The Future of Islamic Democratic Parties

Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality Topics: Quran Views: 2239

The bedrock message of the Koran is that Muslims must build a just and decent society, in which poor and vulnerable people are treated with respect. Hence politics has always had near-sacramental importance in Islam. If Muslims see their community humiliated by a foreign power or corrupted by a tyrannical regime, they can feel as religiously distressed as a Christian who sees the Bible traduced.
Karen Armstrong, Washington Post, September 10, 2002.



The simple fact is that political Islam, or Islamism - defined broadly as the belief that the Koran and the Hadith (Traditions of the Prophet's life) have something important to say about the way society and governance should be ordered - remains the most powerful ideological force in that part of the world. ... Islamism has become, in fact, the primary vehicle and vocabulary of most political discourse throughout the Muslim world. When Westerners talk about political ideas, they naturally hark back to the Magna Carta, the American Revolution, and the French Revolution. Muslims go back to the Koran and the Hadith to derive general principles about good governance (including the ruler's obligation to consult the people) and concepts of social and economic justice.
Graham Fuller, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2002.



The recent string of election victories of Islamist candidates that challenged the entrenched politicians sounded an accord with the disenchanted Muslim voters. These victories in four countries - Pakistan, Bahrain, Morocco and Turkey represent a new pragmatic approach adopted by the Islamic parties. It is difficult to chart a single trend but the victories are all the more significant as the West increasingly equates Islam with violence. And, while the moderate Islamists are gaining ground, the current U.S. policies also play in the hands of the radical forces, which consider that Muslims are under siege and distrust American assurances that it is a war on terrorism, and not a crusade against their faith. Indeed, in recent polls a majority of Muslims say terror war targets Islam. 

The initial reaction from Washington has been that of acceptance of the democratic mandate of Muslim people. But they do not really consider that any strengthening of Islamic parties bodes well for the American global agenda. Therefore, the future course of events will depend much on how the U.S. policy is formulated in relation to the deeper aspirations of Muslims. Thus these elections may serve as an opportunity for reconciliation with Islamists, or risk further alienation and conflicts with the Muslim world. Following these elections, in a news analysis reported by the New York Times, experts agree that working with moderate Islamic groups could give Washington the credibility it lacks, while opposing them would only serve to fertilize the already blooming anti-Americanism.

It is President Bush who often repeats the mantra that war on terrorism is not a war on Islam, but it is not clear whether this is used as a palliative to offset and hoodwink a certain section of Muslims. This, because his foreign policy hawks have joined in with his conservative constituents and core supporters from among the Christians, and are now increasingly attacking Islam and its sources as the cause of terrorism. And despite his occasional appearances at Islamic centers and dinner invitations to the White House, his administration has increasingly violated civil rights of American Muslims under the hastily enacted US PATRIOT law, and the establishment of Home Land Security Department has put them under constant scrutiny, while visitors from Muslim countries are regularly subjected to harassment, racial profiling, and other discriminatory practices. 

The neo-conservatives are hardcore confrontationalists who are single-mindedly pursuing their imperialist designs in view of the overwhelming technological and military predominance of the U.S. Thus, with the current war cries against Iraq getting louder, the stage is being set for campaigns against Iran, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon and Libya, followed by other targets in their turn from among the Muslim countries. Observing this situation, Ibrahim Hooper, a representative of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an American advocacy group had this to say: "These right wingers are trying to set up a civilizational conflict with all their might in the same way as Osama bin Laden."

And Graham Fuller, quoted above, who formerly held positions of Vice-Chairman of the CIA National Intelligence Council and Senior Political Scientist at the well-known Rand Corporation in Washington, DC in a recent interview published on November 6, 2002 by stated that, in the short run, he is pessimistic because "the idea of an inevitable clash of civilizations is growing, both in the West and among Muslims, because that is what is happening." And that "if we continue to have such a harsh and narrow vision of the problem as I think is represented by the Bush administration, then we are in for two more years, at the least, of very bad times. I hope that on both sides, things will begin to calm down after that. I think the trends are very negative." Then he continued: "In the longer run, I am more positive. I think the real issues between the two civilizations are not that strong at all, but an incident like September 11 has brought the two most extreme and radical elements of the two sides into direct conflict."

There are multiple reasons for the Muslim grievance. A major among them, is the unconditional support that the U.S. provides to Israel and the Bush administration has now aligned with it in its geopolitical designs (with Israel as an American proxy and superpower in the Middle East) and a very right wing government led by Ariel Sharon (who was responsible for the mass slaughter of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon). Thus while the Jewish and Christian Zionist- owned U.S. media ignore or misrepresent, Muslims see daily pictures of Palestinians being killed, injured, beaten and maimed by the Israeli occupation army using U.S. supplied guns, helicopters and F16s. 

