds, though not numerically that significant to tilt balances, will have the effect of lumping Sunnis in the Levant and Turkey together; fueling grief and simmering anger among Kurds in Syria and Turkey. They might be left with no choice but go into a sort of tactical alliance with the Assad-Iran camp. Russia in turn might try to exploit the Kurdish grief.
The Turks have to be wary, however, because experience has shown that feeding the Jihadi beast doesn’t render one safe from its bites.
The new Sunni mass in North East Syria will form a backwall and a new vein to possible Sunni insurgencies in the North of Iraq.
The Libyan Dilemma
The clown Gaddafi turned Libya into a travesty of a country. Instead of learning from Norway on how to utilize the oil wealth sustainably into building indigenous capabilities and modernising the country, he wasted the wealth on bribing clans and cronies while leading a cosmic surreal battle against the reptilians who are suppressing the Arabs. I seldom watch TV, but I really miss my nights infront of my satellite TV set laughing like hell while being entertained by his speeches over gallons of scotch whiskey.
One good thing he did, however, is dissolving to a large extent the tribal structures in Libya by relocation policies and mixing people in different regions. Tribes were replaced by regional affiliation. A major dichotomy remained, however, between the Arabized Berber of the West, on whom he relied, and the South on the one side and the rather Egyptianized Arab tribes of the East on the other. The Eastern tribes have grievances against Gaddafi, as they were the bulwark of old royalist regime against which Gaddafi launched a coup in 1969. In Misrata there was a thorn to the side of his regime in the city dominated by a mixed Turkish and Arab stock presided over by Bazari conservative traders with Muslim Brotherhood affiliations. The Arab tribes in the central coast area remained loyal to Gaddafi.
The downside of the Libyan structure is the lack of overwhelming tribal leaderships that can reach a settlement for some sort of a decentralized state with functioning government. Instead, we have two loose coalitions of militias, one dominated by Misrata Islamists in the West, whereas the other is lead by the quasi-secular general Haftar, who was a dissident during the Gaddafi era, in the East. The Eastern bloc seem to favour a quasi-secular regime, the type prevalent in the Middle East. Some tribal affiliations remained strong in the East and seem to be main source of Haftar’s militias.
Apparently, none of the two loose coalitions can overwhelm the other and impose a status quo of order. The central coast tribes seem to have grievances against both camps and are not as well-armed as the Western and Eastern coalitions. They also lack the numerical power to tilt balances.
The Islamists are supported by Turkey and Qatar, whilst Haftar is supported by the UAE, Gulf states, and Egypt. None of the two big coalitions is a coherent force in the strict sense. Rather, we have lawless militias vying for resources and power. Once real power has been transferred to the forces of militias and regionalism, no political settlement can ever impose order because the final word will always be for the gun. What makes the situation in Libya even more complex is that different NATO powers lean towards opposite sides of the two loose coalitions.
The elections that followed Gaddafi downfall showed that a significant portion of Libyans, especially urbanized townsfolk, long for a stable non-religious government. This urbanization was partly the outcome of Gaddafi’s relocation policies. Alas, the voice of civility is silenced by gang and militia rule.
Nothing can rein in the militias and disarm the feuding factions except overwhelming force which can only by provided by NATO. Since it was the NATO which played the major role in toppling Gaddafi, it now has a moral responsibility to complete the unfinished job and restore order.
The Demons of Lebanon
The creativity of the Lebanese demonstrators is enchanting. It’s a flicker of hope in an otherwise gloomy Middle East. Digital and civilized boys and girls are parading in mass demonstrations that smack of irony and wit to ask for a functioning state and policies elevated above the parochial interests of oligarchs and militias. Alas, in the Middle East water always reaches its own level unless hydraulic pumps are introduced by outsiders. Hezbollah has the big guns, whereas Christian and Sunni seigneurs control the economy. It’s a symbiotic relationship– hectic though it is.
The young dudes know exactly what needs to be done to break the deadlock imposed by Hezbollah and the seigneurs over the country. Unfortunately, ending the gun law requires a regional settlement.
An argument for sponsoring such settlement by superpowers is the potential Lebanon has for turning into an ignition spark of wide regional cultural and religious reforms.
Egypt’s Fatal Mistake
At the core of Egypt’s intractable dilemmas lies a wrong strategic orientation which was decided upon by President Anwar Sadat in the 70s.
