Is it a new morning in the Islamic World?

President Bush has been crowing about how the policies of his administration are responsible for "democratic" developments in the Islamic world, but like most politicians, he is claiming credit for progress that has been overstated, that he had little to do with, and that may likely be reversed.

In his second inaugural address, President Bush loudly proclaimed his desire to democratize the world. But Bush's touting of his progress toward this goal, and the media's willingness to indulge in the democratic euphoria, are misplaced.

In Iraq, a democratic election was held more than a month and a half ago, but no government has yet been formed. This delay is one indicator of the depth of Iraq's ethnic and religious cleavages. Another sign is a stepped up Sunni insurgency that is increasingly targeting Shi'ite targets in order to ignite a full-blown civil war. Unfortunately, what's most needed to end the violence in Iraq is not the desire of the majority going to the polls, but the will of an armed minority to continue to fight and wait for the United States to become exhausted and go home. Even if the Sunni insurgency ended tomorrow, the Shi'ite majority might take the country toward Islamist rule.

In Palestine, U.S. policy had little to do with the flowering of yet another attempt to negotiate an end to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The death of Yasser Arafat and his replacement by Abu Mazen, who is more willing to negotiate with Israel, was the crucial factor, not U.S. pressure. But Abu Mazen has less standing among Palestinians than Arafat and therefore ultimately may be unable to triumph over more radical anti-Israeli groups, such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

In Lebanon, the initial flowering of opposition to the Syrian military presence was caused by the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, an anti-Syrian former prime minister, not U.S. policy. Furthermore, opposition demonstrations were dwarfed in size by a later march supporting Syrian influence conducted by Hezbollah, the radical Shi'ite Islamist group. If true democracy flowers in Lebanon, the negotiated balance among various religious groups would likely be upset, and Hezbollah would be the main beneficiary. Thus, as in the case of Iran, for many years the most democratic country in the Middle East, becoming more democratic doesn't necessarily reduce terrorism. Of course, a renewal of Lebanon's civil war is also possible.

In all of the aforementioned cases, enhanced democracy may very likely unleash forces detrimental to human rights and liberty. Just because a country has an election doesn't mean that it will become a republic that respects the rights of its citizens, especially those in the minority. After all, Adolf Hitler was the democratically elected leader of Germany.

Similarly, future democratically elected leaders in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, two other countries that President Bush is pressuring to open their political process, could very well be Islamists who don't respect individual rights and who are much less friendly to the United States. In any event, both of these regimes are doing the absolute minimum to comply with U.S. pressure. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak pledged to allow other candidates to run in the next presidential election, but those politicians will be carefully selected. Egyptians realize that this pledge is just window dressing and that the next boss of Egypt will be the same as the old boss. In Saudi Arabia, the first municipal elections were held in decades, but women weren't allowed to vote, and half of the winners were pre-selected by the government.

U.S. support for democracy in Islamic countries is often regarded as selective and thus hypocritical. Increased U.S. support for Pakistan, a country that has proved useful in the administration's "war on terror," has coincided with a strengthening of the Musharraf dictatorship. Also, the United States has made nice progress with the autocratic Libyan tyrant Muammar Qaddafi because he has agreed to give up his programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration has spun this positive development as having resulted from the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In reality, Qaddafi had been trying to normalize relations with the West for many years, probably was much less afraid of a U.S. attack after Iraq turned into a U.S. quagmire, and decided to seal the deal only after a promise that U.N. sanctions against Libya would be removed. Furthermore, Qaddafi promised to end his support for terrorism at the very same time that he was plotting the assassination of Crown Prince Abdullah, the leader of Saudi Arabia.

Even some opponents of the US invasion of Iraq are marveling about its alleged democratic ripple effects in the Middle East. Yet the specific mechanism by which the invasion led to such effects is never identified, and many of these developments can be explained by other causes. Moreover, in the long term, promoting democracy at gunpoint is likely to be counterproductive, because it is associated with the foreign invader. The United States is so hated in the Islamic world that many pro-democratic groups there try to distance themselves from U.S. policy.

Thus, the cause of liberty in Islamic countries would benefit from more quiet and less grandiose and militaristic promotion of it by the United States. Perhaps the United States would be better served by resurrecting its founders' policy of promoting freedom through leading by example.

Ivan Eland is the Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California and author of the book, Putting "Defense" Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World.

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Older Comments:
There is no Sharia rule it is impossible.
Only a prophet can bring about true Sharia...
and it will be inevitably corrupted by time as happened with the Islamic community...
Only a REAL prophet can bring us to a true Sharia now
and since Mohammad was the last that is not going to happen...

