Is Political Islam Compatible with Democracy?

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

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!
Crimes Of Genocide Against The Serbian People
The controversial film director has been reported to authorities by the Antifascist League. A criminal complaint against film director Jakov Sedlar has been filed due to historical counterfeits that he used during the production of his documentary “Jasenovac – The Truth”. The complaint has been filed by the Antifascist League of Croatia due to criminal offense of incitement to violence and hatred, reports tportal.hr on July 15, 2016. In the explanation of the compliant, the Antifascist League states that Sedlar in the film publicly denied and significantly reduced the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, primarily directed against members ...
READ MORE
Islamic State Top Dog from Kosovo Returns to Europe with 400 Jihadis
What could possibly go wrong? Refugees welcome! Not to allow these enemy combatants to return would be “Islamophobic”! “Disguised as refugees and able to cross borders without being identified: ISIS general who blew up a hostage with a rocket and decapitated another prisoner is ‘back in Europe with 400 soldiers’ after fleeing Syria,” by Julian Robinson, MailOnline, December 29, 2016: An ISIS general once pictured decapitating a prisoner is back in Europe with up to 400 of his most trusted soldiers after fleeing the war zone in Syria, it has been claimed. Ex-NATO soldier Lavdrim Muhaxheri and his men are among thousands who ...
READ MORE
Hillary Comes Out as the War Party Candidate
On June 2 (2016), a few days before the California primary, Hillary Clinton gave up trying to compete with Bernie Sanders on domestic policy. Instead, she zeroed in on the soft target of Donald Trump’s most “bizarre rants” in order to present herself as experienced and reasonable. Evidently taking her Democratic Party nomination for granted, she is positioning herself as the perfect candidate for hawkish Republicans. Choosing to speak in San Diego, home base of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, on a platform draped with 19 American flags and preceded by half an hour of military marching music, Hillary Clinton was certain ...
READ MORE
Luring Trump into Mideast Wars
Donald Trump entered military terra incognita on Thursday by launching an illegal Tomahawk missile strike on an air base in eastern Syria. Beyond the clear violation of international law, the practical results are likely to be disastrous, drawing the U.S. deeper into the Syrian quagmire. But it would be a mistake to focus all the criticism on Trump. Not only are Democrats also at fault, but a good argument could be made that they bear even greater responsibility. For years, near-total unanimity has reigned on Capitol Hill concerning America’s latest villains du jour, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Congressmen, senators, ...
READ MORE
Washington’s Wars
The New York Times reported on October 22 that the United States has “just over 240,000 active-duty and reserve troops in at least 172 countries and territories,” which is a staggering total. But in an intriguing revelation the Times reported that there are a further 37,813 troops deployed “on presumably secret assignment in places listed simply as ‘unknown.’ The Pentagon provided no further explanation.” It is not surprising that Washington’s war-spreaders do not supply information to the American public concerning the location of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen involved in clandestine operations around the globe, because this might bring to light the lack of justification for ...
READ MORE
Manchester Terror Act on May 22nd, 2017: Photo Evidence Not Presented on the Mainstream Global Mass-Media (Euronews, CNN, DW, BBC, ABC…)
See photo evidence here: Manchester terror act on 2017-05-22   © “Free Media Group” 2017 Save
READ MORE
The Untold History of U.S. War Crimes
In this exclusive interview, Prof Peter Kuznick speaks of: the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagazaki; US crimes and lies behind the Vietnam war, and what was really behind that inhumane invasion; why the US engaged a Cold War with the Soviet Union, and how that war and the mainstream media influences the world today; the interests behind the assassinations of President Kennedy; US imperialism towards Latin America, during the Cold War and today, under the false premise of War on Terror and War on Drugs. Edu Montesanti: Professor Peter Kuznick, thank you so very much for granting me this interview. In ...
READ MORE
If This Haitian Was Superstitious Like The Clintons
“malè ou swete bèlmè, se manman ou li frape” – the evil you wish upon your mother-in-law strikes your mother, Haitian wisdom The other day, I saw a video excerpt of an October 2012 speech in which Bill Clinton was telling an audience in New-York how his wife, Hillary, possesses the extraordinary psychic ability to speak regularly with the dead, in particular, with the spirit of former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.* Today, some U.S. citizens who are still stunned by the election of Donald Trump may be seeking extra insights to help answer many troubling questions. However, I doubt the dead are in any way equipped to help them understand what is  happening in the so-called “land of the free and home ...
READ MORE
Drama At The UN Security Council: Israel’s Illegal Settlements
“The United States has been sending a message that the settlements must stop privately and publicly for nearly five decades.” Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN Christians following the Gregorian calendar are getting busy to celebrate Christmas, but the business of diplomacy continued in the United Nations.  In the Security Council, anticipation about a particular resolution was greater than usual. On Friday, interest was piqued by what the Obama administration’s representative, Samantha Power, would do about a particular resolution that had riled Israeli politicians, US president-elect Donald Trump, and various members of the US Congress. Resolution 2334, as worded, demanded that Israel “immediately ...
READ MORE
A Contribution to Biography (C.V.) of Philanthropist George Soros
Many conspiracy theories have been created about Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist George Soros since his rise to economic wealth. Many of them deal with the intersection between his political beliefs and his financial wealth. However, here we present a real truth on who was and is George Soros. What is missing from official George Soros' C.V. by © “Free Media Group” 2017. © “Free Media Group” 2017   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, ...