In the first half of the 19th century, Egypt was the first country in the Islamic World to introduce modern Western technical education, and to try to catch up with industrial revolution by building mechanized factories. Despite being way ahead of the Islamic world, the reforms didn’t work out. Partly because the ruler of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, failed to understand that to assimilate the new technology and science, social organization and cultural patterns had to change. His imperial ambitions which lead him to invade Turkey put him under European pressure.
In the second half of the 19th century, especially during a 40-year British occupation, Egypt turned into a cosmopolitan hub, a process which opened part of the gentry and educated middle class up to the ideas of nationalism, emancipation, and modernization.
The era culminated in Nasser’s revolution in 1952. In the 50s and 60s, Egypt witnessed unprecedented leaps in industrialization, socialism, education, and social modernization, wrapped under the cloak of nationalism, that put it at the forefront of the developing world. Alas, the revolutionary zeal pushed the country into risky geopolitical adventurism that was beyond its capacity and real power.
In the 70s, President Anwar Sadat concluded that two decades of adventurism and wild experimentation were just too much. The conclusion was not necessarily all wrong. The mistake was in the alternative which he carved out. He somehow came to believe that the problems Egypt faced were because of attempts to modernize too much under Nasser. He decided that the new route for Egypt would be capitalism with traditional values. Traditional values in the multilayered Egyptian society for him meant those of the pre-modern, tribal, religious village of the hinterland.
Accordingly, an unholy alliance was created between capitalism and traditional values that generated corruption, crony capitalism, and intellectual, social, and economic stagnation.
The catatonic Mubarak lacked the capacity to think intelligently or creatively and so he followed blindly in the footsteps of Sadat, leading to the dismal deterioration of the once promising Egypt in all fields.
In a previous post I mentioned one type of the opioids used by Muslims to spare them the heavy burden of reform, which is basking in the reflected glory of the illusion that the West is Muslim without Islam.
The second opioid is imperialism and imperialist conspiracy against Islam and Africa. So, let’s test the imperialist hypothesis against facts on the ground. Islamic World and Africa have been devoid of occupation for the last 60-70 years, except for some marginal pockets. The Iraq war- though a mistake as admitted by many in the West- was launched in response to demands from significant portions of population. In Syria and Libya warring local factions solicited the help of various foreign powers in a testimony to the failure of the local regimes in sound state and institutional building.
Further, most of the Southern countries are ruled by cliques that were spawned by the liberation and decolonization movements. Hence, it is difficult to buy into the notion that those cliques are clients of the West. The more viable explanation therefore for their unwillingness to implement the necessary reforms is parochial self-interest.
Some might argue that economic imperialism is the new game of the imperialists. This indeed is a strange argument because I can see no reason why Nigeria, Iran, Morocco, and Pakistan couldn’t build modern competitive economies following in the footsteps of China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Chile. In other words, only internal social and cultural factors can explain the egregious economic shortcomings.
That said, one has to acknowledge that the globe is not one happy big yellow submarine. Nations compete hard in trade and for resources in a rule-based world order. Accordingly, those who fall behind need to work harder to seriously address the root causes of their lack of competitiveness.
Evolution of Modernity in the Middle East
Erdogan’s sustained power in Turkey has proved that despite three quarters of a century of secularism, westernization, educational reforms, and modernization, the Islamic identity in Turkey has remained recalcitrant. Nonetheless, conservative Islamic trends and Erdogan’s aspirations for more radical Islamization have been met with fierce societal resistance, eventually leading to a fault line between a form of nominal Islam which is conceived as part of national history, heritage and a cultural impulse on the one side, and a conservative one similar to the one in Arab countries on the other.
The stability of Turkey, and the openness of its conservative masses to a more secular alternative of Erdogan have been enabled through the construction of a nationalist, ethno-centric history of the journeys of the Turkic tribes over thousands of years separate from Islam. Hence, with the presence of other bases of dignity and identity apart of Islam, lesser resistance is met against Turkey’s Western orientation.
In Iran, on the other hand, the Pahlavi dynasty embarked starting from 1925 on a project to modernize, industrialize, and secularize Iran which by the 70s had culminated in a secular and promising nation. Alas, one crucial difference between Iran and Turkey determined the aboutface in Iran and the Islamic revolution of 1979. Whereas the Turks throughout history have been mercenaries, professional military caste at the disposal of caliphs, and raiding nomads, the Persians stopped going to war since about 1000 A.D; instead they Persianised a strain of Islam going in parallel with the one in Arabic-speaking lands and have been first and foremost burghers, venturing traders, and intellectuals.
