Democracy, Nationalism, and Islam

(Financial Times-UK) Oliver Roy - Democracy is clearly popular in the Middle East, even if Arab public opinion dislikes America's role in promoting it. One myth about democracy in the Middle East is the belief that a democratic regime would be stable and automatically friendly to U.S. interests. But democratization cannot work without political legitimacy and this legitimacy in the Middle East is rooted first in nationalism and second in Islamic beliefs. The democratization process should take into account what it was supposed to replace: nationalism and Islam as political tools. Palestinian democrats are no less nationalist than their more militant counterparts, and constitutionalist Iraqi Shia clerics are still calling for Islamic sharia principles in their country's laws. The writer is a professor at Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris.

2005-04-15 00:00:00

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