Is Islam incompatible with Democracy and Modernity?
I originally had targeted the autumnal equinox of Sept 22nd for this post but attacking this subject was like chewing a tough stringy piece of meat: the longer you chew on it the larger it seems to get.
At the out set I would like to warn the reader this post might be a bit lengthy (12 pages). Because of this I have chosen to place references or web sites immediately after quotes or related thoughts. Although this affects readability somewhat, I feel this will afford the reader better access to these than placing them at the end of the entire text.
In thinking about current events in the Middle East (ME), especially those of late in Afghanistan and Iraq, I became curious as to why this area of the globe seems so troubled and backward. The latter is especially vexing when considering that the very area of Baghdad is historically the ?Cradle? of civilization. Additionally, while Europe floundered during the Dark Ages, the ME was a vast depository of the world?s scientific, mathematic, and philosophical knowledge. Caesar?s burning of the great library in Alexandria in 47 B.C. surely cannot explain such a communal loss that would lead to what is now countenanced throughout the area. (Actually, Julius just wanted to burn the Egyptian fleet but the fire, as events do, took on a life of its own.)
Present --But Not Really Accounted For
After more than 5 decades of attempts at modernization Muslim states show little sign of progress in the area of liberal democracy or the development of a capitalist market system, the benchmarks of modern democracies. The object of this post is to examine what might be rational reasons for this perceived failure and to examine whether Muslim communities are capable of obtaining the marriage of modernity and democracy enjoyed by leading nations of the ?West?. This sense of failure implies that some form of national political structure encompassing capitalism, democracy, and modernization is desired in these states before they too reach Fukuyama?s ?End of History? (Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man: Harpercollins, February 1993). That is, some type of political structure considered liberal in its views towards capitalism, founded on rational thought, and both legitimized and informed by universal adult suffrage in some form, hence modernity. This ?Western Modernism? takes many forms today and, since it is the result of an evolutionary process, side by side comparisons of European and American political/economic systems are best left as educational exercises and not considered as the process of choosing the ?better? of the two systems. Similarly, the comparison of Muslim democracy/capitalism systems with that of the ?West? should warrant corresponding cautions.
But basic comparisons of living conditions of major Muslim and Western states reveal a considerable gap. The combined GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of Muslim countries in 2002 with a total population of 1.17 billion was $1.38 trillion (World Bank, ?Data by Country?, at www.worldbank.org./data
). This compares with the EU?s population of 370 million and GDP of $10.11 trillion (European Commission, A Community of Fifteen: Key Figures, 2000 ed.,[Brussels: European Commission,1999] www.europa.eu.int/comm/publications/booklets/eu_glance/14/index_en.htm
). The Muslim world?s share of international trade is a lowly 6.86 % (WTO, ?Trade statistics, Historical Series, Merchandise Trade, and Commercial Services Trade? at www.wto.org/english/res_e/statis_e/statis_e.htm#worldtrade
). Subtract oil from this and the meager figure further decreases. Industrialization also lags behind. Muslim states' principle sources of foreign exchange are oil, minerals, and agriculture products. Malaysia and Turkey are the exceptional few that do well in the export of industrial goods and, along with Egypt and Tunisia, tourism, but most Muslim states sorely need the foreign aid so provided. Urbanization has increased in the Muslim countries but this represents merely a geographic shift of the rural poor and not the result of any major trend in modernization. The low level of literacy, high levels of unemployment, low internet access, and the paucity of newspapers and telephone lines further demonstrate the modernity gap between Muslim states and those in the West.
As usual, my curiosity drove me to do a little reading. I visited the biggies: Bernard Lewis, Francis Fukuyama, Samuel P. Huntington, and others. Professor Lewis points out that those of Islamic background have settled into a never ending process of blame deflection thereby refusing to take responsibility for their own destiny. Professor Fukuyama thinks the problem lies within the tenants and teaching of Islam itself. He muses: ?But there does seem to be something about Islam, or at least the fundamentalist versions of Islam that have been dominant in recent years, that makes Muslim societies particularly resistant to modernity. Of all contemporary cultural systems, the Islamic world has the fewest democracies (Turkey alone qualifies), and contains no countries that have made the transition to developed nation status in the manner of South Korea or Singapore.
