By Khalid Amayreh
Many westerners are quite gloomy about the prospects of democracy in the Arab world, following the historic revolutions that have taken(and are taking) place in several Arab countries. They are worried that true democracy in Arab lands might bring to power Islamic democrats who would seek to reconcile human rights, civil liberties with the Islamic rulings. In other words, they dread seeing the Islamization of democracy.
Some of these critics are quite ignorant of the truth about the Arab world and Islam, and with a good reason. Decades of anti-Islam incitement, spearheaded by Zionist circles, more or less succeeded in tarnishing the image of Islam in many western countries, portraying it as tyrannical and anti-democratic.
Others are quite malicious. They know that the adoption of Islam, even the reinstitution of the Islamic political authority, is the "natural way" for Muslim people. After all, Islam has always been the soul of Arabs. Indeed, asking Muslims to abandon Islam, in favor of imported western ideas and ideals, would be tantamount to asking them to abandon their human and cultural identity.
Many, probably most, westerners seem to lament the demise of despicable tyrants such as Hosni Mubarak, Zeinulabedin Bin Ali. Some are expressing consternation about the imminent downfall of Muammar Qaddafi, the eccentric Libyan dictator who has impoverished and murdered his people in order to appease his megalomaniac tendencies.
There is of course a clear and large amount of hypocrisy in the Western approach toward reforms in the Muslim world. The West, which is not a monolithic power, backed and shielded Arab dictators for years, fearing that true democracy in the Arab world would bring to the forefront a new breed of elected leaders who are more or less unfriendly to western, especially American interests in this part of the world.
Nonetheless, western hypocrisy goes much deeper. For while people anywhere in the world should have the natural right to choose their leaders freely, Muslims are not supposed to choose leaders who are viewed as opposed to Zionist Nazism or American imperialism.
There is also conspicuous moral and logical inconsistency in American and even European stand on Arab and Israeli democracy. According to this inherently duplicitous western view, it is perfectly fine if Jews in Israel elect Nazi-like parties such as Habayt Hayuhedi(the Jewish home), Shas, National Union, and politicians like Avigdor Liberman and Benyamin Netanyahu, that adopt clear-cut fascist formulas. On the other hand, however, Muslims must be constantly warned against Islamic parties whose political formulas are actually very much similar to those of Christian democratic parties in West.
We are not denying the fact that there are some extremist Islamic groups, such as al-Qaeda that should be fought relentlessly as long as they behave the way they do.
However, viewing a billion and a half Muslims with different cultures and ways of thinking, as carbon copies of a tiny, fanatical group is both illogical and unfair.
Yes, the west may encourage Arabs and Muslims to show genuine concern for human rights and civil liberties. This kind of interference is innocuous and harmless. But we Muslims don't like to be told to refrain from electing Islamic parties. After all, we are Muslims, and telling us to not elect Islamic parties is tantamount to telling us to give up Islam itself and adopt another religion.
It should be clear to all that Arabs, like everyone else, have the right to elect their governments and leaders freely according to their conscience. Moreover, for the sake of mutual understanding and constructive future relations between a democratic west and a democratic Arab world, the former would have to give up some of its cultural arrogance and accept the timeless truism that people may thoughtfully and sincerely hold different views and lead different ways of life.
After all, God created us different when He could have created us identical.
I said that whether the West likes it or not, Islam has always been and continues to be the zeitgeist(spirit of the times) throughout the Arab world. Hence, it is an expression of intransigence or perhaps ill will on the part of some western circles to warn Muslims in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia against electing parties with an Islamic agenda.
The Muslims of Egypt have the right to elect a Muslim democratic party just as Christians in Germany have the right to elect a Christian democratic party.
As I mentioned above, there is a heavy legacy of misunderstandings, rumors and canards about Islam in the west, some dating back to the ancient hostilities between Islam and the west while many of the recent misunderstandings have been disseminated by Zionist circles, especially through the media over which Zionist lobbies have quite an influence.
While Muslims are not obliged to imitate or copy certain western aspects of democracy, there is nothing wrong in learning and borrowing from the rich and long western experience of democracy.
Having said that, however, it should be sufficiently clear that Muslims are under no obligation to copy or adopt anything that is incompatible with the principles of our faith.
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|Liaquat Ali Khan|