Saturday, September 22, 2007

Democracy is the Engine of Political Islam

The Guardian published a moderately-interesting article on the rise of political Islam in the Middle East (full article here).

I say moderately interesting because I don't think the author makes any new points or provides much insightful analysis but rather quickly glances over what I think is a very important topic in today's world.

Still, the author does make a number of valid points:
Democracy is not the antidote to the Islamists the neocons once fondly believed it would be. Since the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, there has been a consistent response from voters wherever Muslims have had the right to vote. In Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey and Algeria they have voted en masse for religious parties in a way they have never done before.

Much western journalism in the six years since 9/11 has concentrated on terrorist groups, jihadis and suicide bombers. But while the threat of violence remains very real, those commentators who have compared what they ignorantly call "Islamofascism" to the Nazis are guilty of hysteria: the differences in relative power and military capability are too great for the comparison to be valid, and the analogies that the neocons draw with the second world war are demonstrably false.

However, I disagree with one of the author's main points:
Religious parties, in other words, have come to power for reasons largely unconnected to religion.

My thoughts on this issue:
1. There is an undeniable Islamic "revival" in the Middle East. Compared to two decades ago, millions of Muslims have started truly understanding and practising their religion as a way of life. Many more people are now attracted to and can identify with Islamic parties/slogans.

2. The author makes the point that Islamic groups are seen by many as representing justice and integrity. That is not a coincidence and stems from the fact that those groups are trying to implement the teachings of Islam, whether or not it is advertised that way.

3. The failure of Arab nationalist groups to achieve anything of meaning over the past five decades has greatly disappointed people and was part of the reason, I think, for people looking for alternatives. Islam and the Islamic movement was the answer to many.

I do not think that all those who voted for Hamas or the Brotherhood voted for them because they were Islamic groups. However, I do think that those groups' 'Islamic' ideas has given them additional credibility and brought them closer to the people. Twenty years ago, it would have been a different story.

Of course, the now the bigger challenge comes: maintaining the trust and support of the masses by putting words into action.

No comments: