Jul 19, 2004 7:41 am


Let me make it clear - Nothing will fuel Muslim fundamentalism and terrorism more than a Western backtracking from its post 9/11 commitment to the promotion of democracy in the ME. Such a move will dash the hopes of the populace and demonstrate yet again the totally unjustified contempt in which Westerners hold Muslims.

That is the reason that I find the following sentence from (the deputy editorial editor of The Washington Post) Jackson Diehl's article so troubling: In"Bush's Mideast vision is finding a following" Diehl writes:"Both the Democrats around John F. Kerry and a number of powerful Republicans are saying George W. Bush's vision of spreading democracy is a naive and even dangerous illusion".

1. It is not an illusion - on the contrary as the Economist argues so persuasively In an article entitled"A Shining Example:"

"Indonesia's example ought to put to rest the notion, still common in the Muslim World, and something heard in the West, that democracy and Islam can never co-exist. One might very well argue the contrary: democracy is good for Islam. Whenever they are given a choice, Muslim voters - not just in Indonesia, but in Malaysia, India, Pakistan and arguably Turkey too - reject extremism. Once weighed in the democratic balance and found wanting, the more militant groups tend to lose much of their potency and support. It is in the absence of democracy, as can be seen from Saudi Arabia to Uzbekistan, that breeds terror and subversion, and taints the reputation of what was once regarded as the most tolerant of religions. Malaysia is perhaps the most striking example of the phenomenon: only when Mahathir Muhamad tipped towards autocracy in the late 1990s did the PAS, an Islamist party that demands the introduction of stoning and amputation, come close to posing a threat to a secular government".

By the way, Saudi Arabia publicly beheaded 45 men and 2 women for murder, rape and drug offenses. Iran beheaded a man in 2003 for two murders, the first recorded instance of this in many years. No other country beheaded people.

2. It is obvious from the Arab, if not the American media, that the Bush administration's liquidation of the Taliban and Baath tyrannies and its advocacy of democracy has raised significant expectations for reform in the populace. The Arab media should be read like the old time Pravda was - between the lines. Just note the following articles published in this week's Al Ahram and you will find its antidemocratic ideologues admitting the Arab street's demand for democracy is putting real pressure on the regimes.

Clovis Maksoud is the former Arab League ambassador to the UN and director of the Center for the Global south at the American University in Washington, DC. Maksoud is also a typical secular member of the Arab elite who preferred living with Saddam but has to acknowledge his removal raised the people's expectations. In an article entitled Done solo? He writes -"The Arabs must try themselves, and seek to reconcile the excruciating consequences of being witnesses to the obvious humbling of a ruthless authoritarian dictator, with Arab collective expectations that transparency and accountability of governments throughout the Arab homeland will now be more feasible and good governance more possible".

Samir Farid, a veteran film critic, blames the US for everything that has gone wrong in the world in the past century - in Redefining Arabism:"In the course of the 20th century, the US created many monsters in order to fight communism. From Hitler to Bin Laden, from Suharto to Pinochet, from Saddam Hussein to Khomeini. Each time, the tactic backfired, because interests shift".

This time, he has to admit that the US helped Muslims."Friends often ask me:"You have been against US policy all your life. Why don't you denounce the US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq? . . . my answer i that I was never against US policy per se. US interests have coincided with those of the Afghan people regarding the Taliban, and with those of the Iraqi people regarding Saddam Hussein".

Moreover, American"ally" Mubarak's attempt to avoid democratization in his own country by following Nasser's example and rallying the Arab world against the US and Israel failed.

"President Hosni Mubarak is the only Arab leader who had taken part in a war against Israel that won. He came up with an initiative to counter the Greater Middle East scheme at the Tunis summit in May, but Arab leaders were not excited about it."Enough Egypt", most Arab leaders thought. President Mubarak has also tried to restore pragmatism to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but his initiative has not been greeted with enthusiasm. Again, we see the same"enough Egypt" syndrome".

So, what should Mubarak do?"The best way to do that is for the president of Egypt to fulfill the dream of his own people by restoring democracy," Farid answers. Egypt is enmeshed in a succession struggle meticulously ignored by the media which dwells on every political move by Sharon. Thus, according to Enter Heikal, after the Egyptian media aired a lecture Heikal (Nasser's mouth piece and the founder of Al Ahram) gave at the American University in Cairo (AUC) in which he commented on speculation surrounding the bequeathing of the presidency in Egypt. Heikal reminded the audience that President Hosni Mubarak, and the son around whom the speculation revolves, have both rejected the notion on a number of occasions. Egypt is not like other states, Heikal said. Republics, he argued, do not allow for the inheritance of power. It was the last time he appeared on Egyptian TV." He was about to appear on Al Jazira.

I could go on and on but I believe the point has been made. Kerry must find a way to assert his commitment to the democratization of he ME. Failure to do so places us all in serious danger! Success means doing what comes naturally.

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