October 15th, 2012
10:31 AM ET

Having faith in political Islam

By Fareed Zakaria

Al-Qaeda understands that if the Arab world democratizes, it loses the core of its ideological appeal – which is why Al Qaeda's head, Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote a book condemning the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's decision to support and participate in Egypt's democratic process.

So while we might despair over a particular statement or policy from the new Arab regimes, they have produced elected leaders with real legitimacy – and these leaders denounce Al Qaeda and violence and they do try in their own way to reconcile Islam and democracy.

Should we oppose them?

Watch the video for Fareed's full take on the debate over whether to support political Islam or secular dictators. Fareed Zakaria GPS airs on Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.

soundoff (161 Responses)
  1. Ed M.

    Secular despots are less dangerous than religious despots.

    They only last a generation or two while the theocratic fanatics can go one for centuries.

    Never put those in power who believe they are God's Eternal Sword on Earth because they never stop chopping.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:34 am | Reply
    • deniz boro

      Secular ones are just too busy in being the opposition for their only concept of democracy is to oppose (they have not grown into the next several steps of bringing solutions and off course further off to bring those solutions into action). Religion and a promise of a place in heaven and a threat of being in sin brings in a more immediate and -unfortunately- united participation hereabouts. Days of the fear of sword is diluted if you turn a religion from a belief into a trend or fashion. All religions certainly have the infrastructure for that purpose. And if you also cut this FLOCK of others you have all the votes you need in democracy.

      October 19, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Reply
  2. mmi16

    Religion is man's corruption of God's spirituality done to enslave other men.

    October 18, 2012 at 4:17 am | Reply
    • Realmath

      Journalism CAN coment(remember Benjamin Frankling &SIMPLE TRUTH) on religion,and lately KORAN is a lot in the news:professors in the KORAN,tell us:violence is NOT in the KORAN!We who are in the bible have professors who say the same about the bible....

      "do to others,what you want them to do to you" are in both books,and other religions!:Alegoricly Platos democraty!

      September 25, 2014 at 11:38 am | Reply
  3. Fred

    Islamist dictatorship or secular dictatorship, the key word is dictatorship. All those moralists who blamed the oppressive nature of Arab regimes on US support for them, take notice. IT'S THE ONLY KIND OF REGIME THEY'RE CAPABLE OF!

    October 18, 2012 at 8:16 am | Reply
  4. felix el gato


    October 18, 2012 at 9:30 am | Reply
  5. Real Legitimacy

    The question should be, should we oppose them now while they are lying to us that they want democracy, or later when we see the fruits of failed "Islamic Democracy". Hint: Political Islam is not and never will be democracy.

    October 18, 2012 at 10:48 am | Reply
  6. NorCalMojo

    You can't have enlightened democracy in a theocracy. Only 4th graders and the Middle East think democracy means "majority rules". Blasphemy laws are inherently unjust. There's no room for compromise.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:52 am | Reply
  7. John Geheran

    My dear fellow......Islam is a totalitarian philosophy masquerading as a religion. To understand the political nature of Islam you need to become familiar with Islamic jurisprudence, ahadith and the literature produced by Bulkhari as well as other credible Islamic scholars. You will also need to stop drinking the kool aid served at your local mosque or Madrass. Good luck.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:53 am | Reply
  8. Wastrel

    Religion has no place in politics, and vice versa. The biggest problem with Islam is that it is both a political and a religious system. There's another article today on CNN about a woman who is Mormon but voting for Obama, and that is just as wrong. Please shut up, Farheed. There is no excuse for Islam tring to be a political system, and trying to expand as a religion by creating a political hegemony. You keep writing articles as if this were normal and acceptable, but it is a perversion of religion, as has been demonstrated by over 1000 years of attempted conquest and civil war.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Reply
    • Afee

      Your comments have no factual basis, what example do you have to show from history, here are a few first look up The Muslim Rule of Spain 711–1492; then look up The Spanish Inquisitions, you will know how Muslim treat follower of other religions under its rule and how does Christianity compared, The fact that Christians were able to throw their weight after 700 years of Muslim rule in Portugal and Spain speaking abound of evidence that you are wrong. Nine hundred years of Muslim rule in India, still Hindu religion is thriving there and Indian Hindus are still thriving to spit hatred of Ismam. Now thing of Inquisitions, if Muslim have approached that way there would not be a single Non-Muslim have left in India and their would not have been any Spanish Inquisition as in Spain there are almost no Muslim was left. The present Muslim population is of migrants during colonial rule over North Africa not from the decendents of rulers.