?The West Has Won?: Francis Fukuyama)
It is interesting that Fukuyama mentions Turkey, but more on this later.
Huntington sees the world in a rather classic atomistic sense in that the globe is divided into large cultural units or civilizations that may clash at the meeting points of their frontiers, a kind of Stalinesque virtual ?Spheres of Influence?. (?The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order? Samuel P. Huntington: Simon & Schuster).
But, why should we in the West care? Isn?t this a zero sum game? Doesn?t less for them mean more for us? Well, no. This thinking is in opposition to current political and economic realities. In regards to the developing nations Alexander Gerschenkron commented over 40 years ago: ?the paramount lesson of the twentieth century is that the problems of backward nations are not exclusively their own. They are just as much the problems of the advanced countries?? (Alexander Gerschenkron: ?Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective?, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1962, p. 30). This ?spill over? effect of unrest in the Middle East is even more apparent today. The human condition in this area is of concern to many and this is noble, but the strategic importance of the ME is over arching. The driving concern is economic-- remedy this and most problems become self resolving. The concern is, of course, the world?s growing need for relatively affordable oil. Should greedy ugly Americans conserve oil? Certainly, but big SUVs are not the only problem. We are about to see the emergence of a dragon that will develop an increasing appetite for the very same oil. China is on the verge of becoming a significant consumer of the very same finite quantity of oil that every other developed and developing nation vies for?this is the very definition of a zero sum situation. However, given the terrorism problem, whether these states can or cannot sell us oil is no longer sufficient for deciding whether or not we must deal with their political/economic insufficiencies. Along with Iran and Iraq comes Afghanistan and Chechnya. Energetic people need an outlet for their talents. Hopefully their industry can be channeled towards both individual and societal improvement rather then self destructing efforts of terrorism or poppy cultivation.
Roots and Causes
The Thinking Man Holds Forth: Intuitionism Rises to the Challenge
The last half century has produced many commentaries on the Muslim/Western gap concerning modernity. Notable western scholars in this subject area, in addition to the former three, include Max Weber (First published back in the early 1930?s). However, this subject has been brought into sharp focus by the events of September 11, 2001 (9/11). Not since the War of 1812 has the United States seen such a successful tactical attempt to curb American confidence in its security. This event has even led to much hand wringing from those whose concern is: ?Why do they hate us so?. But both this self blame and its complementary schadenfreude, seen in other quarters, are unhelpful if we seek a favorable resolution to this problem.
The above essayists' main thesis endeavors to explain the modernization/democracy gap between the West and Muslim countries through some inherent flaw in Islamic culture and, perhaps in Islam itself. Some take the religion card a step further and strongly suggest that one religion over all others seems to promote capitalism and therefore modernity itself. Some are so bold as to say Islam is incompatible with democracy altogether. But even President George W. Bush has made numerous statements to the contrary.
This Cultural Thesis is multi-pronged. Accordingly this view states Islam?s aversion to rational thinking, its preference of faith over reason, community over the individual and the indivisibility of both the private/public and temporal/spiritual spheres of society. Ernest Gellner has said ?Muslim societies in the modern world present a picture which is virtually a mirror image of Marxist ones. They are suffused with faith, indeed they suffer from a plethora of it?? (Ernest Gellner, ?Civil Society in Historical Context? International Social Science Journal 43, no. 3 (1991): 133)
But these efforts fall into the trap that I warned of earlier. They make a comparison of all of Islam with that equally general on the Western side. Western democracy and Modernity not only exhibit many varieties from state to state but, taken individually, differ both in chronological order and mode of development as well. Indeed, examining only one particular state?s development, such as the U.S., we find that American economic/political reality looks totally unlike that which held sway during the early part of the twentieth century. Additionally, Culturalists ignore the extent that elements of tradition, especially religion, have survived to this day. Indeed we have witnessed a revival of religious fundamentalism in the U.S. over the last 30 years (However, the U.S has been spared the virulent strain of radicalism we see in the ME and elsewhere).
