Why a rush to promote democracy in the Muslim world may prove counter-productive for those nations and dangerous for the globe... [Read in Bangla]
There is an extremely dangerous fallacy gaining strength in intellectual circles. It is the fallacy that democracy can save the Islamic World from its tyrants and deprivations and, in turn, save the non Islamic World from Islamic terrorism.
However, the belief that democracy is an instant panacea for all that ails the Islamic World is specious at best. Most of the Islamic World is not ready for democracy and the call for and push for democracy or increased popular control over governments via the election process will further destabilize many countries that are already at risk of being lost to Islamists. Egypt seems to be the focus of many experts' arguments that democratization will advance peace efforts. However, democracy would most likley result in more Islamist control in Egypt and will do nothing to accomplish peace. Consider that Anwar Sadat, for example, made a cold peace with Israel despite the strong opposition of most of Egyptian society. If he faced popular elections, he never could have or would have been able to make peace.
It is pointless to free people to elect their leaders when they remain enslaved in their minds to an ideology and belief system that will simply mean that instead of Islamists gaining control through subversive means, they will simply gain control via elections. Democracy and elections will no more bring improved conditions to most of the Islamic World and peace than it did to the Gaza Strip where Hamas, a violent terrorist group, won elections in 2006 and then proceeded to shell Israel with hundreds of rockets.
It is unrealistic to expect democracy to bring any better results in those parts of the Islamic World, like Egypt, wherein autocratic governments maintain some control over well established and deeply entrenched Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. Democracy will no more bring peace and social justice to Egypt than it would to a maximum security prison.
There is a strong belief in Western democracies that the principle of "one person one vote" should control the selection of governments. However, in Egypt that principle would probably translate to "one man one vote" and it would be a literal application in the sense that once an Islamist party gained control, any further elections would occur solely to give a veneer of legitimacy to Islamist control and, thereafter, the election process would have no real chance of removing Islamists from power. Consequently, "one vote" would literally mean, at best, one true vote and, thereafter, relatively meaningless elections of the type seen in Iran.
The word "democracy" derives from Greek words meaning "government of the people." In Greek, "demos" means people, and "cratos" means government. It follows that democracy will accomplish nothing more than to make the will of the people the dominant force in the land. If the will of the people is controlled by Islam, that means that Islam will control. It is that simple.
All the push for democracy will accomplish in Egypt is to potentially cause the same catastrophe to occur in Egypt as occurred in Iran. I see great similarities between pre-revolutionary Iran and modern Egypt. Hosni Mubarak exhibits many of the same qualities as the Shah of Iran - both good and bad. Both men allied themselves with the United States and both men tried to modernize their countries. They both experienced their strongest opposition from Islamist elements. Some of their tyrannical behavior is or was necessitated by the ruthless nature of their Islamist opponents.
Before democracy can be successfully implemented in places like Egypt, the influence of Islam on the Egyptian people must be considerably diminished and firmly held in check. That will only occur by complete domination and control of Egyptian society and the slow dampening and reduction of the influence of Islam over time. That process would require control of the media, entertainment industry, education system, and Mosques until decades of education eliminated pervasive Islamic control over the beliefs and cultural values of the people. However, such an approach is presently beyond even the power or will of the Egyptian government. Consequently, not only has no progress been made against Islam's influence in Egypt equivalent to the type of progress Kemal Ataturk imposed on Turkey, the opposite is true. The flow of money from Saudi Arabia has allowed Islamic orthodoxy to spread and Egypt has been losing ground, not gaining ground against Islamic influence.
I suspect that Egypt will eventually be lost to Islamic fundamentalists anyway unless something dramatic, such as Kemalist reforms, are imposed to change the course the country is on. Democratic elections will hasten Egypt's demise and preclude any possibility of a strong miltary keeping the Islamists at bay while reforms, many of which would be initially unpopular, are imposed that will decrease Islam's influence on the culture.
