By Nader Hashemi, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Nader Hashemi is director of the Center for Middle East Studies at University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. This opinion piece is in part based on a recent British Council policy brief. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
While the onset of the Arab Spring was widely celebrated in the West, the second anniversary of these democratic uprisings has been marked with waning optimism over the future of the Arab world. A recent Pew Research Poll revealed that nearly 60 percent of Americans do not believe that the changes in the Middle East will lead to lasting improvements for the people of the region. More than half of Americans polled, meanwhile, also believe it is more important to have stability in the Arab world, even if there is less democracy.
So what should the world’s expectations be? How should Western policymakers, intellectuals, and members of the public understand these developments? History should be our guide.
Predicting when a country might undergo a democratic transition is, of course, far from an exact science. But the presence of certain variables makes a transition more likely, whether it is levels of socioeconomic modernization such as industrialization, literacy, mass communications, or the existence of a sizable middle class.
In the context of the post-9/11 debate on Islam and democracy, however, these issues have rarely been properly explored. Instead, mainstream media and intellectual debate in the West has often boiled down to this: Why is the Islamic world seemingly so different from societies in North America and Europe? Why are they not more like us? This basic point of departure – expecting cultural and social similarity – has formed the backdrop to much of the analysis of the relationship between Islam, Muslims, and democracy.
So what are the problems with the oft-asked question of why aren’t Muslims like Westerners?
Well, for a start, this question mistakenly implies that the West is always democratic, peaceful, and liberal. No serious historian, however, would agree. Europe is, after all, the birthplace of fascism, communism and Nazi Germany. An appreciation of history, especially the long and tortuous history of struggles for human rights and democracy in the West, is therefore essential to understanding the tensions between Islam and democracy today.
More from GPS: Don't lose hope over Arab Spring
As we observe the Arab Spring today, it is often forgotten that most emerging democracies have to grapple with the place of religion in government. There are no blueprints to follow. Democratic bargaining and negotiation over the role of religion in politics is an inevitable part of the history and consolidation of democracy in all societies. Contrary to popular perceptions, no religion is born with an inherent predisposition toward democracy, liberalism, or secularism.
Like other religious traditions that originated in the pre-modern era and are scripturally based, Islam is neither more nor less compatible with modernity than are Christianity and/or Judaism. For example, until the 1960s, it was widely assumed that Catholicism was an obstacle to democracy, yet few people would entertain this argument today. This is not to suggest that religious doctrine can be completely ignored when discussing democracy in the Middle East, but rather that the interpretation of religion is always contextual and evolving; at best, it is only one factor among many that affect the prospects for democratization and liberalization.
Meanwhile, in the contemporary Islamic world, the struggle for democracy has been adversely affected by ongoing intervention from outside powers. Long-standing policies, particularly those of the United States, of supporting authoritarian dictators such as the Shah of Iran, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and the House of Saud have impeded political development. Coupled with the destabilizing effects of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the environment has been more conducive to the growth of radical religious politics than secular democratic politics. In this sense, the Middle Eastern and European experiences have been different. From a long term historical perspective external intervention in support of authoritarian regimes was not a factor in the development of democracy in the West; in the modern Middle East, however, it has been a critical factor.
As the sociologist Asef Bayat noted, congruence between Islam and democracy is not a philosophical issue, as it is widely assumed, but a political one.
“It is a matter of struggle. The pertinent question is not whether Islam and democracy are compatible (least of all because of the contested meanings attached to both Islam and democracy), but rather how and under what conditions Muslims can make their religion compatible with desired notions of democracy; how they can legitimize and popularize an inclusive reading of their doctrine in the same way that democrats [in the West] have been struggling to broaden narrow (white, male, propertied and merely liberal) notions of democracy.”
Two years since the Arab spring erupted, Bayat’s sobering observation is a good place to start for those serious about engaging with, and understanding, the problems of democratic development in the Arab-Islamic world today.
Islam will never be compatible as long as they keep slaughtering people.
we do not have time and energy to combat islam. lets keep muslims outside our borders. Do not invite millions of them to colonize in America and Europe.
Reading list to wake you up:
THE PROBLEM IS NOT THE CLASH OF CULTURES, BUT THE IGNORANCE OF CULTURES. THE WEST FROWNS UPON THE OTHER CULTURES N THE OTHER CULTURES FROWN UPON THE WESTEN CULTURE.
Just count the number of people slaughtered by christians in last 70 years.You will find christians at number one position.
Provide a valid and reliable source or go dig some camel dung out of your thick skull.