Also overlooked are Europe?s myriad lines of democracy/capitalist development. The European modernity evolution took different courses and modes of development. This, in turn, resulted in various forms of democracy and modernity (David Held, ?Models of Democracy?: Polity Press, 1987). Great Britain was the only nation that saw indigenous modernization and democracy but this took over two hundred years to accomplish. Compared to France the UK?s transformation was rather peaceful. France?s pioneer efforts in rationalistic intellectualism broke more than a few eggs. Germany?s transformation in the fifty years between 1850 and 1900 witnessed not so much an evolution but modernization by fiat. Modernity in Germany preceded democracy which only briefly poked its head up out the morass after WWI not to reappear until after the demise of the Nazi regime.
But if Islam is bad for the development of democracy/modernity, does this imply that all religion is bad? This turns out to be an interesting question which I will discuss in more detail shortly.
Max Weber has written:
? A glance at the occupational statistics of any country of mixed religious composition brings to light with remarkable frequency a situation which has several times provoked discussion in the Catholic press and literature, and in Catholic Congress in Germany, namely, the fact that business leaders and owners of capital, as well as the higher grades of skilled labor and even more the higher technically and commercially trained personnel of modern enterprises, are overwhelmingly Protestant?
(Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, translated by Talcott Parsons: Scribner, 1958, pg 35).
Thus Weber, and others, has contrasted Catholicism?s other-worldly tendencies with Calvinism?s rationalist and utilitarian approach and the latter?s consequent tendency towards capitalistic systems. Indeed, this Calvinist struggle towards success was considered a religious duty. Accordingly Weber informs us that ?only ascetic Protestantism completely eliminated magic and the supernatural quest for salvation?it alone created the religious motivation for seeking salvation primarily through immersion in one?s worldly vocation? (Weber, The Sociology of Religion, 5th ed. Beacon Press, 1969, pp.269, 270). Weber also attributed other characteristics to Islam that are close to what we see voiced in today?s Cultural Thesis. Weber also had little hope for Asian religions but 10 to 15 years later the emergence of the various Asian ?Tigers? would seem to speak against Weber?s reasoning in this area. As for Weber?s high regard for Calvinism, R.H. Tawnwy notes in his forward to Weber?s 1958 work: ?Recent studies of the development of economic thought suggests that the change of opinion on economic ethics ascribed to Calvinism was by no means confined to it, but was part of a general intellectual movement, which was reflected in the outlook of Catholics as well as of Protestant writers?
The Empiricist Strikes Back: "Just the Facts M'am"
Is there validity in using the one variable of religion to explain the paucity of modernity and its sibling, democracy, in Muslim states? Or, more likely, is there more going on here?
First let us examine whether Islam is problematic regarding democracy. Lewis, Fukuyama, Huntington and other Cultural Theorists tend to look at the big picture then point to simplistic reasons for the plight of those in the ME. These reasons look good when explained via subjective methods but this just brands them as opinion. In a court of law there are two types of opinions that have weight: Eyewitness and Expert. Eyewitness testimony traditionally carried much weight and was viewed almost as gospel. It is now subject to review by experts and, indeed, many modern scientific studies have called into question otherwise honest first hand recounting of events related to the prosecution of defendants. Even eyewitness accounts only hours after a specific event are subject to an individual brain?s interpretation of relevant events. These interpretations are influenced by various individual biases, and the end morphing of the ?Truth?, although not intentional, may contain significant errors. Expert testimonials, based in science and mathematics, are considered the most objective. Even in such areas as psychiatry and Psychology the subjective evaluations of many practitioners are compiled and subjected to mathematical analysis to give them more objective value.
