Is Political Islam Compatible with Democracy?

Hits: 1836

At the dawn of the so-called Arab Spring in 2011, diplomats, politicians, and intellectuals debated a fresh question: what role can Islamist political parties play in a fledgling democracy?

It wasn’t an esoteric or academic debating point. In the tumult that followed the collapse of dictatorial governments in Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, groups of radical Islamists had organized themselves into political parties and attempting to use the ballot box to get them to where the cartridge box could never take them—control of national governments. This was a new strategy on the part of Islamists. Ever since their emergence in the 1940s and their public appearances in the 1960s, Islamists had ridiculed democracy as an effort to elevate man’s law over God’s law. They also faulted democracy for sowing confusion by changing its laws over time. How can the truth change?

When the street demonstrations began in 2010 and 2011, the Islamists initially played very little part. The clashes with police and soldiers were dangerous, and they feared a crackdown that would seize their offices and other assets while putting their leaders in prison. Once the demonstrations gathered sufficient strength and public support—and, crucially, the attitude of the rank-and-file police officers had shifted to cold understanding—the Islamists joined in. Their superior organization and ability to mobilize large numbers of followers through mobile and social media networks immediately gave them a leadership role in the very protests that they did not start or sustain during the early, dangerous days. Nevertheless, they ended up receiving a large measure of public credit for demonstrations and the toppling of dictators and reforming of monarchies. And, strangely, the Islamists were welcomed into political power by american and other Western countries in the hopes that elections would temper and tame them.

Thus came the question about the compatibility of political Islam with democracy. Sadly, we are now learning the answer.

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, after 70 years of an adversarial relationship with the Egyptian state. They did not move slowly or carefully, but impatiently, with frighteningly large changes. It soon became clear that the Brotherhood intended to remake Egyptian society by force, rather than simply root out corruption and create economic opportunity for the tens of millions trapped at the bottom of society. While they made no moves to break up the solid monopolies that had slowed Egypt’s economy for decades (indeed, they intended to enrich themselves off of those monopolies, not reform them), they sought to ban bikinis on Egypt’s Mediterranean and Red Sea beaches. Tourism income from those beaches, directly and indirectly, contribute almost 20% of Egypt’s national income.

It was a rash move that frightened many taxi drivers, waiters, hotel workers, and others who saw that the Brotherhood intended to eliminate the small incomes they earned in the name of religious correctness. Other moves which sought to give the Brotherhood absolute power were equally frightening. The military coup that toppled the Islamists was welcomed by at least half of the Egyptian population as a return to Rule of Law. In short, Egypt’s experience with the Islamists was short and scary—it was clear that the Brotherhood saw elections only as a means to getting into power, not as a check on themselves once in power. Indeed, they may have planned to never hold another election.

In Tunisia, the Islamist party known as Annahda came to power promising to obey the new constitution, follow the rule of law, and behave like a normal political party. Eventually, it had to separate itself from its Dawa wing (which is devoted to preaching a radical message in mosques and homes and evangelizing the use for radical Islam, with radical Islam). Critics contend that the party is not entirely separated from its energetic evangelists. Despite the extraordinary moves—undertaken in the face of great public pressure—the popularity of the Annahda continues to decline and both Tunisia’s economy and political system are in turmoil.

In Jordan, the Islamists were initially welcomed to participate in the democratic process in the wake of the Arab Spring street demonstrations. But their time as an accepted political party was short. As soon as they began to loudly use their political platform to challenge Jordan’s long-standing peace treaty with Israel, and that treaty challenge provoked street violence in Jordan. In Amman, they were ejected from the political process by the King’s government.

In Libya, it is hard to evaluate the role of Islamists in politics since their militias are usually seen shooting at policemen or menacing the few hardy businessmen who consider investing in that troubled Mediterranean land.

ISIL 1

Morocco should offer the best case toward Islamist participation in democratic politics. The Islamist PJD swept the first parliamentary elections after the constitutional reforms devolved virtually all political power (except for military, diplomacy, and intelligence) from King Mohammed VI to an elected Government. While the PJD did win the most votes.

The Morocco seemed, and still is, an exception. The king proposed a new constitution which gives wide powers to the head of government, from the majority. The PJD came first, but not the majority, far from it, since it represents only about 20% of the votes, it never commanded a majority. So it built a coalition government with several Moroccan  parties.

Morocco that was thought, where the monarchy is historically rooted , and where the king is the commander of the faithful, and thus with the religious monopoly, offered the best environment for the integration of political Islam in a democracy.