Ya know, I live in the US and have friends from just about all religions. Everyone over here basically gets along fine. Sure its not perfect, but I surely don't have to worry about going to the market and getting blown up. We have plenty of muslims and jews and christians here so it must not be religion. Now here in the west we basically have separtion of state and church. I would suggest the Middle East give it a go.
............. WWII Hitler (christian) killed 6 million on jews on the basis that they were jews???? is that a good example?
............. WWII america drops 2 atom bombs on 2 major civilian cities kills about 200 million
............. Zionists (fake euro jews) invade palestine and kill there people and steal there land.
............. america launching drones in yemen afghanistan and pakistan and 99% of the time they kill innocent civilian
Theres thousands of more examples but these are the major ones that most people know about.
So yea i would say that the west indiscriminately has killed people MAINLY people who arent directly involved in the fighting.
Jason Miks don't know anything about Saudi Arabia. Where does he get off calling the king a dictator. I have lived here for six years and the people have a better life than US residents have. The government helps the people instead of taking everything they earn in taxes. American politicians steal everything they can in the short term and do nothing for the people.
The only reason why the Saudis live better than we do is because we prop up their regime, and buy their oil at marked up prices as a reward. A nation of thieves does well until people get tired of their ways. Should have let Saddam deal with them.
When one sets off to exotic lands one should mind the trade winds. It's not just so many beads for so many gold. Europe imported tobacco from the American natives. We might as well do better in interacting with "forgotten" cultures and learn from them.
THE WEST EVEN FROWNS UPON THE INDIAN CULTURE, EVEN THOUGH THE INDIAN CULTURE NON VIOLENT. RESPECT N UNDERSTANDING OF OTHER CULTURES CUD BRING WORLD PEACE.
Provide reliable and valid sources or go back to whatever you were doing with your favorite goat.
jonathan, you should not be posting anything here because you have no knowledge of this subject matter. you keep asking the same...what is the proof and evidence for everything? but you must know these postings do not suppose to serve as wikipedia. if you want proof of things then google or look up the wikipedia. you are here to waste people time....and yours too!
LOL non-violent. they kill muslims just like the west does INDISCRIMINATELY
Historically, Religion was....
Religiously, History was...
Democratically, Religion and/or History is/are...
"What History can teach US about Islam and Democracy"?
Democracy can be debated and changed, accordingly, to make it fit with the World population individual and Societal interests.
So, what about Islam?
Islam can be debated and the meanings of the verses in the Quran can be argued and the strength of hadiths in the sunnah has been, is, and will be argued about. The application of Islamic principles and the ideology that dictates the order of priority of these principles that go along with change and diverge through time. It has even been prophesized that there will be many sects of muslims in a hadith. However, the Qurans verses which are the words of God are not to be changed by us humans for in doing so we say that we know better than God and that what God has said is erroneous.
the Qurans verses which are the words of God
God the Father, the Creator of the universe (through Jesus Christ His Son), has absolutely no relationship, affinity, similarity, or connection with the contrived, imaginary, and false god of the Islam religion whom the Moslems call Allah! It is an affront to God and the Christian faith to even entertain the thought that they could be considered one and the same.
Islam is not as Evil as you Imagine it to be , Its roots are from Christianity and True Jewish Faiths ,Some Bad Apples as with All Religions. Read The Quran and see for your self.
Islam's roots are from hell and should stay there.
Nothing new here: blame America and Israel.
Autocratic regimes flourished in Eastern Europe due to Soviet suppot for about the same amount
of time the ME was under Western control or influence, but now those countries are democratic,
perhaps struggling, but still, when given the chance they went for secular democracies.
The truth is that America does deserve blame and it should own up to it, but the Arabs and muslims deserve much of the blame as well. Saudi Arabia is as much a damaging outside force as is the west.
i agree with you.
All Americans are working just to blame Islam.All Islam blaming media tanks belong to USA. Dont try to become smart.
History Book: Chapter One, Page 1......Islam = No democracy. The end. Hahahahahahhaahha
This much belly-hooed "Arab Spring" appears to be nothing more that a dismal failure, Hahahahahahah. The worst of it is that these countries stand to be even more firmly under the control of the West which will be bad all the way around!
That's right. Not mentioning yet the Fundamentalist Muslims, Islam extremist and the hard-line followers of this religion. They
clearly stated that democracy and liberalism is of the human's teaching, not their God's(Allah).
What Hashemi is shying away from is the simple truth.
The Koran instructs and advises its followers to convert every human being to Islam, on to the true path to the One Creator. The blessed book is doing all humanity a favor, to convert all to the true religion and be saved from the wrath. This leaves all ideologies and philosophies including "democracy" behind in comparison.