But the problem even goes much beyond, in that the West and U.S. have constantly intervened over the years in the Muslim world - due to its extreme strategic importance and its richness in natural resources, such as oil - and continue to impose their hegemony and will on the region, one way or another. Thus a major grievance of Muslims with the U.S. administration is that it has chosen to build strong ties with the regimes that support its interests - but which are corrupt and autocratic and ruthlessly crush all dissent and opposition to them - and while it ignores them, it hypocritically talks of human rights violations elsewhere. These dictatorial regimes fear the rising popularity of Islamists, label them as "fundamentalists" and "extremists", which also plays on the "fear of the alternate" shared by the U.S. administration. 

According to Fuller, "The people who are the most allergic to Islamic participation in the political arena are people who know virtually nothing about the region, and they are thinking in terms of stereotypes that are projected about one group or another about the problem." And that "sometimes the stereotype is projected by the threatened regimes themselves, about what a threat the Islamists are." Thus a vicious cycle is set by the authoritarian regimes, which continue in power, aided and abetted in their status quo by the United States.

Here again, winning by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey may serve to alleviate such fears in the West. Particularly, because AKP ran elections on the promise of liberal democracy and end of the corruption era; and won 360 of the 550 seats in parliament, and will be the first in years to govern without a coalition partner. To quote again from Fuller's interview; "For Washington, this may the first time there is an Islamic government they may not love, but will find acceptable, and they will start dealing with them. This, I believe, may begin to break new ground in a new American willingness and experience in dealing with Islamists." Turkey is a strategic ally of the U.S. and Bush administration has been courting AKP for its war on Iraq, and has simultaneously canvassed for Turkey's membership in the European Union. There are hopeful signs that the U.S. may use this Turkish model in its relations with Muslims elsewhere. 

The major Islamic parties have the experience of several generations - grown and matured over these years, and are led by intellectuals, adopting strategies that are innovative. They are committed to democratic principles, and are in tune with the public aspirations to revalidate and re-exert their historic past. They are extremely well organized and provide several essential social services to their people - building clinics, helping the needy and orphans, distributing aid, food and medicine. Furthermore, among the people there is upsurge in resurgence, a growing sense of pride in their Islamic identity and protecting the Muslim world. There also is a deep sense of betrayal that their existing secular elites, their governments and their institutions have failed them. Therefore, they have moved away from such parties that have coopted with the regimes and are steeped in corruption, confident that the Islamic parties will provide them the best and only credible alternative.

In a major policy speech on December 5, 2002 to the Council of Foreign Relations, Ambassador Richard Haass, Director, Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State outlined the current U.S. policy objectives towards the Muslim world. It shows that the U.S. government seems to have realized that the absence of freedom, representative governments, rule of law, human rights and democracy in the majority of Muslim countries is a leading cause for under-development, and despair in the region. This also serves as a breeding ground for extremists and terrorists, who target the U.S. for supporting the authoritarian, failed regimes under which they live. Haass stated that real and genuine democracy is not only in the interest of the Muslim countries, but also in the long-term interest of the U.S. and the whole world.

The U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell followed this by announcing allocation of a few millions dollars to initiate, encourage and support the projects that will take up these causes. However, besides the insufficiency of the amount for such a tremendous undertaking, it remains to seen if this initiative is actually used to further a meaningful debate among Muslims about what kind of government they want, and help them meet the challenge of political, economic and social problems they face? Or, will it be utilized to further a model that serves specific U.S. political and global agenda, create further dissentions among them, and follow a divide and rule policy that the West has been using for so long? The current American plans to invade Iraq (already annihilated during the Gulf war I, and US-sponsored sanctions causing the deaths of 500,000 children in a decade, with another 50,000 annually, according to UN estimates), despite its agreeing to all conditions imposed on it, and without an iota of evidence for weapons of mass destruction, (while North Korea thumps finger up its nose by restarting its nuclear enrichment plants, and expelling the UN inspection monitors). All this, in order to redraw the map of Middle East that will serve its imperialistic designs.  All of the above, along with the recent devastation of Afghanistan, and installation of a puppet regime there provide ample grounds for the Muslim apprehension. The Muslim people will, therefore, judge America by its deeds and not mere words - especially now when reports indicate that Pentagon plans to mount secret propaganda operations among them to change their perception.      

In conclusion, I quote from Fuller's article in the Foreign Affairs: "Like it or not, therefore, various forms of Islamism will be a dominant intellectual current for some time to come - and the process is still in its infancy. In the end, modern liberal governance is more likely to take root through organically evolving liberal Islamist trends at the grassroots level than from imported Western modules of "instant democracy." Here, I may also address the illusion rampant in certain quarters that the appeal of Islamists is a transitory phenomenon that will pass away as the economic conditions improve.  On the contrary, this appeal is anchored in Islam's eternal transcendental sources that are renewable by their wondrous dynamic ability to meet the challenges of times. It is for this reason that their ranks are dramatically swelling, by the best and most talented young minds, that, beaconed by the glory of their history, are guided not by the ephemeral materialistic pleasures - but by a vision that goes beyond the present into the eternity, and aims at the goodness of the entire humankind, living in harmony with all of God's creation. 

