Applebaum on Islam
January 2nd, 2013
07:52 AM ET

Applebaum on Islam

"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.

Fareed Zakaria speaks with Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, Anne Applebaum, about democracy and Islam.

When people look at the Middle East now, they’re struck by how difficult it is to build genuine democracy. And there’s some argument they don’t have the institutions. But I think there’s a lingering suspicion that they’re not part of the Western world. They haven’t had the history. And the contrast is often to Eastern Europe, and to 1989. And the idea is that that happened so easily that the Berlin Wall fell and, hey, presto, all these countries became good, solid democracies. Is that a fair reading?

It’s not really.  I mean, first of all, after ’89 was not so smooth. I mean though the countries that were communist before then had very different fates.  The fate of Poland and the fate of Albania and the fate of Russia are quite different. And so it was more in many cases, actually, the degree to which civil society in those societies had been maintained or had been reconstructed that made the big difference between how well they recovered.

But civil society can be quite nasty itself. I mean a lot the nastiest Islamic groups in the Middle East tend to be very rich civil society organizations. They provide social welfare.  They just happen to believe in a very, very extreme form of Islam. And there are parallels in Europe, as well.

The interesting thing about Islam, I think, is the Islamic movements in that part of the world, I think, are really at an important turning point.  Until now, they’ve had a lot of credit, if you will, and a lot of the population has put a lot of faith in them because they were the only alternative to the government. And one – either because they were somehow tolerated or because they were able to be more powerful, because they had access to mosques and better ways of organizing people – they were often the only civil society organizations that were allowed to be functioning. Now that the regimes have fallen and now that there’s more pluralism in these societies, it’s really going to be interesting. Will they now participate in creating new kinds of societies, where there are other kinds of groups, where other kinds of organizations are allowed to take control? Or will they attempt to create a new form of authoritarianism or a new form of totalitarianism, where only their form of Islamism is allowed?

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Topics: GPS Show • Islam

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soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Joseph McCarthy

    What's with this big deal about "building democracies" in the Middle East anyway? Even the Greek Philosopher Socrates didn't believe the democracy was the best form of government. Then again, the right-wingers in Washington want to create pseudo-democracies around the world which can be manipulated by big money such as in Iraq and Afghanistan today!

    January 2, 2013 at 11:45 am | Reply
    • Luis

      "Judging by his actions, he considered the rule of the Thirty Tyrants less legitimate than the Democratic Senate that sentenced him to death." ( Wilkipedia)

      January 2, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Reply
    • Ken

      Er... You are quoting way out of context here. Yes, Socrates found faults with democracy. However, when he was asked who should be the ruler, Socrates proposed a "Philosopher King". Socrates considered himself a philosopher in pursuit of the truth but he openly admitted that he did not know "the truth". So, Socrates did not considered even himself fit to rule. He wanted an ideal ruler but he found faults with everyone, like any good philosopher would. So, his criticism of democracy was purely a philosophical argument – and he is well known for his love for arguing. He was making a point that democracy is not perfect. Socrates philosophical point is well taken – we all know that democracy is not perfect. Nothing is perfect.

      Socrates had a rather stinging style for making his point. That's why Plato called him "the gadfly". You are way off here in your post. Quoting Socrates out of context can be very misleading.

      January 2, 2013 at 10:30 pm | Reply
  2. MyPictureOfMuhammad


    January 2, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Reply
  3. James

    Maybe Islamic countries will follow Christian Europe in having a renaisance and period of rationality and enlightenment. I'm not sure the conditions are ripe for this but since we are all of humankind, we can expect similar movements to reoccur. Islam is not far removed from 16th Century Catholicism.

    January 2, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Reply
    • Hamza Hashem

      The renaissance of Europe evolved from the enlightenment of Islamic Spain. Islam has a rich history of cultural enlightenment, however there are certain regions that have taken form and approach from other means be it from local social or cultural traditions or derived from colonialism and oppression.

      Islam does not need a renaissance, rather there are some Muslims who need to reflect on our own history and the path we are headed. Islam is in every country around the world, yet it is commonly mistaken that the Middle East is the sole representative for Islam.

      We as humans – Muslim, Christian, Jew or whatever must all evolve until we can live in harmony – not trying to dominate the others by force,

      January 2, 2013 at 6:18 pm | Reply
      • Hate Wins

        Religious prejudices are no less powerful and wrong than any other prejudices know in this world. Until Islamic leaders in this world can tell their followers to live in peace with JEWS, CHRISTAINS, HINDO and any other group that you can come up with then NO PEACE WILL EVER HOLD and MINDLESS KILLINGS WILL CONTINUE.
        Christianity has gone through this same evolution and in some cases it still is.
        Why is it that Islam demands that only Islam can be practiced in Iran, Iraq, and other Middle East counties?
        Can a believer tell me?

