The Tunisians, in shaking off a long-standing dictator on January 21, 2011, have inspired the downtrodden and hopeless well beyond their borders. The photograph on this page shows Egyptians applying the Tunisian lessons, just one week later. We can learn a lot from their experiences. Here are some of the lessons:
1. Courage trumps tyranny. It just needs to be nurtured and kindled.
2. An authoritarian police state is no match for nonviolent people power. Ordinary people can change their own situation.
3. Expect no support from the “international community.” In fact, at best, expect ambivalence and a steady supply of tear gas canisters.
4. Change can occur without strapping explosives to torsos or vehicles, without bombs or bullets.
5. Change isn’t easy or free. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of martyrs, as Thomas Jefferson once said.
6. Once fear of the tyrant and his minions is removed from the hearts of the people, the game is up.
7. Once the tipping point comes, once the paradigm shift occurs, things change rapidly and suddenly. The mighty will fall quickly. The tiger, you will find out, was made of paper after all.
8. You don’t have to wait for a Great Leader. You don’t have to wait for the Messiah. You don’t have to wait for “Salaheddin.” You just need good grassroots organizing and will. Mosques and churches help. New communication tools like mobile phones and social media also help.
9. Cruel, callous regimes won’t last forever. Regimes that limit freedoms and crush dreams certainly cannot last.
10. Tyrants are not immune from revolt. Revolts are not immune from tyranny either. The gains of change must be defended against chaos, anarchy, and other bad happenings.
Mas’ood Cajee is a board member of the Muslim Peace Fellowship. His essays and columns appear in Fellowship magazine and on altmuslim.com.