Although Iran has been ruled by Turkic tribes since the 11th century, the power of the Persian culture in its Islamic form Persianized the Turks and maintained an Islamic/Persian character of Iran. Accordingly, it was more difficult for the Pahlavis to separate the Persian identity from Islam, leading to the outbreak of an overwhelming Islamic revolution against the perceived degeneration of the secular Pahlavis.
In the Arabic-speaking lands, Arabization has not been complete as the original conquistadores went back to the desert after 200 years from the birth of Islam living as pirates, or mingled in cities leading the creation of a new, fluid basically Islamic identity. Some Arab tribes, however, played a military role along the Turks though not on permanent basis. The Westernisation or modernization of Arab countries therefore requires the region to reconcile itself with its history and geography as an open, diverse one at the intersection of three continents, and stressing the elements of continuity between its Islamic and Hellenistic Past. Alexander the Great is as much a part of our history as Muhammad is.
Israel for its part is a special case. The participation of the Ashkenazi jews in the European enlightenment and the creation of the Zionist project established them as a role model for Mizrahi and Sephardic ones, culminating in the creation of a Hellenistic civilization in Israel.
The Difference Between Latin America and the Middle East
It is misguided to apply conceptions about people, societies, and polities derived from Latin America on the Middle East. There are many similarities, of course, like extractive regimes, cronyism and strong conservatism. However, there are fundamental differences between the two regions. First, the dichotomies and cronyism in Latin America are more structural as they stem from certain population stratification that goes back to the founding conditions.
In the Middle East, different population layers and ethno-sects have been constantly reshuffling fortunes and relative weight over 1000 years. The communalism of Islam has always acted as a homogenizing force. The present outbreak of sectarian and class strife pertains to a large extent to the failure of the post- colonial regimes to instill principles of citizenship and strong rule of law. In a different sense, it is due to inadequate internalization of modernity. On the flipside, the communalism of Islam generates patronage and rule of infallible community leaders who play the role of absolute virtual imams, leading to economic inefficiencies and arbitrary power for the ‘Imams’.
An advantage for Latin America is that the anti-establishment forces have usually been leftist and internationalist, which infused a higher level of dynamism in the middle classes shown by the- generally speaking- better social and economic indicators in Latin America. In the Middle-East, on the other hand, reformers have almost always had their eyes on reincarnating a past era. Also, in Latin America there are no cultural stumbling blocks or civilizational sensitivities that block the introduction of modernity. In Brazil, Argentina, and Chile there have been indutralization ambitions on the part of the Bourgeoisie, which reflected in more metropolitanism, larger middle class, and a relative watering down of cronyism.
Conspiracy Theory Vis-a-Vis Reality in the Middle East.
Someone once asked me a question: “Why aren’t we getting lots of foreign investments that can transform the Middle East?”
My answer was straight. Overhaul the corruption nests that are our institutions and convert them into lean, efficient, thinking organizations which can plan and furnish investment opportunities. Address the monopoly on knowledge imposed by the oligarchs through investment in knowledge networks: research centers, technology transfer centers, information clearing houses, libraries, etc., Set legal and institutional checks on the power of the mafia-like crony capitalists who hamper entrepreneurship. Focus on teaching humanities and philosophy in secondary schools to address the enervate fatalism of the population.
I got no answer. It is easier to blame the West. What the friend couldn’t get is that it is entirely ridiculous to expect the West to help us while we are not helping ourselves.
There is no Western conspiracy against the progress of the Middle East. During the time of Iran’s shah, rates of technological progress were high, land reforms were enacted, and private and public investments in industry were record high. Iran now is trying to achieve on its own, with some Chinese aid, what was happening smoothly under the rational Shah when it was not acting as a crusade. But why act as crusade in the first place?
When Saddam Hussein acted rationally, the technological modernization of Iraq was backed by Paris and Washington.
In the 50s and 60s under Nasser, Egypt had rates of technological penetration and economic growth unmatched in China, India , and Turkey. Alas, our fortunes were squandered on tribal mountainous wars in Yemen near the Saudi oil fields, leaving Sinai defenseless in 1967.
Democratizing the Middle East
The Arab spring failed because Arab/Islamic societies are not democratic. Both the masses and elites are tribal with society and economy organized in informal patron-client networks- close in nature to mafia- bonded by absolute obedience to the patron. Hence, countries became liable to chaos and disintegration once the grip of authorities seemed lax. Democracy for the masses meant Sharia law and reign of the even more tribal men of Islamic letters, which turned the middle class supporters of change against it
The trend is enshrined in the Islamic culture. Societies in the Islamic world since the 13th and 14th centuries have been organized in myriad of extremely hierarchical Sufi brotherhoods, and Shi’a sects where the sheikh, Sharif, Sayid were delegated quasi-divine authority to even the extent that the leader could have sexual intercourse at will with his male followers who, even though they might not be gay, gladly indulged the whims of the patron because they had a holy provenance.
