Wednesday, April 21, 2004


Written by an Arab in the Arab News.
While a section of the Western media continues to predict an “explosion of the Arab street”, it is possible that Arab, and Muslim politics in general, may be seeking other, more institutionalized, forms of expression. Starting this year, the Muslim world has witnessed a string of conferences, all devoted to the issue of democratization.

Some of these conferences, in Kuala-Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, in Istanbul, Turkey’s cultural and business center, in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, and in the Egyptian Mediterranean port of Alexandria, for example, have come out with clear statements that democratic reform is the only way for out for Muslim nations caught in “an historic quagmire”...

The speedy collapse of the Taleban in Kabul and the Baath in Baghdad, in 2002 and 2003, however, opened a new chapter in which advocates of democratization may have an opportunity to address the broader audiences at least in some Muslim countries.

The reason for this is not hard to guess.

The Ba’ath regime in Baghdad represented the most radical version in the Muslim world of leftist nationalism inspired by both Nazism and Communism. If anybody could have created the Arab nationalist Utopia it was Saddam Hussein. But he ended up in a hole near Takrit. The Taleban regime for its part represented the ultimate “must” in Islamism. No one could claim to be more Islamist than Mulla Muhammad Omar. But he, too, ended up hiding in a hole in Arzangan.

There is a growing sentiment in the Muslim world that their political systems have reached a deadend and that the only way out is some form of democratization. The old debate on whether Islam is compatible with democracy is hardly engaged these days. The issue now is the necessity of democracy for Muslims rather than its compatibility with Islam. Even the most conservative of Muslim regimes are now committed to the creation of elected organs of government...

Muslim politics as limited to palaces, barracks, mosques, and streets has led to what must be regarded as the most glaring collective failure for any group of nations in history. It is, perhaps, time to envisage other institutions, notably political parties, Parliaments and law courts as the focal points of political life in the Muslim world.
At least somebody gets it.

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