In power for over five years, the Islamists have made no real significant economic reforms. This comes as a surprise, since the decade preceding their power was marked by a rapid series of modernizing reforms in banking, telecommunications, taxation, manufacturing, and a pile of half-done reforms awaited the Islamists when they first came into office. These reforms mattered, because Morocco’s fast-growing youth population means that the economy must grow at least six percent a year in order to avoid an increase in youth unemployment. And, as every political observer knows, it is dangerous to have large numbers of men under the age of 30 jobless. Instead, as in other Arab lands, the Moroccan Islamists have been distracted by symbolic and spiritual issues. Islamist party leader Benkirane, at a rally in the southern city of Agadir on the Atlantic coast, approvingly cited Ibn Timia, an obscure radical Islamist thinker from centuries past, and referred to his efforts to win reelection as a “jihad.” Benkirane even speaks of availability for martyrdom, as if he were in a jihad and not in free elections in a democracy.

It’s also instructive to note that as the Islamists have run the government, they have brought something new and ugly into Moroccan politics: anti-Semitism in public fora. While their anti-Jewish hate speech might solidify part of their base support,  it has made the Jewish minority fearful and coarsened the national conversation.

On all of the evidence of the past few years, in every country where the Islamists have enjoyed power, it is clear that they see democracy as a means, not an end. Indeed, they plainly do not like being subject to removal through elections. They long for what the African Communists used to demand: “one man, one vote, one time.” They wish to come to power and never be removed. Whatever else this is, it is not a democratic sentiment. Once in power, record shows that Islamists focus obsessively on ideological agenda items or what women may wear in public, rather than economic growth, clean water, job creation, and the other practical demands of the public. Islamists may be especially dangerous to new democracies, that do not have stable institutions and decades of traditions to protect it.

Clearly, political Islam cannot be tamed by democracy, but it can devour and destroy democracies. American policymakers and Western governments would be wiser to promote the strengthening of democratic institutions, rather than forcing new democracies to welcome the toxic Islamists.


Originally published on 2016-09-16

About the author: Ahmed Charai is publisher of the weekly Moroccan newspaper L’Observateur and president of MED Radio, a national broadcast network in Morocco, MEDTV network and chairman of the board of Al-Ahdath al-Maghrebiya Arabic daily newspaper. As an expert on Morocco and North Africa, he sits on the Board of Trustees of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He is a member of The National Interest’s Advisory Council.

Source: The National Interest

Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & Pinterest.