READ MORE
Why V. Yanukovych said no to the European Union
Christopher Marsh and I, in our recently published book (Russian Foreign Policy: Interests, Vectors and Sectors), sketch out what we term "Putin's Eurasian dream"—the ambition to create a Eurasian economic and political zone where Moscow sets the overall agenda and is able to hold its own in the global geopolitical competition with the United States, the EU and China—and to have the foundations laid by 2015. A major obstacle to this vision was abruptly removed on Thursday when Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych announced that his country would not sign a landmark partnership agreement with the European Union—which Russia had consistently ...
READ MORE
Inside Kacanik, Kosovo’s Jihadist Capital
Nestling in a wooded valley that its citizens laid their lives down to defend, the town of Kacanik in southern Kosovo is fiercely proud of its war dead. Well-kept cemeteries include nearly 100 victims of Serb-led ethnic cleansing in 1999, while in the town centre, a statue clutching an RPG honours fallen members of Brigade 162 of the Kosovan Liberation Army. But a decade and a half on from the war that brought about Kosovo’s independence, there is rather less pride in Kacanik’s new crop of warriors. Infamous son: Lavdrim Muhaxheri, from Kacanik, in Syria  In the last three years, some 24 local menfolk ...
READ MORE
Barbarism in Words and Deeds. Barbarism of U.S. Imperial Wars is Unmatched
“What Russia is sponsoring and doing [in Syria] is not counter-terrorism it is barbarism” Samantha Power, US Representative to the United Nations  The US representative to the United Nations, Ambassador ‘Ranting Sam’ Samantha Power, accused the Russian and Syrian governments of ‘barbarism’, claiming Moscow or Damascus had attacked an unarmed United Nations humanitarian convoy delivering aid to civilians in Aleppo.  No evidence was presented.  Rants and threats do not require facts or proof; they only require vehement emotional ejaculations and compliant mass propaganda organs. ‘Barbarians’, to be clear, evoke images of leaders and groups, which abjure all civilized norms and laws.  They ...
READ MORE
Stay Оut of Kosovo!
…When did Congress authorize Bill Clinton to go to war against a Yugoslav army that has never attacked Americans?… This week, NATO conducted air exercises over Albania as a warning to Belgrade that its crackdown in Kosovo must end now. NATO’s demands? Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic must call off his offensive by June 16, allow monitors unimpeded access to the rebellious province, let the refugees return home, and resume talks with the Kosovan resistance. If Milosevic balks, NATO is preparing attacks on his forces and, says The New York Times, “possible air strikes against strategic military targets in Serbia.” France contends that NATO needs ...
READ MORE
America’s Hegemonic Ambitions: The US “International Dictatorship”, Its Friends, Its Enemies
In a speech delivered in the southern suburbs of Beirut on October 23, 2015, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, a resistance organization rooted in Lebanon’s Shia community, presented a description of US imperialism that largely comports with that of secular leftwing anti-imperialists in the West. Hezbollah was established in the early 1980s to end Israel’s occupation of Lebanon. With Israel’s withdrawal in 2000, and a subsequent Israeli incursion in 2006 repulsed by Hezbollah fighters, the resistance organization remains on the qui vive against future Israeli aggressions. It is now assisting the Syrian Arab Army in its death struggle against ...
READ MORE
Post-War U.S. Presidents
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
Ukraine: Fascist Dictatorship Masquerading As Democracy
For the first time since WW II, overt fascists hold real power in Europe. Radicalized ultranationalists. Anti-Semites. Hate-mongers.  Cold-blooded killers. Whitewashing high crimes. A puppet regime. America’s newest colony. Mocking democratic values. Violating fundamental rule of law principles. Unaccountably. Western leaders won’t explain. Nor will the media. Hard truths are buried. Ukraine’s government usurped power forcibly. Putschist rule has no legitimacy. Especially regimes waging war on their own people. Murdering them in cold blood. Committing horrendous human rights abuses. Tolerating no opposition. Ruling by intimidation. Force-feeding neoliberal harshness on impoverished people. Making life unbearable overall. More on this below. On December 4, Wall Street Journal editors published ...
READ MORE
Distorting Fascism to Sanitize Capitalism
The facile and indiscriminate use of the term fascism has led to a widespread misunderstanding and misuse of its meaning. Asked to define fascism, most people would respond in terms such as dictatorship, anti-Semitism, mass hysteria, efficient propaganda machine, mesmerizing oratory of a psychopathic leader, and the like.Such a pervasive misconception of the meaning of the term fascism is not altogether fortuitous. It is largely because of a longstanding utilitarian misrepresentation of the term. Fascism is deliberately obfuscated in order to sanitize capitalism. Ideologues, theorists and opinion-makers of capitalism have systematically shifted the systemic sins of fascism from market/capitalist failures ...
READ MORE
Crimes Of Genocide Against The Serbian People
Islamic State Top Dog from Kosovo Returns to Europe with 400 Jihadis
Hillary Comes Out as the War Party Candidate
Luring Trump into Mideast Wars
Washington’s Wars
Russian Military Interventions Throughout the World
Manchester Terror Act on May 22nd, 2017: Photo Evidence Not Presented on the Mainstream Global Mass-Media (Euronews, CNN, DW, BBC, ABC…)
The Untold History of U.S. War Crimes
If This Haitian Was Superstitious Like The Clintons
Drama At The UN Security Council: Israel’s Illegal Settlements
A Contribution to Biography (C.V.) of Philanthropist George Soros
Why V. Yanukovych said no to the European Union
Inside Kacanik, Kosovo’s Jihadist Capital
Barbarism in Words and Deeds. Barbarism of U.S. Imperial Wars is Unmatched
Stay Оut of Kosovo!
ISIL International
America’s Hegemonic Ambitions: The US “International Dictatorship”, Its Friends, Its Enemies
Post-War U.S. Presidents
Ukraine: Fascist Dictatorship Masquerading As Democracy
Distorting Fascism to Sanitize Capitalism