Granted, our subject matter falls in the realm of political science which at first seems to invite the term: oxymoron. But there are mathematical techniques that afford a more objective picture and I was fortunate to find the results of just such an effort by Fares Al-Braizat of the Univ. of Kent @ Canterbury, UK. ( ?An Empirical Critique of Pedantic Culturalist Methodology? http://www.ethno.unizh.ch/csfconference/files/manus/Braizat_Manus_1.pdf
This section will discuss the results of this analysis. But this method of statistical analysis is complex, so, to avoid turning this part of the text into a somnolent literary device, I invite the reader to consult the actual text, graphs and charts of Al-Braizat?s work to satisfy any personal technical lust. The attempt here, liberally seasoned with relative specific facts, seeks only to digest the empirical data in broad terms relating to our original question of whether Islam is problematic to the development of both democracy and modernity.
Our goal is to see how religiosity interacts with support for democracy/authoritarianism. The data for the indicators used have been taken from the third and fourth wave of the WVS (World Values Survey 1995-97 and 1999-01 respectively). These include the data from 62 countries where citizens were assessed as to whether there was a high degree of preference for democracy as a political system, democracy is better than any other form of government, or demonstration of a preference for a strong head of government who need not bother with parliament or elections (authoritarian), along with interpersonal trust (IPT), and religiosity.
In the WVS these tendencies were determined by asking representative samples of those nations the corresponding questions. All results are expressed as percentages of the sample total.
Interpersonal Trust, Support for Democracy or Authoritarianism
Fukuyama has linked interpersonal trust (IPT) with modernity and democracy. So, in viewing levels of IPT in various religious context we can clarify whether Islam is the problem
in the pursuit of democracy. If so, we would expect that those countries with low levels of IPT would be considered non-democratic. Alternately, those with high IPT would be strongly democratic and modern. This is not what we find. Democratic Turkey scores a low 19%, Iran 55%. Denmark and Norway are the only countries (out of 83) scoring higher than Iran. However Turkey and Pakistan IPT score is higher than Catholic Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Philippines, Zimbabwe, Poland, Colombia, Venezuela, Georgia, and Romania. In Addition the Islamic state of Jordan scores almost as high as the protestant UK?s 30%. What is more, Jordan?s IPT score is higher than Roman Catholic France, Poland, Hungary, Chile, Romania, and Orthodox Russia. So, IPT is formed by individual societies and is a poor variable to employ to predict democratic development.
Support for Democracy
Support for democracy in Islamic Bangladesh 98%, Jordan 89%, Turkey 88% is compared to the UK?s 78%, USA 87%, and Canada 87%. Protestant W. Germany, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden and Confucian Japan also score high. So Do many other Islamic and Catholic, Orthodox, and ex-communist states. Islamic countries are unexceptional with regard to their support of democracy when compared to other nations.
Support for Authoritarian Leadership
(Strong leader sans parliament and elections)
Cultural Theorists would imply that a high support of Authoritarian Leadership would imply inversely low support of democracy (e.g. low IPT equates to low Support for democracy). But the data does not bear this out. Among other examples, democratic Turkey?s support for authoritarian Leadership is 72% while authoritarian Egypt?s is 7%
Religiosity and Democracy
Religiosity was determined by responses to the question:
Independently of whether you go to religious services or not, would you say you are
1. A religious person
2. Not a religious person
3. A convinced atheist
Religiosity and support for democracy was measured using 2 different questions and their answers of ?DPS (Democracy Political Systems) is a very good form of government? and ?Democracy is better than any other form of government?.
