"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?