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

reagan-with-talibans

Save

READ MORE!
Lithuania’s Diplomatic Hitman Takes Aim at Irish-Russian Relations
Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius is no ordinary diplomat. He is more a diplomatic hitman whose ideological mission is to blow holes in European-Russian relations at every opportunity.One of his recent “jobs” was to write an op-ed for the Irish Times in which he castigated the European Union for appeasing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Linkevicius used a hoary old historical analogy comparing the EU with British leader Neville Chamberlain and his appeasement in 1938 of Nazi Germany’s Hitler.Apart from the ignorant historical waffling, the other curious thing about Linkevicius’ op-ed piece in Ireland’s so-called “paper of record” was the timing. It was ...
READ MORE
Confronting the West With its Responsibilities is Essential!
The West has a black history in the middle east that must be recognised. In 1916, Arabs joined the allied forces but deceived.The victorious  western powers divided the region as they wished without any consideration to the peoples’ will. Then  completed  this crime by planting the state of Israel, which since day one spread state terrorism throughout the region.The West supported Israel and defied the international law set by the West. Our part of the world continued to live in a climate of war, militarisation and tension because of this. In this respect, the West practised and still the most ...
READ MORE
Russian Military Interventions Throughout the World since 1945
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
READ MORE
Dr Udo Ulfkotte – A German Well Known Journalist and Author on RT
A famous German journalist Dr Udo Ulfkotte is speaking about Western media propaganda against Russia, orchestrated Western media Russophobia, Western fals flags and fake news about Ukraine and other things related to global politics.  Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
READ MORE
Donetsk People’s Republic – Story Untold by Western Media
My refusal to believe ongoing Western media reports of “Russian aggression” makes me a “Kremlin troll”. My punishment for not towing the “party line” – simple, effective “shunning” by Western media – has not, however, diminished my ongoing commitment to seeing the other side. Having previously investigated the Crimean reunification with Russia, this May I turned my attention to the birth of two new government formations in Eastern Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR).  Americans only hear either what Kiev “reports”, or the US propaganda machine puts out – these are puppet regimes born of ...
READ MORE
The Real Story of Zbigniew Brzezinski that the Media isn’t Telling
 Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter, died Friday at a hospital in Virginia at the age of 89. Though the New York Times acknowledged that the former government advisor was a “hawkish strategic theorist,” misrepresenting his legacy as one of otherwise infinite positivity may not be as easy as the establishment might like to think.As the United Kingdom plays around with levels of the so-called “terror threat” following a devastating attack by an ISIS-inspired individual — and as the Philippines goes into an almost complete state of martial law following ISIS-inspired destruction — Brzezinski’s timely death ...
READ MORE
Southeastern European Organized Crime & Extremism Review
The following research is a review around the theme of Southeastern European organized crime, mainly in the period 1995-2007, highlighting the emergence of powerful regional “Mafias” with an actual global presence. The main focus is the Albanian criminal syndicates centered on Kosovo. The research is composed by previous material of the writer, some of which was presented in international workshops.  Moreover the issue of radical Islam is being overviewed in a second part,for the same period, along with information regarding  the state of affairs of the Muslim communities in the region.Narcotics and the emergence of crime syndicates in the BalkansThe ...
READ MORE
Implicit Meanings in Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Tomes
In his recent replies to Archbishop of Albania Anastasios and Archbishop of Antioch John X, Patriarch Bartholomew demonstrated once again that Constantinople envies Rome’s reputation and influence in Catholic Church. The Phanar refuses to take notice of the opinions of other Churches (even on the issues influencing the whole Orthodox world!) presuming itself as the one and only decision-maker and its verdict indisputable.However, justifying its decisions, the Phanar turns to arguments that aren’t really relevant – for example, comparing the recent situation in Ukraine to the Meletian schism in his letter to Anastasios, Bartholomew for some reason didn’t mention that ...
READ MORE
The 1929 Lateran Treaty: B. Mussolini’s Faith-Based Initiative
This Wednesday, February 11 [2009], will mark the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Lateran Treaty and related agreements, in which Benito Mussolini’s Italy recognized the Vatican as an independent state and showered it with money and other benefits. Mussolini got what he paid for. For well over a thousand years prior to 1929, Popes exercised absolute civil authority over central Italy, a region known as the “Papal States.” Their power was based on a document called the “Donation of Constantine,” in which the 4th century Roman emperor Constantine was supposed to have granted the successors of St. Peter control ...
READ MORE
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Just as the Republican convention demonized Hillary (“Lock Her Up”), so the Democrats are demonizing Donald Trump. They refuse to support any policy that he backs, even when he says something progressive.One might think that at least Bernie’s supporters would applaud Trump’s left-wing transformation of the old conservative, pro-corporate neocon Cheney-Bush core of the Republican Party. But nobody had a single good word to say about Trump’s assertions that he would wind down confrontation with Russia, reduce military spending on the grounds that NATO is obsolete, and oppose the TPP and TTIP as well as rewrite NAFTA’s terms.The Democrats are ...
READ MORE
The US and China Can Avoid a Collision Course – If the US Gives Up its Empire
The problem is America’s global hegemony comes with insistence on maintaining military and economic dominance right in China’s backyard. To avoid a violent militaristic clash with China, or another cold war rivalry, the United States should pursue a simple solution: give up its empire. Americans fear that China’s rapid economic growth will slowly translate into a more expansive and assertive foreign policy that will inevitably result in a war with the US. Harvard Professor Graham Allison has found: “in 12 of 16 cases in the past 500 years when a rising power challenged a ruling power, the outcome was war.” Chicago University scholar John ...
