Democratization Efforts

The Arab Spring Revisited

With all the talk of revolutions, the Middle East continues to slip backwards. We see mobs burning buildings, uprisings, coups, standoffs, civil wars, orgies of state-sponsored bloodletting, and President Obama quoting Martin Luther King – “There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom” – while the leaders of this “democratic transformation” read Mein Kampf and are well on their way to establishing Islamic theocracies across the region.

Change is indeed coming, but it is not the sort of change this Administration has in mind. What seems likely is that the majority of voters in the Arab world will chose either a party whose motto is “Islam is the Solution” or a party that believes that medieval Arabia is an appropriate state model. Iranians, having tested both propositions over the past three decades now know these are not the answers. Rule under the mullahs has brought more poverty and repression than the Iranians ever experienced under the Shah. In fact, for anyone who has the slightest understanding of the socio-political crises gripping the Arab Middle East today, it is clear that the “Arab Spring” is morphing into an Islamist travesty – an “Arab Winter” – leaving in its wake political instability, Sunni-Shiite rivalries, bloody clashes, assassinations, bombings, massacres of civilians, religious sectarian violence, Islamic theocracies, and massive refugee problems specifically for Jordan – most notably from Syria (due to its continuing civil war), the Palestinian Authority (fleeing a possible third intifada) and Iraq (given the imminent U.S. withdrawal from that country) – everything except liberal democracy as we know it.

If anything, it’s an “Islamic awakening”, and the only winners will be the Muslim Brotherhood (whose political aims are akin to those of the revolutionary Khomeinists in Iran) and the Salafi jihadists (who are even more extreme in their Islamic views by rejecting democracy, constitutional law and parliamentary politics). It was the Muslim Brotherhood after all that gave Osama bin Laden’s former deputy and current leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, his start.

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first defended working with the MB, she promised that in any contacts with them “we will continue to emphasize the importance of and support for democratic principles and especially a commitment to non-violence, respect for minority rights, and the full inclusion of women in any democracy.” Her support for these principles went unnoticed in Cairo on October 9, 2011 when Christians were massacred by Islamists. And it goes unnoticed every time MB theologians like Sheik Qaradawi call for the killing of Jews. Instead, the Administration has recruited this genocide proponent to mediate its negotiations with the Taliban.

The U.S. should be under no illusions. The end result of an MB electoral victory in Egypt will be a theocratic domestic program and a confrontational foreign policy as part of a “rightly guided caliphate for the education of the world” as stated by Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammad Badie. It should be remembered that in 1979, as the Ayatollah Khomeini was seizing power in Iran and turning a largely peaceful secular revolution into a brutal Islamic theocracy, the New York Times ran an op-ed column entitled “Trusting Khomenei.” The column argued that Khomeini was being depicted unfairly as an anti-Semitic theocratic reactionary when instead, “Iran may yet provide us with a desperately-needed model of humane governance for a third-world country.” We all know how that turned out, but that didn’t stop the Times from running another front page “news analysis” in February 2011 extolling the virtues of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. What happened in Iran, it assured us, could never happen in Egypt as the Brotherhood “is a mainstream group that stands as the most venerable of the Arab world’s Islamic movements.”

Even now, the Administration does not yet fully understand the implications of probable Islamist victories in Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco and eventually the West Bank. To do so, it need only consult the April 2011 Pew Research Center poll results in Egypt (and Egypt is not that different from other Arab countries in this regard) where 84% of Egyptians support the death penalty for apostates, 82% support stoning adulterers, 85% said Islam’s influence on politics is positive, 95% said that it is good that Islam plays a large role in politics, 59% identified with Islamic fundamentalists, 54% favored gender segregation in the workplace, 82% favored stoning adulterers, 77% favored whippings and cutting off the hands of thieves and robbers, 84% favored death for those leaving Islam, and 60% said that laws should strictly follow the teachings of the Koran. These views don’t sound like a people yearning for liberal democracy.

If and when these attitudes translate themselves into electoral victories, the Brotherhood and its Salafist supporters can be expected to prevent parliament from passing any law that contradicts the explicit commands of Allah as conveyed through the Koran and the Sunna. The Muslim Brotherhood regards all the land of Palestine as an Islamic endowment (waqf), rejects the State of Israel’s right to exist, promotes an uncompromising jihad against Israel, and absolutely rejects peace treaties and normalization with Israel. In addition, it is consistently anti-Semitic and spreads anti-Semitism, either rooted in Islam or based on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Its ideology is based on the worldview of “Islam as the solution” for every individual, social and political problem. As such, legislation is the absolute prerogative of Allah. Allowing man-made laws is considered an act of rebellion, evil, and heresy. Uriya Shavit of Tel Aviv University explains the implications of this in the autumn issue of AzureOnline (Shalem Center): “As Islamist scholars have explained repeatedly, human beings cannot permit what Allah has forbidden, nor can they ban what Allah permits.” She continues: “The inevitable result of (an Islamist) electoral victory will be the formation of a theocracy. It will not permit the scientific and technological revolution of which Arab societies are in such dire need.”