This is why democracy, a feel good system for the people is really not compatible with Muslim thinking and their pious beliefs. There is no deep secret here and both can coexists, however will never be equal in a Muslim state. Islam will mold democracy into a sizable fit and style to suit its needs.
Then it can no longer be considered democracy.
why democracy has to be western-style? why can't be democracy be moulded based on culture, ethinicity and religion as long everyone is respected and considered equal?
Islam does not force anyone to accept Islam and this is very clearly written in Quran.Muslims ruled India for 1000 years still 80 % are Hindu.In middle east you can find lots of old christians but you will not found old Muslims in Spain.Truth is always there, and true people find truth everywhere.Dont make others fool by false prapoganda against islam.
Islam is responsible for the bloodiest 400 years in the 3500 year old Indian history. By the account of Will Durant and other historians the Mughal Muslims were responsible for upward of 100 million deaths in India. By all accounts they left a trail of corpses in their wake.The name Hindu Kush as in the mountain range means Hindu Slaughter . In contrast the bloody Spanish conquest of South America purportedly killed 40 million people over the course of Spains rule. Your lies are transparent ,Islam has been spread by the sword more so than any other religion currently existing on this planet,
And Christianity has not been doing that with missionaries and crusades. Didn't Jesus send his twelve disciples out to spread the gospel?
First of all, like to thank Nader for his relevant article, segundo all the human being are equals, i.e., the only gap is country'GDP of each country, and please let the Muslims quiet, and do not stick the blessed book to each Muslim, you must to know that the most of them do not practice.
Islam has been fighting to be recognized by at least two factions the Sunni and Shiete or Shia muslims and as long as they to continue to battle without just sharing the same stage chaos will remain, and the Salafist are just to far over the edge, destroying history, that's just nuts. So when everyone with in the central conflict says enough have died to satisfy Allah, then at least the beginnings of a discussion can take place.
Just a thought
The problem is, the American perception towards Middle East is very different than the people who live in the Middle East. Their views don't reflect the fact. They see Muslims as the son of the Osama Bin Laden and Islam as Al Qaeda of course both beyond them. The fact is very different, Middle East is a religious society and all the conflicts can be solved by the help of religion. Religion is more connective than the peace efforts that governments try to carry on.
That is a very jaundiced view of "the american perspective". We know the difference between peace loving muslims and jihadist/extremism. We have been living side by side with them in america for decades. Muslims are our doctors, neighbors, local business owners, etc.
...friends, co-workers, and family members too.
Ya what you've commented here, that religion in the Middle East society can solve conflicts. In what way ? Peacefully ? Come on, in reality it proved otherwise. Look what had happened in Libya, Syria, Egypt. How many peoples died, suffered
from this conflicts. Islam is clearly not a peace bringing religion.
I think that the way for understanding the Muslim World is to live with them for un certain time.
Why would I want to live in the 10th Century? Hahahahahahahhaha
No credit for working with them day in and day out? Within 5 cubicles of my cubicle, I have co-workers who I have befriended named, Mohammed, Ali, Fouad, Kamal, Abdul, and Ahmad. I don't have to share their prayer mat with them to know them as good people...
Most people avoid bad influences.
Evidenced by the fact that no one's been conversing with you.
Here in the West, Christians can doubt their religion, criticise their church and the pope etc. There's a degree of tolerance on all sides to accept people, who profess different religious and political views, without being persecuted or killed. In the Arab world, be it under secular dictatorship and or elected Islamist leaders, people don't seem to see the change they hope for. We don't understand why the Sunnis have to see Shias as heretics and kill them. Christians have no problem with different branches of Christianity and they co-exist peacefully.
Absolutly! As long as there is no freedom of religion and conscience in Islamic countries, there will be no successful democracy.
Is Christianity democratic? Do you elect your Pastor? Just Recently the Church of England voted AGAINST women becoming bishops?
Is Judaism democratic? Can women become Jewish Rabbis? Israeli Haredy Jewish Women in Beit Shemesh wear Burqa worse than Taliban???
In Islam Women can be religious leaders. In fact, Prophet Mohammed's Daughter was an "activist" holding lectures, challenging the "Caliph" and was regarded as a religious authority.
If your measure of democracy is the number of pubs and clubs or in fact secularism and atheism then the Muslim world is going to disappoint you.
That's not my measure of democracy and the Muslim world still disappoints me!