        January 3, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
      • HistoryLynx

        Amen. Inshallah.

        January 10, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • Jacob

      It's a huge stretch to even compare Islamic countries to even pre-renaissance Christian Europe. Yes, Christian Europe had issues but the gap was relatively narrow enough to overcome over time. Yes, the dissenters like Galileo were punished. But the punishment meant an apology, Galileo was not beheaded.
      In sharp contrast, see what happened in Yemen. A couple of weeks ago, a guy in Yemen woke up to find that his arm was chopped off as a part of Islamic punishment. Yemeni Islamists also crucified a couple of people as a part of their Islamic justice a few weeks ago. We are talking about such brutalities in 2012 in Islamic countries... So, it is not reasonable to compare Islam to even pre-renaissance Europe. There is no room for pluralism or dissent in the Islamic system.

      January 2, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Reply
  4. Dale

    Every religion has had some issues and imperfections.
    Every religions evolved, improved and resolved at many of their issues over time.
    And evolution has been a slow process for every religion.
    However, Islam is a true exception - Islam has not evolved at all since its founding days.
    For instance, in early days of Islam, people calling themselves Muslims brutally killed even Mohammed's relatives like his son-in-law and cousin. And 1400 years later, just two days ago, his followers called Shiites, were brutally butchered in Pakistan in a bus explosion. Clearly, the followers of Islam have proudly preserved all the Islamic values and traditions in Islam's original form.
    Islam has been frozen since it was founded and its followers have refused to evolve, or make any improvements to its imperfections.
    Name one thing in the Islamic religion that has changed significantly since it was founded.

    January 2, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Reply
    • moslems are bad, we are good

      >> However, Islam is a true exception – Islam has not evolved at all since its founding days. For instance, in early days of Islam, people calling themselves Muslims brutally killed even Mohammed's relatives <<

      not to mention, moslems building death camps and BRUTALLY frying 6,000,000 jews to death. just 100 years ago.

      January 10, 2013 at 8:48 am | Reply
  5. IRAN MUST END.......this evil must go.......


    January 2, 2013 at 7:34 pm | Reply
    • Ken

      Here we go... A lunatic defining his own personal version of "axis of evil". Somebody beat you to it already. Get a life, bozo!!

      January 2, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Reply

    IT IS ABOUT 70,000 CEVILINAS ARE KILLED IN SYRIA BY THE IRANIANS BACK GOVERNMENT BACKED BY RUSSIA WEAPONS FROM IRAN AND IRAQ AND FIGHTERS FROM IRAQI SHIIA AND HEZBOLLAH THOSE EVIL TERROR SHIIA THUGS USE TAQEYA TO LIE TO USA.the number 70,000 is the correct number plus more than 54000 child women and old men died from hunger ,sickness illness related to war which is not count for, and more than 143000 prisoners all Sunni , kurds captured by the alwayet SHIIA cult 12% of the populations . while usa, France, NATO and UN doing nothing why Libya and Iraq were attacked for only 400 death!!!!!!!is it because there is not much oil in Syria!!!!shame on you OBAMA

    January 2, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Reply
    • Dale

      Thank you. This is exactly my point. Islam has not changed at all since it was founded. Like you pointed out, the followers of Islam have recently killed 143,000 or more people including women and children. This makes Islam truly an exceptional religion. No other religion has remained so pristine and unchanged over time - Every other religion has changed over time. Islam today is exactly how it was during Mohammed's time – same brutal practices and traditions continue on without any improvements! Thank you for providing the supporting evidence to back up what I said above. By the way, in case you did not know, Al-Qaeda is 100% Sunni. Al-Qaeda Sunni terrorists are the most brutal and primitive people on earth.

      January 2, 2013 at 7:56 pm | Reply
  7. wjmccartan

    If current history is any sort of indication then we'll see these governments move in a very totalitarian style that will not only dismiss but will probably destroy any form of dissent using backdoor policies so that no light is shed on their actions. Although with very large populations this will be hard to maintain over the long haul and we will see again public demonstrations against the newly elected tyrants. None of this will take place for a number of years though. As I saw the demonstrations take place in Egypt I thought perhaps for the first time in thousands of years Egypt would have a society that was free in every way. I think though a country that has waited as long as Egypt has it won't be that much longer before every citizen will be free to express themselves every day of their lives, at least that is my hope. Religion has no place in government as it creates a bias that can never be overcome in the legal system. Nothing important for mankind has come easy and the middle east is no different.