It was generally found that the relation between religiosity and support for democracy was negative but insignificant. In other words religion tends to work against the establishment of democracy but is neither a tipping point variable nor the basis for any solid conclusions when searching out success or failure of democratic development. In fact highly religious Muslim societies favor democracy more than highly religious Christian societies (Egypt scores higher on democracy than catholic Poland). Additionally, the study informs: ?None of the Islamic societies fall beneath 40% (Support for Democracy) (while the majority of societies under 40% are Christian Catholic, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox but not Protestant. Furthermore, the highest score is (Islamic) Morocco 84%. Some Islamic countries score as high as USA, France, and the Netherlands.?
Religiosity and Authoritarianism
This was measured by asking those who declared themselves religious whether they thought a political system that provided a strong leader that need not bother with elections or parliament was a good or very good system for governing their country. Although insignificant, a positive correlation was evidenced. That is, religiosity may be one of many factors contributing to the development of authoritarianism (One suspects the size and number of lethal weapons employed by a political ?party? may be more influential in this regard). As previously mentioned, the examples of Turkey and Egypt are notable. Turkey seems to want another Ataturk Kemal who?s strong central government had not only success in modernizing that country but also in establishing a guardian of the secularism deemed necessary to carry on those successes into modern day Turkey. Whether that guardian (the military) is still needed is an interesting modern question. In contrast, Egypt?s 7% support for a strong leader would suggest the populaces? longings do not include more of the Naser /Sadat / Mubarak political treatment.
On the whole authoritarianism was the only variable that correlated positively with religiosity, albeit weakly. However, if one seeks to single out one particular religion as having a greater propensity for authoritarianism he is met with failure. Protestantism does seem to help democracy but this is also only a weak correlation and not a major determining factor.
Conclusions Inherent in the Empirical Examination
Using the results of Al-Braizat?s complicated analytical techniques we can conclude that religion on the whole or any in particular cannot be offered as a serious obstacle to democracy or, alternatively, an impetus to the development of authoritarianism.
What this study did find is that Human Development in a society, measured by HDI (Human Development Index), correlates significantly and negatively with support for authoritarianism. Increased standards of living and educational levels work against such dictatorial types of government. In addition, further analysis with more variables by Al-Braizat does not show that Muslim societies favor the ?Strong Leader? political model and in fact actually tend to favor democracy.
So what are the causes?
So neither Islam nor any other religion has any significant effect in the development of democracy or modernity in the long term. Even the Catholic Church?s infamous persecution of scientists of the Middle Age and Renaissance periods was unable to halt the advancement of rational thinking. But the resulting dialectic did result in a synthesis of thought and casuistry that eventually took hold in the west. Its result is the truce that has resulted in the concept of ?Separation of Church and State? that we witness in modern western societies. So let?s use a historical approach to examine what might be contributing factors.
By the late 19th century the major powers of Europe expanded their empires into Muslim areas. This exposed the area?s backwardness in relation to western modernity. Thoughtful Muslims determined that their lands? best defense was to become more modern and should try to develop economies and cultural institutions that would more closely resemble that enjoyed by those nations posing the ?external challenge? (Britain, Russia, and France). This defensive character that drove Muslim modernization shaped the debate about its virtues and vices. (E.C. Black, ?The Dynamics of Modernization?, Harper & Row, 1966, p.96)
Muslim intellectuals developed their own Culturalist explanations which involved blaming Islam and the religious establishment for their backwardness. The remedy seemed to lay in the unmitigated adoption of the European model, especially secularization. Sounded like a plan, but inherent in this were the seeds of self determination. The colonizers saw results from this effort that ran counter to their interests. After all, of what value is a colony that becomes independent? Remember that group of New World trouble makers of 1776? So, native interest had to be thwarted to a large degree if the interests of the European powers were to be served and, indeed, this is what happened. This produced a strain between those seeking modernization and the imperial rulers. The colonizers created a desire for modernization while the very concept of an imperial colony proscribed both the political and economic realities such a fully modernized society demanded. The colonial model saw that the natives were not the political elite. Additionally, goods manufactured in the imperial center were forced upon the colonies. Such economic impositions were a disincentive for local development of capitalistic entrepreneurship. Both of these factors resulted in the stifling of a unique local culture centered on mercantile endeavors.
