Democracy or Islamocracy

Linked with out presentations of Mehdi Mozaffari – Iran & Denmark, and Linked with our presentations How to go on with radical Islam, and What Is the Difference Between Islam and Islamism? .

By Dr. Mehdi Mozaffari – PARIS 26, Mar. (IPS) “It is astonishing that each time claims on freedom of speech, free elections and gender equality strongly arises, Arab and Muslim leaders immediately resort to counter attacks, considering these claims to be in contradiction with their culture and identity. What they are saying is actually that despotism and repression is more conform to Islamic and Arab values than democracy and liberty”, according to an Iranian scholar in Denmark. (Read this on Iran Press Service).

In an article carried out on Thursday by the Paris-based “Iran va Jahan” (Iran and the World) internet news service, Dr. Mehdi Mozzaffari of the Aarhus University of Copenhagen counters despotic leaders in the Arab Middle East and Muslim world arguing that democracy should not be imposed from the outside, saying “If demands for change come from the outside, it is because nothing has been done in this direction by Middle Eastern autocrats who have been holding on to power for decades”.

“Instead of a Philadelphian inspired democracy, they (Arab and Muslim leaders) are looking for “Islamocracy”, or Islam and democracy. “Islamic democracy” as president (Mohammad) Khatami of Iran formulated it means selection instead of election, a parliament without real attributes, a judiciary without independence, political parties without liberty, and mass communication without a voice”, he pointed out.

It is of common knowledge that democracy cannot be established in one day. But, one day, the process of democratisation must begin. This day has now arrived to the Middle East. Middle Eastern societies are facing a painful, dramatic and decisive choice between democracy and Islamocracy. It is not that the Middle East is a particularly fertile terrain for democracy, but rather because democracy is a necessity.

Currently, the Islamic world is producing Oil, Terrorism and Emigration. This “Islamic Bermuda Triangle” represents a major challenge to the world. Until recently, a combination of oil and despotism was tolerated and even supported by western powers; particularly by the USA. The global terrorism, the perpetual waves of emigration, the attempts to access nuclear weapons, and the propagation of Islamism as a new totalitarian ideology which is claiming the conquest of the world by all means is too much to be ignored.

Unfortunately, it is illusory to think that the change in Muslim societies will come from within, alone. Four interrelated factors are hindering a successful internal and autonomous change: Oriental despotism, the rentier economy, the domination of Islam, and external interventionism. These elements constitute a Gordian knot that can only be cut off by Alexander’s sword.

The USA’s intervention in both Afghanistan and Iraq must be understood as an imperative chirurgical intervention to break this vicious chain. American plans to democratise the “Greater Middle East” are also a proposed remedy to the agony of Muslims.

During decades, Americans have been strongly criticized for their support to dictatorial regimes. Now, when Americans are firmly demonstrating their will for democratisation of the Middle East, they are again accused being too ambitious, too naïve and hypocritical! In this respect, Professor Amitai Etzioni refers to the Bush Administration’s plan as an “American Fantasy” (International Herald Tribune of 5 March 2004).

The fantasy is rather to await the process of democratisation to start by itself and to progress slowly, gently and peacefully from within the Middle Eastern societies. It is not so much because demands for democracy, justice and humanity are absent from the Middle Eastern arena. Forces for democracy in this region are under an organized, systematic and deep going repression.

American plans cannot make miracles. Nevertheless, they do make a difference and they have especially changed the agenda. Already the paradigm has changed in the Middle East. For the first time in history, democracy figures on the agenda. Dynamism is going to replace stagnation and brutality gives place for dialogue. This is not a fantasy; it is a fact and it is real. The constitution of Afghanistan is now in place. The transitory constitution of Iraq is signed. Of course it is not fully conformed to Max Weber’s ideal type of democracy; but there is no doubt that it will be moving in this direction.

The new wave of democratisation is so strong that Arab and Muslim autocrats are trembling. In the name of national, cultural and religious identity, president Mubarak of Egypt together with president Assad of Syria and the Saudi family tries to build up a ‘Refusal front’.

It is astonishing that each time claims on freedom of speech, free elections and gender equality strongly arises, Arab and Muslim leaders immediately resort to counter attacks, considering these claims to be in contradiction with their culture and identity. What they are saying is actually that despotism and repression is more conform to Islamic and Arab values than democracy and liberty! They also argue that democracy should not be imposed from the outside.

If demands for change come from the outside, it is because nothing has been done in this direction by Middle Eastern autocrats who have been holding on to power for decades. Instead of a Philadelphian inspired democracy, they are looking for Islamocracy. Islamocracy or ‘Islamic democracy’ as president Khatami of Iran formulated it means selection instead of election, a parliament without real attributes, a judiciary without independence, political parties without liberty, and mass communication without a voice.

The time for Islamocracy is over and the waves of democratisation have finally reached the shores of the wider Middle East. Max Weber would be delighted to witness the result of this historical experience. ENDS DEMOCRACY OR ISLAMOCRACY 26304
Editore’s note : Dr. Mehdi Mozaffari is a professor of political science at the University of Aarhus – Denmark. His recent book is Globalization and Civilizations” (ed.), Routledge, 2002.
Also, by Professor Mozaffari:How To Combat Islamist Terrorism Without Combating Islam?

The above article was published by “Iran va Jahan” on 25 March 2004.

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