    Lucid One

    January 2, 2013 at 8:25 pm | Reply
  8. Dale

    You made a very important point that "Religion has no place in government as it creates a bias that can never be overcome in the legal system". However, you contradicted yourself when you used Egypt as an example. As you may already be aware that it's the "Muslim Brotherhood" which is ruling Egypt. Muslim Brotherhood is nothing but a religious cartel. I agree with your point that "religion has no place in the government as it creates bias that can never be overcome in the legal system". So, all Muslim Brotherhood is doing in Egypt is creating bias. They seem to be going backward instead of going forward. They have minorities like Coptic Christians who are being denied basic rights, which you and I take it for granted here.
    We take separation of church & state for granted. However, Egypt is a truly terrible example since it is forcing religion into politics, as you pointed out, which is the underlying problem in all terrible Muslim countries where basic human rights are non-existent. Thousands of years of impressive civilization!! And this is what Egypt has degraded down to – the Muslim Brotherhood is forcing religion into politics? Think about it!!

    January 2, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Reply
  9. j. von hettlingen

    While the Islamic movements in the cradle of the Arab Spring are reversing their direction, Islamic scholars in the West denounce terrorism and extremism. They urge for a declaration of peace, calling for democracy and good governance in the Muslim world, respect for human rights, and alleviation of poverty. It looks as if words and action are two different subjects.

    January 3, 2013 at 8:12 am | Reply
    • hettlingen's vapid post

      krm / j von hettlingen, how many different alias do you use? It is so obvious to spot you since your message is always inane, and completely devoid of any substance. Pick up a book and read something, which will help you to write something meaningful. Go to a school and be around a few people who can teach you how to think.

      January 3, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        Sorry, I don't use any ALIAS and I have nothing to do with krm 1007! It's a shame that on the CNN blogsites, any imposter can steal other people's screen names for abusive remarks.

        January 4, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
  10. joe anon 1

    applebaum, another jew blathering on.
    write about jews and their diseased beliefs.
    simply looking at the jewish west, we can see that western democracy is the most corrupt, least responsive form of governing.

    January 3, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Reply
  11. Uwaysi

    “As for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, you have no part in them in the least: their affair? is with Allah: He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did.” (Quran, 6:159)

    “…and be not amongst those who join gods with Allah, those who split up their Religion, and become sects – each party rejoicing in that which is with itself.” (Quran, 30:31-32)

    “[Ironically] they broke up into sects only after the knowledge had come to them, due to jealousy and resentment among themselves.” (Quran, 42:14)

    “And hold fast, all of you together, by the Rope of Allah and be not divided amongst yourselves.” (Quran 3:103)

    It is the sects who have given Islam a bad name. Quranical Islam is a religion that is fully compliant with the highest of philosophy, logic, and the humane fundaments of any evolved civilization.

    Please read

    And refute the sects, those are the ones the moviemakers are provoked by. All the names of God are good.

    Peace Be With You.

    January 3, 2013 at 9:11 pm | Reply
  12. empresstrudy

    Majority rule in the Muslim world is a license to persecute all minorities.

    January 5, 2013 at 10:16 am | Reply
  13. Alger Dave

    The latter. Islamism will rule. This is why our founders (in the US) said that Christian values and morals were the basis for our democracy. When people of other faiths are not tolerated, as is most Islamists countries today, you cannot have a functioning democracy. I'm sure folks will think that our country at it's inception didn't tolerate other belief systems either – but they simply were not on our shores in any number. It was barely tested. Today obviously we allow and protect all beliefs, sometimes to our detriment. Most Arab/Islam countries are far from this standard.

    January 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Reply
  14. M imran.Bh

    ya kai kamal ki site hay

    January 8, 2013 at 3:42 am | Reply
  15. M imran.Bh

    islamic site ka kai kamal hy

    January 8, 2013 at 3:43 am | Reply
  16. john

    Here it is a sign to change this secularism's new world order with that link

    Spread that link around the world for the call to freedom of all muslim nations around the world !

    January 13, 2013 at 1:25 am | Reply
  17. john

    Here it is a sign to change this secularism's new world order with that link

    Spread that link around the world for the call to freedom of all muslim nations around the world under U.S, French, English, Russian and Chinese dictatorship !

    January 13, 2013 at 1:55 am | Reply
  18. John Mac Coy

    Eyes need to be opened on that one to change this new international order

    February 10, 2017 at 5:15 pm | Reply

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