The Muslim Brotherhood, albeit its members running for election as "independents," has already made inroads into Egypt’s government via elections and expanding democracy will simply hasten the Brotherhood's advances. People like Reza Aslan that teach that allowing groups like the Muslim Brotherhood into the election process causes them to become more moderate is deception at its worse. The Muslim Brotherhood simply acts more moderate to gain ground, but it has no intention of abandoning its true agenda when it has the power to impose it.
One of the most important principles about Islam that non Muslims need to understand is that Muhammad, the man that Reza Azlan professes to believe was the Prophet and Messenger of Allah, said that war is deception. That is hardly a startling statement as most cultures have understood that warfare involves the use of deception. However, Muhammad’s adoption of the principle has far greater implications in Islamic culture. In Islamic doctrine, war has a much broader meaning than in Western culture. Islamic doctrine and belief divides humanity into two opposing spheres: Dar al-Islam, House of Islam where Islam rules and Dar el Harb, the House of War against non-Muslims. Islam teaches that it is Muslims’ duty to spread the influence of Islam by almost any means. It follows that Islamic fundamentalists use deception as a matter of course to advance their Islamist agenda whenever and wherever they can. The principle is instilled into them as a result of their religious belief. They are taught from birth that Muhammad must be obeyed and that his life set a beautiful pattern of conduct for anyone to follow. For Islamists, deception utilized to advance their cause is not only pragmatic, but a way to show their devotion to Muhammad and Allah and to fight so that Islam will be superior. Muhammad himself used deception to great advantage and it is beyond foolish to not expect any Muslim who, since birth, has repeatedly said and heard that "there is no God but Allah and Muhammad was his Prophet" to try and follow Muhammad's example to the extent of his or her knowledge about Muhammad's life.
The Ayatollah Khomeini skillfully used deception to gain power in Iran by fraudulently promising democracy and initially working in concert with non Muslim groups, but he ultimately delivered far worse tyranny than the Shah as soon as his grip on power allowed him to do so. Because they were ignorant about Islam, gullible Westerners accepted Ayatollah Khomeini’s false claims. His efforts were supported by ignorant Westerners that failed to realize that while the Shah was terribly flawed, working with the Shah to reform Iranian society was the answer and supporting his overthrow simply brought even greater tyranny to both Iran and the World.
I see the same mistake or tactic developing all over again. It is true that history repeats itself. I see President Obama, moderate and highly educated Middle East experts like Bernard Lewis, and left-wing Islamic apologists like Reza Aslan all calling for democracy in the Middle East. A philosopher once said "beware the desires of thy youth for you may acquire it with age." President Obama and these experts better be careful for they may well get what they advocate for; however, they may well regret it.
It is understandable that people that live in functional democracies want to see the benefits of democracy spread to the rest of the World. However, with respect to the Islamic World, we need to have the wisdom and courage to understand just how pernicious of an influence Islam is and to mitigate that influence before trying to implement democracy in places like Egypt. I fear that false perceptions of and ignorance about the true nature of Islam will cause many to inadvertently advance radical Islam’s grip on the Middle East with devastating consequences throughout the World. I feel compelled to note that I am giving Reza Aslan the benefit of the doubt here that he is mistaken and simply not implementing a strategy from the Ayatollah's play book, but to be candid, I am not sure as to his motivations. I have read his books and I believe that he is extremely deceptive in his analysis of Islam.
The only way we can protect ourselves in the long-run and protect those moderate Muslims who truly want to live in peace with non-Muslims is to slowly erase Islam’s influence. Nothing else will work. I have yet to see any other model successfully used to ease Islam's grip on a culture other than the approach utilized by Kemal Ataturk in Turkey. However, the Turks are increasingly losing their way as the memory of Kemal Ataturk fades over time and the revival of fundamentalist Islam stalks the World. Even in Islamic countries like Turkey that have in the past gained ground toward modernity and freedom, the influence of Islam continues to cause problems and hinder advancement and wherever Islam holds sway over people’s minds they remain enslaved to one degree or another and they will never know true freedom, true democracy, or peace until they free themselves from Islam's pernicious grip.
It follows that we will never be completely safe from Islamic terrorism and Muslims will never be free until, as Winston Churchill phrased it, "the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men."