      October 23, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Reply
  9. Jeff

    Fareed has not a clue. The only problem with Islam is it's leaders, they all dream of conquest and domination. From Saudi Whahabi clerics, to Pakistani madrassa leaders, to Mulim Brotherhood in Egypt, Libya, Syria, etc. This is a "Clash of Civilizations"

    Former AIPAC Board Member

    October 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Reply
  10. Matty13

    "Political Islam!" No such thing. You cannot expect non-Muslims who live in Islamic countries to live by laws based on the Koran. The only way Islamic countries will get out of the 16th century is when they realize that civil laws trump religious law everytime. 10 million Coptic Christians in Egypt DO NOT have to follow laws made by the Egyptian Parliment based on the Koran. They have no obligation to follow those laws. They arn't Muslim, so don't make them follow Islamic laws. Political Islam.......no Political Christianity...No.....Political Judism...No.....No No No....not everyone follows those religions.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Reply
  11. KeyserSoze

    There is a lot of aspiration but no real democracies in any Arab or Islamic country. That simply does not exist.

    These countries are either dictatorships, theocracies, kingdoms, tribalism, emirates or no-man's-lands. They promote hate towards the US and Israel b/c these regimes represent a balance of power they don't want to share. Losing power is their ultimate fear and they will do and say whatever it takes to stay in power. Even after a bloody revolution the outcome is a corrupt form of 'religion-based-democracy' or a weak republic or a lingering civil war.

    October 18, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Reply
  12. Unbeliever

    or Islamic Dictators ?

    October 18, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Reply
  13. LB Colorado

    Islam BS should not be here at all. They are not our friend nor do they want to be. Blow them out of the USA all together. Islam is not welcome in the USA, they should not enjoy our freedoms and try inflict their BS on us. Get them out.

    October 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Reply
  14. felix el gato

    Can't we have both?

    October 18, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Reply
  15. Bender the Offender

    The problem is Both forms of Leadership fail for Islam. One relies on Imans to create the rules for them to follow, the other is a Dictator who keeps his people down. BOTH Blame America and the West for keeping them down. The problem is that THEIR Religion doesnt allow them to advance into Modern Times. They are living in the 21st Century but governed by 3rd Century rules.
    Until they learn to adapt they will never stop hating the West and America.

    October 18, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Reply
  16. Jason K

    Oh Fareed, they let you have your job back after that plagerism fiasco? Wow, journalism really doesn't have any ethics anymore.

    October 18, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Reply
  17. Carl M.

    Elections were held, legitimately. That is what we have always said we want and it is what we espouse. Whether we like it or not, they are the elected leaders of the Egyptian people. If we treat them as pariahs, the Egyptian people have every reason to not believe a word we say about democracy...actually, we would have no reason to believe a word we say about democracy. Their actions, as ours, will speak far louder than words. They will do what they feel is in the best interest of the Egyptian people. We will do what we feel is in the best interest of the American people. If they overlap in peace and harmony, great. If they don't, we and they, will have to figure out how to live cordially, but apart. The Cold War is over, we don't need proxies in the Middle East. If you remember, Egypt at one time was aligned with the old Soviet Union. They have more recently been our more or less allies. What they become in the future will be impacted to a great extent of how we honor the Egyptian peoples choices. We don't have love it, we don't even have to like it, but we do have to respect it. No different than what we expect for ourselves. If you watch the presidential debates, people all over the world probably wonder how we manage to actually function...:)

    October 18, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Reply
  18. Tim

    I take a pragmatic view. Elected Islamic governments are probably a necessary stage to the secularization of the Muslim world. After all, Europe did not simply jump straight out of the Dark Age into modern liberal democracies. Europe's path to secular liberalism took centuries to accomplish. Hopefully, since the recipe to modernization has already been discovered, the Muslim world will not take centuries to get to where Europe and East Asian democracies are today. But we still have to be patient.

    October 18, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Reply
    • Insider

      Wishfull thinking. Religion and logic does not go together. There is no comparison between christanity and Islam. Christanity was advanced due to the fight of two strong powers. Henry the V and church. History of Turkey proves Islam takes over secularism.

      October 18, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Reply
  19. Alicia

    To answer the question, "political Islam or secular dictators?"