Cold War Developmentalism and Laissez-faire Globalism
Great big words to describe some simple concepts, what? The end of WWII saw the appearance of another choice for Muslim states. The 1950?s and 60?s saw Communism as another potential savior of Islamic states from their failed modernization experiments. No longer would Islamic leaders need to pursue painful bottom up grass roots procedures towards modernization via frustrating market driven methods. The governments of these underdeveloped countries knew where they wanted to go, so, why not just follow the Soviet Model and set up a 5 Year Plan of their own? Progress by fiat, that?s the ticket! But both the West and Soviets had increasing interests in the ME and were more than happy to play the zero sum game to increase their own, or decrease the other?s, political influence in such strategic states. But even those countries that aligned themselves with the West felt the strong gravitational pull of large expensive military institutions and huge civil projects as roads, power plants and dams. This modernization was so important that factors that could obstruct its realization such as culture or religious proclivities had to be discounted or even ignored by developmentalist. Those so engaged felt that these could be ignored at least until physical modernization like industrialization, urbanization, and the establishment of bureaucratic state institutions was effected. This involved W.W. Rostow?s ?Stage Theory? of modernization. (Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1960) However, none of these stages involved democracy at any point. It was assumed that ?the search for equality? would follow all these stages. The elemental benchmark was GDP, that figure that measured the gross ?income? of the individual state involved. The applicable social justice and how that income was spread around the state?s populace were not considered directly. Those specifics were abdicated to a nebulous ?Trickle Down? effect.
By the early 1970?s hope for this method of modernization disappeared and criticism now recommended more attention be paid to ?special conditions and cultural backgrounds of the undeveloped nations? ( Ronald H. Chilcote, Theories of Comparative Politics: The Search for a Paradigm Reconsidered, Westview Press, 1994, pp. 226-30).
Instead, there was a call for the reformation of the international economic system including better terms of trade and access to capital and technology for the undeveloped nations, the so called North-South Dialogue (The New International Economic Order: The North-South Debate, MIT Press, 1977).
However, the 1980?s saw increased forces favoring a more global laissez-faire attitude and a greater emphasis on market forces to solve economic problems. Developmentalism was discounted. The rise of Japan and other ?Eastern Tigers? and, later, China further strengthened approval for market driven efforts. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 removed any strategic value that developmental efforts afforded the West and discredited the communist model.
So what was a Muslim to believe was happening? Neither Western economics, Communism, nor free foreign aid seemed to help. But yet, looking around the world they saw the successes of many Asian cultures and these with disparate cultures and religions all of which were considered non-occidental. Muslim society moved towards rejecting modernization and, especially, secularism as evil. Further, Islamic traditionalists then claimed the cause of Muslim society backwardness was due to its straying too far from fundamental Islamic beliefs. God was punishing Muslims for the abandonment of their faith. This backlash then became the basis for the radical militant Islamic fundamentalism witnessed today.
But there are inherent problems with any type of fundamentalism. By definition, fundamental truths are unassailable and it is this basic belief that gives fundamentalism its underlying intolerance and its aversion to pluralistic institutions. Shar?ah or Islamic Law is viewed by those so involved as divine. This is not so. The argument is involved but will not be made here because it is a whole subject in itself. (Ziauddin Sardar, Rethinking Islam http://www.islamfortoday.com/sardar01.htm
) However, a review of the subject shows that the ?Divine? character of Islamic Law (Shar?ah) eschews casuistry or a rational justification of moral positions. This is an important consideration because times and cultures change concurrently with morals. Mixed marriages were first immoral then illegal. In our society, today, it would be immoral not to let a couple marry just because of a difference in ethnic backgrounds. The rigidity of Islamic law gives it a ?medieval feel? (Ibid.) and removes moral agency from the individual. The preceding may seem to argue towards Islam?s incompatibility with modernity and democracy but the same could be said for other major religions and we know from Fares Al-Braizat?s work that this is not true. As usual, the rigidity and intolerance emanates not from the religion or ideology but from its interpretation. Shar'ah disallows even this contemporary interpretation.
