Freedom and Justice in the Modern Middle East

(Foreign Affairs) Bernard Lewis - To speak of dictatorship as being the immemorial way of doing things in the Middle East is simply untrue. It shows ignorance of the Arab past, contempt for the Arab present, and unconcern for the Arab future. The type of regime that was maintained by Saddam Hussein - and that continues to be maintained by some other rulers in the Muslim world - is modern, indeed recent, and very alien to the foundations of Islamic civilization. The main threat to the development of democracy in Iraq and ultimately in other Arab and Muslim countries lies not in any inherent social quality or characteristic, but in the very determined efforts that are being made to ensure democracy's failure. Most dangerous are the so-called Islamic fundamentalists, those for whom democracy is part of the greater evil emanating from the West, whether in the old-fashioned form of imperial domination or in the more modern form of cultural penetration. An important element in the Sunni holy war is the rise and spread - and in some areas dominance - of Wahhabism. The creation of a democratic political and social order in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East will not be easy. But it is possible, and there are increasing signs that it has already begun.

2005-05-03 00:00:00

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