If Sharia is to become the supreme adjudicator of future legislation across the Arab world, non-Muslims will be excluded from full participation in Arab societies, official second-class status (dhimmitude) will be conferred on them, and their lives and property will be protected only so long as they pay the Jizya – a discriminatory tax that must be paid by non-Muslims under Islamic law. Giulio Meotti has written of the “Arab Spring” – “After six decades of Arab kleptocracy and secularism, the Middle East is going to be engineered according to (Sayid) Qutb’s ideology. It will be a paradise for Muslim men, but a hell for women, atheists, Christians and Jews.”

Anything construed as insulting Islam (as in cartoons portraying the Prophet or Islam in a less than favorable light) or that represents logic, enlightenment, modernity, secularism, rationality, research, individualism, universal human rights, or materialism will be suppressed. Even the archeological monuments built as legacies by ancient civilizations (considered by Salafists to represent “idolatry”) will be concealed or destroyed just as the Taliban destroyed the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, and the Mongols. in 1258, burned the immense library in Baghdad known as the “House of Wisdom” that held rare original writings of Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras that have now disappeared forever.

It can also be assumed that Islamic law will lead to a crack-down on “moral turpitude” and “promiscuity” (as represented by naked mannequins, cigarette sellers, fortune tellers trying to predict the future, and men selling women lingerie – as we have already seen in Hamas-controlled Gaza), and will validate polygamy, the amputation of limbs, lashes for insulting the companions of the Prophet Muhammed (blasphemy), gender apartheid, the ethnic cleansing of Jews, Christians and other infidels, mandatory donning of the veil for women, honor killings, the execution of homosexuals, prostitutes and apostates (those who convert away from Islam), female genital mutilation, bans on music, singing, dancing, men and women mixing in public, prohibitions on the consumption of alcohol, restrictions on scientific and technological inquiry (the effect of which will suffocate philosophy, art and research), suppression of freedom of expression for artists, journalists and writers, the punishment of those in the media who disagree with their government, and the practicing of any religion other than Islam (witness the recent attacks on Copts and Christian Coptic churches in Egypt). Eventually, the military will be dismantled and reconstituted as an Iranian-style Revolutionary Guard. If you want more specifics about what sort of Egypt the Muslim Brothers will build, consult the speeches of the Brothers’ Grand Mufti Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who commands a global audience of millions. Qaradawi has approved of suicide bombing, wife-beating, death for homosexuals, support for Hezbollah, and the righteousness of the Holocaust in its attempt to destroy the Jews.

In the Arab Middle East, Islamic democracy will justify democratic tyranny by the majority and will unify countries by purging them of all their divisive elements. And if the rest of the population doesn’t agree – especially non-Muslim minorities – elections will be rigged, bullets will fly, protesters will be slaughtered in the streets, and the prisons will be full. Fourteen centuries of tribalism cannot produce true democracy simply because of Twitter and Facebook.

When Western leaders speak of democracy, they assume it means the same thing to all peoples everywhere. The assumption is that popular power goes hand-in-hand with freedom and tolerance for minorities. It is an assumption not founded on history or reason, but on wishful thinking. Democracy is no solution in countries where pluralism, tolerance and freedom do not exist. It takes more to sustain democratic values than the mere process of voting in free elections. After all, totalitarians from Hitler to Hamas came to power via the ballot. We forget that our Western concepts of rights and freedoms and their accompanying form of democratic government took centuries to evolve in cultures that were already comfortable with the ideas of Locke, Spinoza, Smith and Voltaire. As such “the democratic tradition” cannot be grafted onto Arab societies as Western leaders expect. Our governments are outgrowths of our culture, as are theirs. If the majority of the Arab world favors the imposition of Sharia law, the only issues that will matter will revolve around the extent of the role the Koran will play in their societies and how to deal with those who refuse to accept such a role. Attacking their embassies, burning their churches, and quashing their protests will teach them to keep their place.

Despite State Department optimism to the effect that these newly-elected Arab governments “will support human rights, tolerance, rights of women and will uphold ……… existing international obligations”, none of this bodes well for the implementation of Western-style democracy, pluralism, tolerance for minorities, popular dissent, Arab scientific and technological advancement (as expressed through innovation, originality and defiance of convention), Israel, or American interests in the Arab world.

The vast majority of Arab Middle East states have neither real political parties nor pluralistic structures, nor any clear basis for representative government, political compromise, nor any history of effective governance upon which to build a civil society. Ethnic and religious tensions that have been repressed for decades are now being released with terrible consequences. Judicial systems are either weak or corrupt or both. Religious extremism is preventing any dramatic movement to social and economic change, and the military and security forces are increasing part of the problem not the solution. For all these reasons, everything that is going wrong with the “Arab Spring” was inevitable because the region is so barren that even when there is the freedom to choose, there is nothing worth choosing.

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