A number of columnists have written recently about how we have all misunderstood ‘the Arab Spring’. Most prevalent among them has been the claim that when the current youth-bulge in these countries grows up they will in fact turn into capitalist entrepreneurs.

I concede that it is possible. It would certainly be highly desirable. But as an idea it ignores the thing which secular Western commentators continuously ignore: that is the small matter of ideology.

On this note, might I heartily recommend the following two videos?  The first is a recent Friday sermon from the Egyptian cleric Muhammad Zoghbi calling on Allah to annihilate the Jews and the Shiites. Viewers will notice how moved certain of his congregation are by these imprecations.

The second is a video of a pro-Morsi demonstration outside the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem last week. There the crowd is led by Imam Ismat Al-Hammouri. He chants and the crowd repeats it. This is how it goes:

Imam: Allah Akbar. May America be destroyed.
Crowd: Allah Akbar.
Imam: Allah Akbar. May France be destroyed.
Crowd: Allah Akbar. May France be destroyed.
Imam: Allah Akbar. May Rome be conquered.
Crowd: Allah Akbar. May Rome be conquered.
Imam: Allah Akbar. May America be destroyed.
Crowd: Allah Akbar. May America be destroyed.
Imam: Allah Akbar. May France be destroyed.
Crowd: Allah Akbar. May France be destroyed.
Imam: Allah Akbar. May Britain be destroyed.
Crowd: Allah Akbar. May Britain be destroyed.
Imam: Allah Akbar. May Rome be conquered.
Crowd: Allah Akbar. May Rome be conquered.

In the Times yesterday the usually excellent Daniel Finkelstein argued that:

‘When Gerry Adams grew up and decided he would rather have a family life and money and a job and stop all the fighting, peace came to Northern Ireland. When the teenagers become adults, they go to work and start creating jobs for others.’

I suppose it is possible that as a best-case scenario all the people standing outside the al-Aqsa mosque the other day – like all those listening to radical sermons across North Africa and the Middle East – are going to grow up to become Gerry Adams.

On the other hand, perhaps they will turn out not to be capitalists but ideologues.

People without ideology nearly always downplay or ignore the significance of ideology in others. But for those with the most fevered ideologies of all, the ideology really is the only thing that matters.

Tags: Arab Spring, Economy, Islamism