    Neither of these are good. If Islam is truly peaceful then having an Islamic government should bring peace to the People in which it's over. There should be happiness and health all throughout the Islamic world. No wahabiism or Islamic extremism, just the peaceful Islam that I hear so much about but rarely see.
    As for secular dictators, North Korea and the Soviet Union has shown us that even under secular dictatorship, freedom is NOT granted. I won't say that Democracy is the best form of Gov. because there could be another form that we have not seen yet on this Earth but as for now, a Democratic Gov. is the ideal Gov. because freedom is granted.
    I was never really a patriotic American but now that I'm older and I understand the things that occur in some other nations (dictatorships), I am so glad that I was born and raised in the USA.

    October 18, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Reply
  20. !

    Taken from the book; "Slavery, Terrorism and Islam: The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat" of Dr. Peter Hammond

    As long as the Muslim population remains around or under 2% in any given country, they will for the most part be regarded as a "peace-loving" minority, and not as a threat to other citizens. This is the case in:
    the U.S. — 0.6%; Australia — 1.5%; Canada – 1.9%; China — 1.8%; Italy — 1.5%; Norway — 1.8%.

    At 2% – 5%, they begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and disaffected groups, often with major recruiting from the jails and among street gangs. This is happening in:
    Denmark — 2%; Germany — 3.7%; the UK — 2.7%; Spain — 4%; Thailand — 4.6%.

    From 5% +, they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population. For example, they will push for the introduction of halal (clean by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing food preparation jobs for Muslims. They will increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature halal on their shelves – along with threats for failure to comply. This is occurring in:
    France — 8%;Philippines — 5%; Sweden — 5%; Switzerland — 4.3%;The Netherlands — 5.5%; Trinidad & Tobago — 5.8%.

    At this point, they will work to get the ruling government to allow them to rule themselves (within their ghettos) under Sharia, the Islamic Law. The ultimate goal of Islamists is to establish Sharia law over the entire world.
    When Muslims approach 10% + of the population, they tend to increase lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions. In Paris, we are already seeing car-burnings. Any non-Muslim action offends Islam, and results in uprisings and threats, such as in Amsterdam, with opposition to Mohammed cartoons and films about Islam. Such tensions are seen daily, particularly in Muslim sections in:
    Guyana — 10%;India — 13.4%;Israel — 16%;Kenya — 10%;Russia — 15%.

    After reaching 20% +, nations can expect hair-trigger rioting, jihad militia formations, sporadic killings, and the burnings of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues, such as in:
    Ethiopia — 32.8%.

    At 40% +, nations experience widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks, and ongoing militia warfare, such as in:
    Bosnia — 40%;Chad — 53.1%;Lebanon — 59.7%.

    From 60% +, nations experience unfettered persecution of non-believers of all other religions (including non-conforming Muslims), sporadic ethnic cleansing (genocide), use of Sharia Law as a weapon, and Jizya, the tax placed on infidels, such as in:
    Albania — 70%;Malaysia — 60.4%;Qatar — 77.5%;Sudan — 70%.

    After 80% +, expect daily intimidation and violent jihad, some State-run ethnic cleansing, and even some genocide, as these nations drive out the infidels, and move toward 100% Muslim, such as has been experienced and in some ways is on-going in:
    Bangladesh — 83%;Egypt — 90%;Gaza — 98.7%;Indonesia — 86.1%;Iran — 98%;Iraq — 97%;Jordan — 92%;Morocco — 98.7%;Pakistan — 97%;Palestine — 99%;Syria — 90%;Tajikistan — 90%;Turkey — 99.8%;UAE — 96%.

    100% will usher in the peace of ‘Dar-es-Salaam’ — the Islamic House of Peace. Here there’s supposed to be peace, because everybody is a Muslim, the Madrasses are the only schools, and Quran is the only word, such as in:
    Afghanistan — 100%;Saudi Arabia — 100%;Somalia — 100%;Yemen — 100%.

    Unfortunately, peace is never achieved, as in these 100% Muslim states the most radical Muslims intimidate and spew hatred, and satisfy their blood lust by killing less radical Muslims, for a variety of reasons.

    October 18, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Reply
    • a eli

      WOW.. i don't know who you are but if you didn't hit the nail on the head!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! im going to download that book ASAP.....

      October 18, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Reply
    • sensor

      Well quoted

      October 22, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Reply
  21. a eli

    No matter how secular the muslim candidate says he or she is IT IS A LIE.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! there is no such thing ..... it is a double negative just look at the middle east as of today Egypt is under muslim brotherhood control, Libya under radical muslim control... the whole middle east is oozing of radical Islamic re theoretic because of weak foreign policy we are heading for a full blown world war that is truly biblical..