Siraj Islam Mufti, Ph.D. is a researcher and free-lance journalist.

  Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality
  Topics: Quran
Views: 2239

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Older Comments:
dear sir
i like to study islam do you think that by declaring that their is only one god we are creating separation which effectively shall encourage more seperation, hatred and fear, counterproductive. until we can honour one another we shall be treading difficuilt waters. i like to think that we are all one and allah, god he loves us all and that black white yellow we are one in allahs eyes and that whatever doctrine we may follow we follow a doctrine that encourages love and understanding, i think tolerance shall be so important to transcend the barriers of hatred. i felt that the moslem in the mosque that the police raided in the u.k did not indeed do the faith justice as he appears out of balance and fueled by his own prejiduces. we have to overcome these personell hatreds if we are to transcend them.

thank you for lisening.


it had been my understanding that it was to be unchanged...
i'm still learning.

No the Kalipha is not the divine system. The divine system is when a group of leaders come together talk about a problem and make a decision based on that problem, as by direction f the prophet.
Allah had divided Islam into sects to demonstrate that the Kaliphate is flawed. War was made from within against Ali hahan and Husaine were brutally murdered like uthman before them. If the Kaliphate is from Allah why has he allowed it over the years to be corrupt bloody and spliting? The Kaliphate and the undivine ordained system shows it's failure in the split on an arguement of who the "proper kaliphs" were.
Shia and Sunni Muslims should realize they were split by Allah not because one is right about the Kaliph and one wrong but rather because only an inherently flawed system like the Kaliphate could lead to such division. Once the first four Kaliphates died, then ended the golden age of Kaliphates, and the Kaliphs after that got their position not by prophetic selection, but by bloody means. It is ok to spill blood in the Uma to become the Kaliph? No way.

There should be no Islamic democracy!
Allah swt has given us the perfect system, the Khilafah!
We must rebuild!
Islam is subject to attack when we are split as we are now!
With a world-wide Khilafah Islam will be invincible!

Mr. Norman,

I can no longer remain silent on the Palestine-Israeli conflict. Arrogance and injustice of the Israel gorverment which is backed by the super power of the United States. Reminds me of the Reich under Hitler. It is quite unfortunate that the race that underwent such oppression is returning the oppression in a higher form onto the Palestinians.


And who supported the Christian Phalange all those years ?! Mr. Norman, honestly, your degenerency and falsehoods truly know no bounds.
Your rantings are on par with those of Holocaust deniers. You're obviously ill and should seek medical attention

John Norman,

Why do you excuse Israel for every massacre, killings, and assissination; as if the Jewish state can do no wrong & is far above international laws and standards. You know, I'm fed up with Israeli apologists that coffer up "stories" albeit excuses for every brutal act done in the name of self-defense. Isn't it time to grow up and start accepting responsibilities for one's actions and call a spade a spade?

Mr. Norman
As normal I will not insult you please follow suit.
An Israeli court is hardly the place to try someone for killing Palestinians, also at the time you forget that the courts were mainly controled by sympathisers of Likud and other nationalist (fascist parties) Don't think I'm blaming Israel for Fascism. The Ba'ath party in Iraq, Syria and Egypt are other fine examples of other modern Fascist government. Ataturk also had a nice monopoly on Fascism while the zionists were stll dreaming of a nation, and Turkey continues to this day to behave the same way. I cant name a country in the middle east that isn't fascist in some way or another, and if not fascist at least a greedy king. If Israel isn't fascist why did they try to expel 2 knessat members simply for stated political views? If it isn't fascist why is the Palestinain flag illegal in Israel? Freedom of speech? Why is it illegal for a nonJew to marry a Jew without an official legal conversion in Israel? Why are west bank settlers citizens but Palestinians in the same land aren't? Why does an Arab Israeli lose his citizenship if he lives longer than an alloted period of time outside the boarders? Why aren't arab "terrorists" given trials like Jewish "terrorists"? Since when is covenant of blood (bulldozing the houses of families of suicide bombers) legal in a democracy? I thought only the guilty individual and proven knowledgable accomplices (proven in a court) are held responsible and punished in Democracy. Since when is shooting missles into the apartments of criminals/murderers and killing civilians in the process acceptable.
Ok Israel do this but don't call it a democracy just because 1/4 of the Arabs living in the land and all the jews elect the government. I can think of another historical figure who was legally elected in another "democracy" his name was Hitler, and I nor you will argue that he was a good man nor that the Reich was a democracy. Israel isn't nazi but many methods

The mass slaughter in Shabra and Chatilla was the direct responsibility of the Phalange militias led by Eli Hobeika. An Israeli court found Ariel Sharon indirectly responsible.

In 1942, Iraqi Arab mobs murdered hundreds of Iraqi Jews in a pogrom. Though the Iraqi Government was directly responsible for this massacre, the |British Commander-in-Chief, lord Wavell would have been found, like Ariel Sharon, to be indirectly responsible for failing to intervene with British forces then camped outside the City of Baghdad.