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04 February 2011

Middle East:USA & West Welcomes Change but Fears Islamists-Misplaced Apprehensions


Sheik Rachid Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia after 22 year's exile, Granted warm Welcome-Islamophobes tense
When Sheik Rachid Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia on Sunday after 22 years in exile, more than 1,000 supporters turned out to greet him at the airport.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is surrounded by followers after his arrival at Mehrabad Airport on Feb. 1, 1979, after 14 years of exile.
AP
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is surrounded by followers after his arrival at Mehrabad Airport on Feb. 1, 1979, after 14 years of exile.
For some outside the Arab world, the image had an uncomfortable resonance. Two weeks after the shah fled Iran in 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned home from a long exile, shoving aside secular democrats who had been involved in a provisional government and establishing a theocracy that has held sway ever since.
Commentators and politicians in some corners have openly worried about a repeat. The current state of upheaval and mass protests could lead in time, they warn, to a renewed rise of political Islam.
"The sources of the instability, the central source, does not stem from radical Islam," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday. "But it is true that in a situation of chaos, an organized Islamist entity can take over a country. It's happened in Iran and other places as well."
But most academic and policy experts say an Iran-style scenario is far-fetched for Egypt and other Arab countries that are now seeing uprisings. There's no doubt that Islamist parties will play a role in transitional governments and open elections, should they occur.
The Islamist parties, however, are not the dominant force behind protests in any country outside of Jordan. And, should they attain power in any country, their platforms are more likely to resemble that of the moderate Islamist party that rules Turkey in a secular fashion than those of the ayatollahs in Iran.
Pledging Moderation
Ghannouchi's Ennahda party, in fact, compares its own agenda with that of Turkey's AK Party. In recent interviews, Ghannouchi has insisted on the importance of pluralism and multi-party democracy.

