Thursday, February 03, 2011

Nurturing the Fragile Flower of Muslim Democracy

A great good thing may be happening in the world. Massive movements against dictatorship and for democracy have broken out in Egypt and Tunisia. Anti-dictator protesters are in the street in Yemen. Polite crowds pushing for parliamentary monarchy are on the move in Jordan. Massive street protests for free elections were suppressed recently in Iran, but the sentiment has not been crushed. The one great example of democracy in a Muslim nation, Turkey, has seen a Muslim party come to power without destroying democracy or the secular state.

The most encouraging thing to me about these movements is that they are led by local leaders of civil society organizations, who have grown up in uneasy independence from the state. There are, of course, dangerous people, secular and religious, who want to exploit this unrest. People just like them are in power now. But the crowds in the streets have been surprisingly disciplined. They seem focused on getting the bad regime out, and creating a legitimately elected regime in its place. What happens after that is up to the course of normal politics.

The second most encouraging thing to me has been the restraint and quiet positive nudges from the world powers. The U.S. and European governments seem to be helping the democracy movement, as much by staying out the way as by not propping up the dictators. The Russians, Japanese, and Indians seem not to be making things worse. The Chinese have been hiding the pro-democracy story from their people, not surprisingly, but so far have made no openly disruptive moves.

If there were a wave of democratic movements in the Muslim heartland the world would be a better place.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

If a great good thing does happen I hope that you give president Bush the credit he deserves.

May said...

Looks like Egypt is experiencing there own Tea Party. The people against an oppressive federal government. It's in the air.

Paul Masters said...

Gee, I hate to rain on anyone’s parade, but allow me to paint a another scenario for you. our understanding of democracy is dependent upon western liberal values; values rejected by Sayyid Qutb, the architect of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood, as you remember, were the folks who assassinated Anwar Sadat for signing a treaty with Israel. The writings of Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian national who studied in the United States in the late 1940s; an experience which convinced him of the basic decadence of the West became foundational for the Sharia inspired movements of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Here’s the nightmare scenario that drives me to my knees: a nuclear armed in Iran, paired with a Muslim Brotherhood dominated Egypt and Jordan. Egypt and Jordan tear up their peace treaties with Israel. The Israeli conventional forces, weakened by decades long brushfire wars, realize that they cannot contain an invasion from both their eastern and southern borders while containing an uprising in the territories. Meanwhile, a nuclear Iran demands that the European democracies sit this one out. Facing the very real possibility of another holocaust and taking no comfort in the ambiguous support of the United States and the United Nations, Israel decides to deploy their nuclear weapons.

The only upside to this is that I will no longer have to worry about the adequacy of my pension 20 years from now.

Anonymous said...

For a really depressing read, try "The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" and you'll see what Sayyid Qutb was all about, and what he inspired. It ain't good, folks, at least not if you treasure the freedom we currently enjoy in the U.S.

I think the women of Egypt should start ordering their burkas.

Gruntled said...

The Muslim Brotherhood, which was not central to organizing the Egyptian protests, has already declared that they will not even be running a candidate in the upcoming elections there.

Ken Sayers said...

And of course we all know political types don't lie or deceive.
I hate to admit it but the right wing wacko conspiracy theories about Israel and armageddon don't seem as implausible as they once did.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Obama say that he would accept public financing during the primaries?

Anonymous said...

Seriously? You're taking the Muslim Brotherhood at their word?

Gruntled said...

We will soon see about this particular promise.

Anonymous said...

And your opinion of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt now is?

gruntled said...

Pretty encouraged:

"Outlining the Muslim Brotherhood's vision for a "new Egypt," Mohamed Morsi said the group wants a civil democratic state with laws drawn from Islamic Shariah law. "Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country, but we have Christians too living in our midst; it is their country too," he said.

It is therefore not surprising that the new political party launched by the Muslim Brotherhood under the name "Justice and Freedom" is open to Christians -- and to women."

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/06/30/egypt.muslim.brotherhood/

Anonymous said...

I guess that the Muslim Brotherhood didn't live up to their promise, now did they? How about addressing this in a more recent post?

gruntled said...

The Muslim Brotherhood won a democratic election and have promised to work with other parties. How have they undermined democracy in Egypt?

Anonymous said...

Surely you must now concede that everything you hoped for and predicted has not come to pass. Perhaps instead of lamenting that a "legitimately elected" government has been overthrown, you could update your recent post to concede that the Muslim Brotherhood has undermined democracy in Egypt. And that Obama and his ambassador, Patterson, have contributed to this disaster. And that our sycophatic media are not living to their responsibility in their reporting.

gruntled said...

I think the Moursi government abused their mandate. The cure for that is to diselect them next time, not to destroy democracy.

I feel the same way about the current regimes in North Carolina and Texas. The cure is the same.