The Turco-Mongol military caste at the helm of the pecking order was extractive and estranged from the local environments, yet in many cases they had an alliance with the holy men as mechanism for mass control. So, all in all we had an excessively hierarchical socio-political order based on crazy blind obedience and extractive regime on top.
When Egypt Broke free from the Ottoman empire in the turn of the 19th century it initiated a trend throughout the Muslim world calling for change through opening up to the flourishing Western civilization. All the same, although western dressing ways were imported, and universities and schools moulded on the Western model, the underlying institutions and traditions remained the same. The upside, however, was the creation of tiny semi-Westernised middle class, which eventually lead up to the revolutionary and modernizing regimes of the 50s and 60s in the Arab World, Iran and Pakistan.
Alas, those regimes ultimately generated the dysfunctional Middle East of the present day. Despite the vast social mobility in the 60s, expansion in public education, industrialization projects and top-down push for the emancipation of women, the same governing logic remained intact. The national militaries replaced the Turco-Mongol caste, and corrupt, ‘dignified’ statesmen and business people assumed control of same patron- client networks which couldn’t respond to the challenge of technological and economic modernization and eventually globalization induced a chaotic, disorientated region rent by centrifugal forces with no compass for the future.
one also has to point out that ‘Islam’ was different in its first 6 centuries. The development of the Islamic law was to a large extent a bottom-up democratic process and cities throughout the Middle East were characterized by relatively high levels of individualism, dynamism, venture and economic enterprise.
Finally, the crucial question of which the answer is the key to the future: how can we make a socio-cultural change in the Muslim world without a resort to self-defeating fascism?
Middle Eastern Sexuality
An exorbitant amount of energy in the Islamic world is wasted on sex, either on securing it or sorting out psychological issues arising from the disproportionate reliance of notions of honour and self-esteem on the female figure. The metaphor of fucking and getting fucked is thus pervasive in social relations and in perceptions of others. Muslim women are partners in this dynamic as well, as they juggle the ideals of sisterhood and motherhood with sexuality to gain power in male-chauvinist society.
This highly sexualized world-view act as a barrier against the infusion of radically new ideas, change and even freedom because opening up is always synonymous with getting fucked. Under the right circumstances, exposure to a deluge of different ideas and perspectives leads to violent counteraction.
So, as many have pointed out, the key to reform in the region might be the emancipation of women. Women need to quit playing the double game and reconcile themselves with their sexuality. Lots of cultural and intellectual products therefor must be directed towards the issue of Muslim women and their emancipation, but they have to be tailor- made to resonate with their psyche.
It might be a tempting explanation, but I don’t think that Islam is the culprit when it comes to women’s problems- albeit it is the carrier of value and the compass guiding the lives of people in this region- because many cultures have been through this stage, and I suspect that similar problems exist in India as well.
The Significance of the Middle East
During the second half of the 20th century, Israel and Arabs had a beautiful symbiotic relation. Israel wouldn’t have had a privileged status in the Western world without Arab animosity towards it. Arabs, on the other hand, wouldn’t have had an excuse for their mishaps without Jews.
In the 21st century, the equation has changed. Now Turkey and Iran are bringing Arab officialdom closer to Israel, as both of them waste their energies, trying to dominate the center of gravity of Islam, which happens to harbour the largest share of global oil reserves. That Middle Eastern reserves are slowly declining in strategic significance, due to new drilling technologies, renewable energy and EVs, isn’t, in fact, helping much in alleviating the lure of the region.
Islam and Economic Modernisation in the Middle East
Despite the impressive success of democracy in Tunisia, an Arab/Muslim country, the economy is a disappointment. This is because democracy doesn’t necessarily obliterate oligarchy- Pakistan is a case in point, for although It is a democracy, it is still oligarchic as well as being semi-feudal- which stifles entrepreneurship, competitiveness, or even growth-oriented state investment, and leads to inefficient, skewed allocation of resources. Oligarchy in Islamic countries doesn’t spring out of a vacuum; it stems from societies organized on patronage and clientelism where there is not much emphasis on free association and individualism. Also, the concept of common good is not well-entrenched partly because there are no traditions of strong, impartial states.