Christianity is a pillar of democracy because Christianity seeks to persuade by reason and argument. Islam provokes at the edge of a sword. There is no freedom, until you have freedom of conscience. My conscience knows that I am a sinner and I cannot approach GOD without the grace of Jesus Christ. I do not have to work for salvation; it is a free gift of GOD to all who will believe. A free conscience thought that was shared with me years ago by another free conscience thought.
Islam seeks to persuade by reason and argument. In fact, that is typically what is done in Da'wa.
There are many woman rabbi's in Judaism. Your prophet was a murderous cowardly pedophile period. Out of the 70 or so battles mentioned in the koran only one of them,the battle of Badr was defensive all the others were started by the murdrous profit (deliberately misspelled) for plunder both monetary and human slavery against non believers.
Islam does not equal Muslim Behaviour
Do Stallin or Hitler actions equate to Christianity?
Do Bernie Madoff, Leon Trotsky or Baruch Kopel Goldstein actions equate to Judaism?
Good piece Nader Hashemi ... THANK YOU
The US staunchly supports the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Syria will eventually be ruled by its own fundamentalists. That is not good for the populations of these two countries and will likely lead to their impoverishment. How does that equate to stability in the long run?
As long as "freedom of religion" is not accepted by Islamic countries there will never be successful and peaceful democracy in those countries. Why is this such a hard concept for Islam to grasp?
Mr Nadir Hashmi you should at least not call this as Arab Spring.People are dying and you are calling it Spring.Please correct me if Spring has some other meaning.
Jesus is very clear in the New Covenant that Christians are not to kill anyone. The slaughters done in the past by so called Christians were not true Christians; these people used Christianity as a front for self serving purposes. The Islamic faith, by contrast, does encourage murder. The only way one can guarantee getting to Heaven under the Islamic religion is to kill non-believers. They are following a false religion, a religion that one man, Muhammad, said was the way. He also used religion for his self serving purposes, a religion that continued to grow after his death. The same recipe has been used by founders of other false religions as well. Check out http://www.juststopandthink.com
Further to my first post, I know many Muslims, like most, love them all, and hate none. The issue is understanding the root issues underlying our behaviors which only comes about by researching the facts and finding the truth. We would never take one person's word to put all our money into an investment, yet so many people including Muslims, Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses are willing to take the word of one person, the founder of each of their faiths, as the basis on which they are willing to base their eternal lives. The Catholic faith also has many issues as their leaders, over time, have changed God's word to create their unique version of religion that looks and smells like Christianity but which serves, amongst other things, to reduce Jesus and elevate people such as the Pope and Mary. It also says Jesus alone is not the way to Heaven. That is wrong. Eternity is a long time and it is tragic to see so many people in so many religions/faiths led astray. You may disagree and if you do, that's fine. But if you disagree, I encourage you to be 100% confident of why you disagree from the premise that Jesus is God, that he paid the penalty for all our sins on the cross, that Jesus was resurrected on the third day, that He the only way to Heaven. Jesus claimed He was God. If He is God, He is the real deal. If He is not God, then he was a man, but not a special man because he was a liar. The book 'Case for Christ' is based on extensive research of the facts and shows why Jesus is the real deal. There is no similar research that shows Muhammad was the real deal. It shows the opposite. I understand these comments are difficult to read when one is a Muslim believer. But we should also never be afraid to check out and validate our beliefs. The truth is never afraid of questions or challenges. But deceit is, and deceitful issues, whether in business, faith or relationships, always discourages anyone from seeking the truth. Never challenge, never question – just do and believe what you are told. If you are Muslim, I encourage you to check out the facts. Do not be blinded by emotion which we humans often do when we are passionate about our beliefs. Eternity is a long time, and we not only have the right, but the responsibility to ensure our beliefs are right. Blessings all. By the way, a good website that helps explain what is going on in the Middle East, issues underpinning radicals of the Islam faith etc is joelrosenberg.com. Joel is a very loving, kind man who...seeks and speaks the truth.
I don't know about history but the present looks pretty scary
Islam does not conflict with democracy. However, democracy is not applicable on any tribal or ethnic-sectarian (shiaa/sunna/Kurdish/Arabs). We used to have a dictatorship in Iraq. We came in to implement our version of democracy. Guess what? Other dictators are running the country toward our enemies. Similarly, the current dictators in Egypt & Tunisia are just like the previous ones. I think people Saudi Arabia and UAE are happy with their political systems. And, from my readings and resources, they are even happier than us in US and Europe. Every time we poke our noses in a middle-eastern country to push for our version democracy, we destroy it. If we have the energy to solve problems, let work on our own.