Conclusions--at Long Last
Islam and Modernity
Modernity is that which has allowed a rationalist way of thinking and its methodology. This indicates a paradigm shift from the reliance upon religion as the basis for political legitimacy to that of a non-religious nature. There are those who argue, because of the history of Islam and its integration into those societies in question, against a resolution working towards a separation between state and church in such cultures. But these same areas of the world were renowned, both before and many years after the establishment of the Prophet?s teachings, for their scholarship. Indeed, many experts, including Lewis, point out that Muslim regimes were more pluralistic than their Christian counterparts. In addition, Turkey?s example of democracy in a state whose major religion is Muslim speaks towards compatibility. As regarding capitalism, what better example then that of a Middle Eastern Bazaar? The overwhelming evidence supports the fact that most people seek the better life offered by modernity and reject radicalism whether coming from those in Turban?s or from those that shave their heads.
Islam and Democracy
I find no inherent conflict with any religion and democracy. But, regarding Islam, the above is a very general statement which requires the consideration of a major question: What form of democracy is compared to what form of Islam? As has been mentioned, there are different types of democracy. Also, radical Islamists see no compatibility whatsoever. Secularism is viewed by such elements as abandonment of faith for various reasons. Iraq seems to have been fairly secular and ripe for modernity and resultant democracy and probably still is. Presently it is the lack of security, due to sectarian and outside forces who want total political control, that prevents a legitimate dialog among Iraqis and not Islam.
Iran is the one state to look to for proof that a theocratic state run by the elite clergy might work. It is a democracy but more Putin-like and certainly not liberal. Only those who demonstrate they are for the status quo get to participate in elections.
Some feel that the development of Democracy and modernization go hand in hand and, in that, there may be some truth. However, a liberal democracy that allows universal adult suffrage can only be sustained by modernism supported by capitalistic economies that are able to make bargains with their government. The government must answer to the people and not the other way around.
The predominance of the military and its partnership with security services drains valuable resources and civil liberties from Muslim societies. Because of this drain large scale poverty and illiteracy are the norm in these societies. These and the resultant high unemployment, especially of the youth, provide succor for extremists.
Additionally, we in the west have contributed to the problem thru the strategic rent we have afforded to such regimes as Egypt?s Hosni Mubarak, a residual from Cold War strategies. When westerners try to convince these authoritarian leaders to loosen up their grip to allow more personal freedom and perhaps even elections the response is predictable. Newsweek?s International News Editor Fareed Zakaria paints the picture:
?It is always the same splendid setting ? and the same sad story. A senior American diplomat enters one of the grand presidential palaces?from which Hosni Mubarak rules over Egypt?Then the American gently raises the issue of human rights and suggests that Egypt?s government might ease up on political dissent, allow more freedoms and stop jailing intellectuals. Mubarak tenses up and snaps ?If I were to do what you ask, the fundamentalists will take over Egypt. Is that what you want?? The diplomat demurs and the conversation moves back to the last twist in the peace process?
Mubarak is not alone. This tactic is used by many from Saudi Arabia?s Prince Bandar bin Sultan to the PLO?s Yasir Arafat.
This leads to some nasty questions that Americans must honestly confront, especially since the demise of the Soviet Union.
Will we put our money where our mouths are? Will we support the off shore pursuit of that happy mixture of Jeffersonian Democracy and Hamiltonian Markets with more than lip service? Will we really allow self-determination in these states? Can we afford too? Are we willing to invest money and men to provide the security climate necessary? If so this will call for sacrifices.
What do you think?