East Asia is an exception: lacking in traditions of individualism, Intricate social organization, patriotic sense and strong states turned what might be termed oligarchies into engines of growth.
The organic nature of oligarchy in the Islamic world is best exemplified in Turkey. Having achieved impressive growth over the past 15 years through stemming the old oligarchy, attracting German investments, and a combination of low interest rates and economic freedoms; a new oligarchy has now taken place of the old one putting the brakes on Turkey’s previous exponential growth.
Still, being somewhat isolated from the destructive turmoil of the Middle East, North Africa (Tunisa, Algeria and Morocco), stands a chance of becoming a beacon of hope. The sustainability of democracy in Tunisia along with high literacy and education rates, as well as the emancipation of women gives democracy a chance to recalibrate economic policies over time. Algeria, though lagging behind Tunisia in human development indexes, stands even a better chance for a prospective boom if a democratic transition is achieved, as it boasts functioning institutions, lesser social stratification, relative rule of law, proud citizenry, and political maturity after a bloody decade. Another important factor contributing to the better prospects in North Africa is the fact that the French dissolved tribalism in it, setting its countries apart from countries like Jordan or Syria with similar socio-economic conditions. By osmosis, Morocco will be influenced by what happens in its 2 sister countries.
The Future of Turkey
Erdogan is emblematic of everything that went wrong with reform in the Islamic world. Reformers usually taken in by initial success end up losing touch with realty and failing to understand the challenges still facing them and so they overstep their limits, blunder, plunge their countries into risky strategic games, and fail to come up with a plausible roadmaps for the future.
Over the past 15 years Erdogan has presided over an impressive economic growth that transformed Turkey through stemming the old oligarchy, increasing economic competitiveness and attracting German investments. He empowered the peasants of Anatolia and set them against the old secular westernized elements of the old regime. Intoxicated by his success he set out to revive the old Ottoman empire in a new outfit. In the midst of his euphoria he overlooked the fact that Turkey is still a developing country that despite being the most industrialized country in the Islamic world, it doesn’t manufacture advanced arms and can’t make technology.
He stopped playing second fiddle to the West because of delusions of grandeur, neglecting the fact that the West is Turkey’s ultimate guarantor of security against its mighty Russian neighbour, as well as being the life vein of its economy and technology.
His adoption of a global Sunni Islamist project has distanced from him Azerbaijan, his closest ethnic relative, put him at loggerheads with the powerful classes in the Arab world, and eventually lead to his encirclement by Russia in Syria, the Mediterranean and Crimea. He is not strong enough to lure the Turkic Central Asians away from China and Russia. And the upshot of his adventurism in Syria has been the creation of a contiguous offshoot of the PKK along his Syrian borders. His outreach to the Uygur in China has antagonized China.
The phenomenon of Erdogan point to a fatal shortcoming of the modernist secular regimes in the Islamic world. The secular Turkish republic was controlled by an oligarchy that stymied the Turkish potential and neglected the development of the Anatolians. The same dynamic is also visible in North Africa. These secular models based on oligarchy can never be sustainable, as they carry with themselves the seeds of their demise by creating the enabling conditions for an Islamist take over.
I, however, believe that Turkey with its history, culture, highly developed strata and proximity to Europe is the last viable model for modernity in this part of the world and hence I sincerely wish that it could recalibrate its compass and lead the region in a different direction, for It is possible to be “neo-Ottoman”, secular and pro-west at the same time.
Sexual Revolution in the Middle East
Social and/or economic change usually precedes political change. Islamic societies are not democratic, as the social and economic structures of family, business, state institutions are repressive and tribal with cronyism and corruption being the inevitable outcome. Accordingly, any democratic experience in those countries could never be stable. However, 10 to 20% of the population are actually well-educated with secure jobs and stable income, yet they are socially conservative despite the fact they are immersed in Hollywood movies, follow and identify with the stars, and travel abroad quite often. All sorts of sexual relations happen under the table, but things never come to the surface or it would be akin to social suicide.
If this portion of the population in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Morocco, which is the role model for the rest, starts breaking the taboos of fornication, cohabitation, and parts with societal and family traditions, then within a generation all the authoritarian structures will fall.
Other undemocratic parts of the world have different problems. Russia which is an authoritarian and crony country is way more developed and industralized than the Islamic world, so its problem is about reaching a compromise for a political democratic formula and enhancing the rule of law. In China, there are relative economic freedoms, as well as sexual freedoms and so it is only a matter of time before democracy will ensue, especially with all the rising expectations, suppressed peasants and expected economic slowdown.