Democracy can conflict when a religion is a primary driver in a nation. For instance, a democracy can mean that anyone should be able to run for government. In an "islamic democracy", what happens when a large group based on another religion wants representation and does not believe in that religion? Conflict emerges. In Israel, for example, a democracy is established, but in a sense it is flawed. If the Palestinians gain in population, they need to have equal representation. What happens to the "Jewish" democracy at that point? It can easily crumble. This is why western governments have learned over the centuries, and many wars, that that democracy and religion need separeration.
Face the facts, I have to admit it . Democracy decided by the uneducated and the illiterate is worthless.
The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
Of the Muslims I have known in the USA and elswhere, most seem devout, pious, and dedicated to their family. If these people were the face of Islam, there would be no public image problem in most westerner's minds.
We can argue history and offer examples of evil, bad, average, good and great people in all the Worlds great religions, but that is not really what divdes us.The term that raises hackles is Shariah Law. Most Christian religions believe in the principle of free agency, and that no religion has the right to mete out any sort of punishment beyond loss of fellowship or membership in the Faith.
I am a Mormon and a Christian (DonD, your opinion on this matter could not possibly be more meanngless), and the following excerpt from secton 134 of the Doctrine and Covenants spells out what we believe:
9 We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.
10 We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world’s goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship.
Until westerners are convinced that Islam adheres to the above principles, it will be met with skepticism.
What history can teach us about Islam and democracy?
That it rarely works for long.
Let's not kid ourselves. As long as Muslims don't stand up and help themselves, no body else will help them. Not with the crazy rightwing radical lobbies in Washington. Just read some of the posts on this comment section to see who these right wing crazies are.
I don't believe in the Bible
I don't believe in the Quran
Placing faith in books, which are written by MAN is silly in this man's eyes. That doesn't make me an atheist, because I do believe that there is a God. No one on this planet knows what God is, and a book sure as crap can't tell you. Heck, God could be the energy that makes every living thing tick, which connects us all to the forces of the Universe.
My beliefs aside....I have one request.
If you get 70 virgins in heaven, can I get 70 s1uts? Because, I'm sorry, but sleeping with virgins is not good s3x.
Hitler-Communist-dictator can control them and if they are loose they will destroy everything ....
Hitler-Communist-dictator can control them and if they are loose they will destroy everything ....
Hitler-Communist-dictator can control them and if they are loose they will destroy everything ....
Democracy, in itself, is not transforming. If anything, Democracy is an extremely difficult government to install correctly. Rather than push it on a nation who is not ready, it is ulitmately what people demand when a nation has undergone necessary changes (free-press, multiple parties, etc....). Fair and open trade with a nation generally leads to more prosperity, which leads to a nations citizens to demand more power over their lives. China may well end up being a good example of this. S. Korea is a great example. Making Iraq a democracy when fundamental problems still exist, will ensure that it fails. Russia, for instance, attempted a demcracy, but ultimately its people did not understand what it meant. Democracy has to be demanded by its people, who have moved up socially and economically for it to succeed. This is the lesson we need to learn.
The one truth which many choose to ignore.......at their own peril.......is that Islam tolerates nothing but Islamic law, and nothing but Islamic religion. As long as that continues..........and it will in the foreseeable future.........there will be no solution possible, for the Islamic problem.
NO rick NO. what the problem is that the West likes to get involved with the muslim countries and creating conflict. When the majority of the Muslim countries are 99% muslim then there is no problem with the Islamic Law. And even when christians and jews were living under Islamic law they were granted permission to run there own law system under the Islamic system how ever they please. So dont say that Islam does not tolerate any other religion except its own.
The Global Public Square is where you can make sense of the world every day with insights and explanations from CNN's Fareed Zakaria, leading journalists at CNN, and other international thinkers. Join GPS editor Jason Miks and get informed about global issues, exposed to unique stories, and engaged with diverse and original perspectives.
Every week we bring you in-depth interviews with world leaders, newsmakers and analysts who break down the world's toughest problems.
CNN U.S.: Sundays 10 a.m. & 1 p.m ET | CNN International: Find local times
Buy the GPS mug | Books| Transcripts | Audio
Connect on Facebook | Twitter | GPS@cnn.com
Buy past episodes on iTunes! | Download the audio podcast
Check out all of Fareed's Washington Post columns here:
Obama as a foreign policy president?
Why Snowden should stand trial in U.S.
Hillary Clinton's truly hard choice
China's trapped transition
Obama should rethink Syria strategy
Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
RSS - Posts
Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.
Join 4,858 other followers