Challenges to Democracy in the Arab and Muslim World

Alon Ben-Meir

President Bush’s notions that democratizing Iraq will have a ripple effect on the rest ofthe Arab world, bringing prosperity and peace to the region, and that democracy is the panaceafor Islamic terrorism are unsubstantiated as well as grossly misleading. Even a cursory review of the Arab political landscape indicates that the rise of democracy will not automatically translateinto the establishment of enduring liberal democracies or undermine terrorism in the region. Thesame conclusion may be generally made for the Muslim political landscape. In fact, given theopportunity to compete freely and fairly in elections, Islamic extremist organizations will mostlikely emerge triumphant. In the recent elections in Lebanon and Egypt, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood respectively, won substantial gains, and in Palestine Hamas won thenational Parliamentary elections handedly. That they did so is both a vivid example of the today’spolitical realities and an indicator of future trends. And if current sentiments in the Arab statesoffer a guide, any government formed by elected Islamist political parties will be more antagonistic to the West than the authoritarian regimes still in power. In addition, there are noindications that democracy is a prerequisite to defeating terrorism or any empirical data tosupport the claim of linkage between existing authoritarian regimes and terrorism.

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Filed Under: EgyptFeaturedHamasIkhwanophobiaMuslim BrotherhoodPalestineSyria

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