READ MORE
Golan Heights, Kosovo and Crimea: A Case Study in Hypocrisy and Double Standards
The recent announcement by United States President Donald Trump that the US will recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights draws attention yet again to the double standards applied by NATO and its satraps including Australia to the issues of territorial integrity, the right to self-determination, and international law. Three cases illustrate the duplicity and double standards of the Western nations. They may be reviewed chronologically.A picture taken on July 4, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Syrian Golan Heights shows displaced Syrians from the province of Daraa staging a protest (top L) calling for international protection, in the Syrian the ...
READ MORE
Nationalism, Ideology, and the Formation of the Nation-States Among the Yugoslavs
A map of the wanted territories of the Balkan states in 1915There are many talks about nationalism among the peoples from the former Yugoslavia during the last three decades what is quite understandable taking into consideration the post-Cold War conflicts and atrocities, as a continuation of WWII crimes based on certain political ideologies,[i] committed on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia.Historia est magistra vitaeI want to argue that there is a direct link between contemporary nationalism(s) among the Yugoslavs and their national ideologies, which are developed in the previous decades and even centuries. What happened with the Yugoslavs from 1991 to 1999 ...
READ MORE
Real or Rigged “International Conference on Fascism and Antisemitism” in Vilnius on 9 November?
Yet again, a conference here in the Lithuanian capital dedicated to combating fascism and antisemitism is announced, without there having been a public call for papers, without a single speaker from among those who actually combat fascism and antisemitism in the country, with nobody from the democratically elected Vilnius Jewish community (not even the long-time editor of Jerusalem of Lithuania who has exposed and combated antisemitism for decades). No Holocaust survivors. None of the nationally relevant questions of the day can be found on the conference program. As ever, outstanding academic personalities from abroad are recruited to lend the gravitas and provide serious papers ...
READ MORE
America Now Preparing for World War III
Because this article states so many things that might be likely to contradict what most people in Western countries have been led to believe, readers here are especially strongly encouraged to click onto any allegation which seems at all questionable, in order to get to the sources behind any given questionable allegation. And wherever a clicked-onto source turns out to be another article, one is encouraged similarly to do the same there, so that the reader will be able, in this way, to probe down to the ultimate sources, which are the sources upon which this article is finally based.After ...
READ MORE
Two Presidents: A Difference
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest. Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
READ MORE
CIA Discovered Who Helped Hitler to Win Elections in Germany and to Become a Chancellor in 1933
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
READ MORE
The U.S. is not a Democracy, It Never was
One of the most steadfast beliefs regarding the United States is that it is a democracy. Whenever this conviction waivers slightly, it is almost always to point out detrimental exceptions to core American values or foundational principles. For instance, aspiring critics frequently bemoan a “loss of democracy” due to the election of clownish autocrats, draconian measures on the part of the state, the revelation of extraordinary malfeasance or corruption, deadly foreign interventions, or other such activities that are considered undemocratic exceptions. The same is true for those whose critical framework consists in always juxtaposing the actions of the U.S. government ...
READ MORE
A Telling Comparison: Israel versus North Korea
Missing from corporate media accounts is what causes the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK aka North Korea) to be singled out for opprobrium for what, essentially, is developing a deterrent against any entity that would attack it.A comparison with how the United Nations deals with North Korea vis-à-vis another member state state, Israel, is instructive.Israel occupies Palestinian territory; destroys Palestinian olive groves and poisons Palestinian sheep; sprays Palestinian homes with sewage; sabotages Palestinian water supplies; cuts off power to Palestine; terrorizes Palestinians for hours at checkpoints, including the sick, infirm, and pregnant women, some who are forced to give birth ...
READ MORE
The Western Russophobic Paranoia after the Cold War and Global Security
In regard to international relations (IR), power is understood as the ability of state or other political actors to impose its own control or influence over other state(s) or other political actors, or at least to influence the outcome of events on the local, regional or global level. Power politics as a phenomena has two dimensions: internal and external. The internal dimension is applied in the inner policy of the state and the external in the foreign affairs or outside of the home politics. The powerfulness of a state depends on its real independence or sovereignty from outside influence on ...
READ MORE
Lithuania’s Diplomatic Hitman Takes Aim at Irish-Russian Relations
Confronting the West With its Responsibilities is Essential!
Russian Military Interventions Throughout the World since 1945
Dr Udo Ulfkotte – A German Well Known Journalist and Author on RT
Donetsk People’s Republic – Story Untold by Western Media
The Real Story of Zbigniew Brzezinski that the Media isn’t Telling
Southeastern European Organized Crime & Extremism Review
Implicit Meanings in Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Tomes
The 1929 Lateran Treaty: B. Mussolini’s Faith-Based Initiative
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
The US and China Can Avoid a Collision Course – If the US Gives Up its Empire
Golan Heights, Kosovo and Crimea: A Case Study in Hypocrisy and Double Standards
Nationalism, Ideology, and the Formation of the Nation-States Among the Yugoslavs
Real or Rigged “International Conference on Fascism and Antisemitism” in Vilnius on 9 November?
America Now Preparing for World War III
Two Presidents: A Difference
CIA Discovered Who Helped Hitler to Win Elections in Germany and to Become a Chancellor in 1933
The U.S. is not a Democracy, It Never was
A Telling Comparison: Israel versus North Korea
The Western Russophobic Paranoia after the Cold War and Global Security