The only true government Muslims can take with good conscience is democratic...

the so called "sharia" that keeps being suggested are only the creations of modern scholars... who either are selfishly hoping to increase their own power... or arrogantly thinking that they actually know what true Sharia is like...

Who died and made these clowns prophets?
Tell me that?

They say they know what Sharia should be like but really they are full of doubt and disagree even amoung each other.


First about the author: He has written articles criticising the Bush Administration policies that takes courage.
Next the current topic: This article shows the total ignorance of Islam on the author's part and also the West's condescending attitude towards everyone else who disagrees with them and their ideas and the need to "civilize" the others.
Specifically here are my observations:
The author refers to opposition of the minority and the majority in Iraq and Syria respectively. So what is he trying to say that Democracy should be somehow imposed on the Muslim world even if less violent tactics are used?

Democracy cannot measure upto Islamic Shariah rule and Muslims should stop looking outside Islam for solutions to spiritual, political, financial and other problems. Islam is a complete Deen = Way of Life.
Next what this article and other articles by western authors who are more "tolerant" about other cultures reveals is that they still haven't understood Islam and would like to prescribe their own remedies for the "Ills" faced by the Muslims.
Why should Muslims look to non-Muslims for solutions shouldn't they look in the Al-Qur'an and Sunnah of Rasulullah(Salallahu Alaihi Wasalam)? Shouldn't the scholars stop arguing and set aside their eogs to give Islamic clarifications and work with other members of the community to come up with and implement solutions?
It is offending when the author states that "Even some opponents of the US invasion of Iraq are marveling about its alleged democratic ripple effects in the Middle East". This shows their true attitude.
Of course the author also exposes Bush's idea of spreading Democracy - never mind the lack of human rights and the cost of human lives in achieving this - is selective in that he supports Dictators in some countries and US-vetted Democratically elected leaders in others and overlooks Israel's .
May Allah guide us Muslims to turn to Him for help as He is our true friend and helper. Ameen

Asalaam Alaikum

I think that it is time the US stops interfering with other countries to change their way of life. If people want to be pro-democracy or whatever, that's fine, but it's not right for us (the US) to interfere so directly with other countries and cultures. People have the right to choose their own destiny without a foreign power dictating it to them. Critics of our foreign policy are correct (in my humble opinion) when they say that we have sacrificed principle for expediency; our interests and espoused values don't always converge but the thing is we are very evangelical (to coin a phrase) about our way of life. That needs to stop.
I think a very good example of this is the history of relations between the US and Iran. A lot of my countrymen don't know about Mossadegh and what happened to him. When I tell them, they start to understand why it is that many in the Middle East are cynical about the West's claims that they want to avowedly "free" them. The history of Iraq is amazingly similar.
I'm new to Islam, but I pray that Insha Allah, my fellow Americans will become more educated about things. And that when so educated, they will do things more intelligently (to put it lightly!)

Assalamo Alaykum,

This author need to study Islam first to order to understand what are the duties of an amir (leader of a muslim nation) and what are the rights of men and women in Islam.

As due to the lack of Islamic knowledge this author keep attacking Islamist will not respect the rights of the people. First of all there is no such thing as ISLAMIST. People who follow Islam are muslims. By attacking Islamist this author is portraying that Islam and Islamist are bad. Please try to understand that muslims are the followers of islam and there is only one Islam, One GOD and more than 100000 messgangers came from god on every land with the religion of Islam.

According to the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) muslim should appoint a person as a leader / amir who is the most god fearing. If the leader / amir is god fearing he will not serve the interest of a special group/lobby, he will not suqandred the wealth of people rather he will serve the inetrest of GOD as well as inetrest of the people including protecting the rights of non-muslims.

Now it is clear that muslims people are tired of these dictators in muslim countries which are supported and protected by U.S. , their time is coming near to end and thats why U.S. want to bring new dictators such as Allawi in Iraq and Karzai in Afghanistan through so called democratic process to legitimize oppression of muslim people and prevent them to Practice Islam as prescribed in the Quran and the sunnah.

If democracy and freedom mean telling women to show their cleavages and skin, to open nude and strip clubs and open pubs & clubs to serve wine and women, open gambling resorts, serve special and elite class to oppress the poor and the middle class, to demoralize the society, using women's body to sell products and services and the list of vices goes on. Then western way of democracy and freedom is a failure. Now its time to try Islamic way of life then the march for freedom will be on the way insaallah.


Phony elections, polotical assassinations and invasion of countries based on lies is ishering in a "new era" alright. The era of American terrorism, pure and simple.
The last thing Americans want in the Middle East is democracy, pay no attention to lip service from the jackals.