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Islamist Democracy Is For Real

The Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas can’t be written off as easily anymore

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Khaled Meshaal, of Hamas, in January.(Mohammed al-Hams/Khaled Meshaal's Office of Media via Getty Images)

Two thinkers expert in Islam, neither anybody’s idea of a dove, have published articles recently suggesting that political Islam and democracy—democracy loosely defined—are compatible, and that from a Western perspective the movements in much of the post-Arab Spring world that combine the two (and are frequently illiberal) are preferable to the rule-by-strongman of the past. In Egypt, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood—the largest party in the parliament and quite possibly the party whose nominee will be president, unless the military steps in—will likely not do things that are in the best interests of the United States or Israel, to say nothing of Egyptian Christians and Egyptian women. Yet, both argue, this new reality is better than the old one—and it’s not like we really have a choice.

“Democracy will not set down roots in Arab countries in transition without including mainstream Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Ennahda in Tunisia, or Islah in Yemen,” argues Olivier Roy. He adds:

In Egypt, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood cannot cede its conviction that Islam is all-encompassing. Yet it risks losing popular support unless it can also reconcile Islam with good governance and human rights. … Israel is still unpopular and anti-Western xenophobia has visibly grown, but Islamist movements will need more than these old issues to sustain their rise to power.

And Reuel Marc Gerecht perceives democracy’s moderating effect:

Muslims cannot be dragged dictatorially to an embrace of secularism and all the liberal values that spring from it. They have to arrive voluntarily, organically, at this understanding.

Slavery is de facto no longer permitted in Islam—even though it’s authorized by the Quran—because Muslims successfully grafted European ethics onto Islamic mores. (British warships also helped stop the trade.) Individualism, the most insidious of Western exports, has now penetrated deeply into Muslim societies. The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, recognizes a woman’s equality inside the voting booth.

He concludes: “Dictatorship nostalgia, on the other hand, will take us right back to the cul-de-sac where Osama bin Laden was born.”

And then you read about the foreign minister of Turkey—whose government represents the best approximation of Islamist democracy in the world—meeting with the leader of Hamas. Prior to the Arab Spring (of which Prime Minister Erdogan, of Turkey, has been something of an outside hero), it’s hard to envision this happening. Doesn’t Hamas logically fit into their paradigm?

Um, except for one of their top officials insisting the group would never make permanent peace with Israel. So, I guess let’s stand by for now.

The New Islamists [FP]
The Islamist Road to Democracy [WSJ]

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gemel says:

This seems to forget the intolerance by the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas (in Egypt and Gaza respectively) 
of  those not living up to their interpretation of Sharia, including Copts in Egypt. 

As for women, see  Why Do They Hate Us? The real war on women is in the Middle East, BY MONA ELTAHAWY, in Foreign Policy, 
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/23/why_do_they_hate_us?page=full

I don’t know why you think Olivier Roy is “no one’s idea of a dove.” He is famous for a) predicting that Islamism was on its way out in 1999, and b) vastly underestimating the number of Muslims in France. I’d hardly consider him a hawk who’s reluctantly come over to a more benign view of Islamism. His remark is quintessential western cognitive egocentrism, as if the only way for a ruling regime to survive in the ME is to please the populace. 

exliberaljew says:

Which koolaid of wishful thinking is Mr. Gerecht drinking? Slavery is alive and well in Saudi Arabia as well as in the Sudan. The Muslim Brotherhood may have recognized women’s rights inside the polling booth but not in very many other places. And let’s not forget about gay rights or the rights of religious minorities. And furthermore it isn’t just that Hamas isn’t ready to make permanent peace with Israel it’s charter calls for the outright slaughter, yes, that’s right the genocide of Jews.  Oh, but I suppose that it’s just rhetoric and once Israel retreats to Dizengoff street the Arabs will lay down their suicide vests and hug us in peace.
Yeah, right!
This mentality represented by the likes of the Gerechts signifys the utter intellectual bankruptcy of the liberal left to which I sadly used to belong.  The kind of blindness to reality does no service to anyone, least of all the Jews.

jayafriedman says:

I do not oppose the Moslem Brotherhood or Hamas or Iran or Hezb’allah on the issue of internal democracy. I oppose them because they want to kill me!!!!

stengla says:

Do not for one minute be lulled into thinking that Islam and Democracy are compatible in any dimension, but rather they are diametrically opposed. Anybody promoting the idea of compatibility is entirely deluded and just flat out wrong or worse. Case closed. 

Start with separation of church and state. Just to start with, we have a non-starter. Then we can move along to various individual freedoms, freedom of speech and expression, religious freedom, to name a few. All non-starters with Islam. Now what? 

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Islamist Democracy Is For Real

The Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas can’t be written off as easily anymore

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