    October 18, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Reply
  22. KEVIN

    Muslims – Islamists are isoliative at baseline. The theological ideology does not allow integration into other cultures until these other cultures convert to Islam. Anyone who is a Muslim is screwed.

    October 19, 2012 at 1:05 am | Reply
    • a.siddiqui

      Kevin criminals do not represent any religion, and islam is lastest testament, believe or not

      October 19, 2012 at 2:45 am | Reply
      • Mary

        Written by a man not God

        October 24, 2012 at 1:44 am |
  23. Rick McDaniel

    Opposing them is not the issue.

    The issue is........does the religion simply not allow for any tolerance, anywhere it goes? Does that prevent any country under that religious control, from fostering democracy? Does that indeed, create a breeding ground for terror, instead?

    I do not see, from my observations of how the religion is followed, that there is any way, to stop the violence. If you can show me how that can be accomplished, under that religion, please do so!

    October 19, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Reply
  24. Amit-Atlanta-USA


    The more I read from my former countryman, the more I see his DISHONESTY and BLATANT desire to say anything as long as it helps him CLIMB THE LADDER.......

    Mr. Zakaria had been a (somewhat) COVERT RADICAL ISLAMIC Supporter for decades and now months & weeks away from the Presidential elections he had been busy BURNISHING HIS CREDENTIALS to land the job of the next US. SEC. OF STATE (by Hook or Crook!) which President is supposedly contemplating.

    BUT, afterall he can't keep his ISLAMIC STRIPES covered for too long and so here comes this article in support of Political Islam, and trashing American supported SECULAR rulers....yes, dictators (The MUslim world knows no better!).

    And why did I say that he was a TURNCOAT journalist.

    Here's what he had ASTOUNDINGLY said only last year; I quote:

    "The Danger comes from us (the US) and NOT them (Al-Qaeda & Muslim radicals). Ref: Reflections on 9/11 and its Aftermath” CNN-GPS Sept 9th, 2011.

    GOD SAVE AMERICA if this man were to become the next US. Sec. of State!

    October 20, 2012 at 8:35 am | Reply
  25. lachman

    Definitely we should not oppose them, because if they suceed in reconciling Islam with democracy, that will benefit world peace, and will bring prosperity to their own people, but we should also see that they bring important changes in Islam and their own society by giving equal rights to their women in all aspects.

    October 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Reply
  26. sensor

    Religion; islam, christianity,, etc should never be the basis for government.

    October 22, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Reply
  27. A Real Kafir --- and proud of it!

    I don't believe that any Political Islamic government can ever truly be deomcratic. Political Islam is the correct term used here. Islam is not a religion becuase it is a Political system that has religious overttones.

    Look Political Islam is just not ideologically suited or capable of conforming itself with Democracy and freedom of thought, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Religion, free analytical thinking, etc.,....

    Because of this I am lead to the next point historical:
    I am afraid that eventually we will have to do what Ferdinand and Isabella did to the political islamist of their day when they finally re-conqured the Iberian Peninsula from political islam. We'll have to force political islam and it's members out of our countries and place them back to where they came from, the middle east. This may also necessitate the invasion of Saudi Arabia and dethrowning the rullers of the Ariabian Peninsula. It may involve the removal of all islamic states on the face of the earth.

    Mustafa Attaturk tried to reform political islam and look at Turkey today? Back to political, radical, islam.

    (As a side note) -
    The military members of the Mustafa Attaturk Kamala group in Turkey need to overthrow the government of Turkey again to reverse Turkey's government slide into political, radical islam).

    What I am saying is very radical to most people. But those who do not know history are bound to repeat it. And history does have a way of repeating itself. I'm affraid that political islamic muslims are pushing the entire world to extreme measurea and positions because of there actions.

    Ever hear of a moderate muslim? Neither have I because "THEY DON'T EXIST".
    A real Kafir - and Proud of it!

    October 31, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  28. Venchenza

    Fareed Zakaria should be FIRED from CNN for coming out and saying he was offended by Trump calling him a racist and is offended because he is a Muslim,.. BUT Fareed NEVER came out and spoke against ISIS wrong doing in the name of Allah... Right?

    December 29, 2015 at 7:25 pm | Reply
1 2

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.