The Example Of Turkey

Turkey has been a rare democracy within the Muslim world and insistent on the separation of mosque and state.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan heads a party of conservative Muslims — it praises "Islamic moral values" — and he once served time in prison for reciting a poem praising Islam while mayor of Istanbul.
But, aside from occasional arguments about criminalizing adultery and allowing female university students to wear headscarves, Erdogan has avoided trying to rule with a religious bent. Last September, he convinced voters to approve constitutional changes that, among other things, afforded greater rights to Turkey's Christian and Kurdish minorities.
"One can't guarantee that the future of Egypt won't be a totalitarian Islamic state, but it's highly unlikely, whereas it was quite likely in Iran," says Ian Lustick, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. "Turkey's is not the only path Egypt could take, but it's the most likely and it's one of the better ones."
At the Tunis airport, his supporters held up signs with messages such as, "No to extremism, yes to moderate Islam!"
In Tunisia, the Islamist parties "don't represent more than 20 percent of voters," says Noureddine Jebnoun, a professor at Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies.
"The Islamists will not have the majority in Tunisia or Algeria or even within Egypt with the Brotherhood," Jebnoun says, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that had long been the leading opposition force against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. "They will belong to a coalition government. That's it."
Most countries in the Muslim world, including the monarchies, allow for electoral participation. But few are considered true democracies.
In Egypt, as elsewhere, opposition parties are often suppressed. In last fall's elections, none of the candidates put up by the Muslim Brotherhood were able to win. Five years earlier, they had taken more than half the parliamentary seats they contested.
Mubarak's regime has long insisted that it stands as a bulwark against radical Islamism.
"Playing the Islamist card" has been central to its own narrative about its legitimacy, says Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center.
That's one reason why the Muslim Brotherhood has been keeping a relatively low profile during Egypt's current unrest, Hamid says.
"It doesn't mean they're weak," he says. "It's by design. The Brotherhood doesn't want to have a high profile during this phase, because it knows the regime could use that to hurt the broader movement."
That's one reason why the Muslim Brotherhood is backing, as strongly as any other faction, the idea of a transitional government led by Mohammed ElBaradei, the decidedly secular former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Brotherhood's Future Role
Another reason may be that the group, which has long been the primary opposition force against Mubarak, would be unlikely to win a majority even in an open election.
I'm certain a form of political Islam will get seats if there are elected parliaments in Tunisia or Egypt or Yemen. The real question then is how will democratic institutions deal with that. How do you allow disagreement in places where disagreement wasn't allowed?
"If free and fair elections are permitted, in which a variety of political forces participate," says Augustus Richard Norton, a professor of international relations at Boston University, "I think the Brotherhood is likely to see 25 to 30 percent of the vote, which gives them a real possibility of being players in the game."
As a reporter in Egypt in the 1990s, Geneive Abdo became convinced that if political change were ever to come there, it would ride in on the backs of the Brotherhood.
"Back then, the Islamists were enormously powerful," says Abdo, who is now an analyst with the National Security Network and the Century Foundation. "I have always maintained that this is the future of the country."
But Abdo has since changed her mind. "Iran in no way is ever going to be a model for anything that happens in Egypt," she says. "The Brotherhood will be part of a transitional government, but the time when they seemed most powerful, that period is over, and we're onto a new phase."
Triggering A Counter-Reaction
Islamist candidates fared quite well in an earlier experiment in Arab democracy, winning a majority of seats in the first round of parliamentary voting in Algeria in 1990.
That triggered a civil war that lasted eight years and killed up to 200,000 people. Algeria's president announced Thursday that he will soon lift a state of emergency that has been in place for more than 20 years.
The memory of that conflict — as well as world reaction to the success of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections — will lead some Islamist parties to seek a low profile, Hamid argues.
"They understand that the world isn't ready for Islamists," he says. "They don't want to mobilize the world community against an emerging democratic experiment."
Islamist parties might not shy from power, but most understand that they're playing a long game. Hamid says they believe autocracies don't last forever and that their day will come.
"They have a general sense that history is moving in their direction, that history is going to give them a victory," says Ian Lustick, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania.
Islamists believe they will prevail over time — over the next 30 to 40 years, if not in the next election, he says. They also understand that even Muslims who reject the notion of religious parties largely share their values.
"Every time we do surveys, comparing Islamists with those who say keep Islam out of politics, there's very little difference," says Mark Tessler, director of the International Institute at the University of Michigan. "They're somewhat more conservative on some issues, but not very different than anybody else."
Comparisons With Other Cultures
Figuring out whatever part Islamist parties will ultimately play within a democratic framework would be part of the long adjustment countries shifting away from dictatorships would have to make, says George R. Trumbull IV, a Dartmouth College historian.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (center) reviews an honor guard with Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev during an official welcome ceremony for Erdogan in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on Feb. 2.
EnlargeVyacheslav Oseledko /AFP/Getty Images
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (center) reviews an honor guard with Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev during an official welcome ceremony for Erdogan in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on Feb. 2.
"I'm certain a form of political Islam will get seats if there are elected parliaments in Tunisia or Egypt or Yemen," Trumbull says. "The real question then is how will democratic institutions deal with that. How do you allow disagreement in places where disagreement wasn't allowed?"
Lustick, the Penn political scientist, compares the possible role Islamic parties might play in nascent Arab democracies to that played by Christian Democratic parties in Europe a century or so ago.
"They became less religious and more political and helped build strong democracies in all these countries," he says. "Democracies domesticate religious groups to become political players. That's how it works."
Factions of some Islamist groups in Algeria, Egypt and elsewhere have engaged in political violence and terror. But Tessler, the University of Michigan political scientist, says most Islamist parties aren't militant or fundamentalist in the way that a lot of people in the U.S. expect. Instead, he argues, they're more akin to religious conservatives here.
"They'll play that role," he says. "They're not about theologies or subverting democracies. They're about advancing a social-conservative agenda, which ought to be familiar to Americans."
Lustick draws a comparison with another society.
"Ultimately," he says, "they would like to see Islamicized governments with a role for sharia [or Islamic law] not as the sole source of authority, but the way Judaism is in Israel, as the guiding force in personal life."
Comments: 
What's the issue? No one should be afraid of Islam, people love it because it provides, quality, justice and fairness for all. Comparing Iranian Shi'a Revolution with Sunni Islam is a folly. Mainstream Sunni Islam does not follow the doctrine of Imamate [combined religious, spiritual and political leadership, some what similar to the Popes of old] which is peculiar to Shi'a Islam. 
Sunnis believe in Caliphate [represented the political unity, not necessarily the theological unity of Muslims in one person]. Sunni Islam dictates that the head of state, the caliph, should be selected by Shura – elected by Muslims or their representatives. Followers of Shia Islam believe the caliph should be an imam descended in a line from the Ahl al-Bayt, which Khomeni modified to Fiqh-Valayat [Guardianship of the Jurist or Providence of the Jurist (Arabicولاية الفقيهPersianولایت فقیهUrduولایت فقیهWilayat al Faqih].Hence Sunni Islam is more democratic domination of theocracy as in Iran is neither feasible nor possible. In the 1400 years of history of Islam, never ever the theologians ruled, the 'Four Rightly Guided Caliphs' were the special companions of Prophet [pbuh], however the theologians like Abdullah bin Umar, Abdullah bin Massud, Abu Hurairah and later Imam Abu Hanifa, Hambal, Shafia, Malik, Ghazaali etc remained committed in their original work. The advised the rulers and guided the people on Islamic matters. The Taliban rule in Afghanistan is an other distortion of Islam, they were basically students of Islamic schools, not scholars who joined the struggle for the independence of their country from oppression of foreign forces and local tribal mlatias. Their ruthless application of Shri'a with limited knowledge of Islam though established peace in Afghanistan but represented a distorted primitive image, not shared by majority of Islamic scholars.    
In Pakistan religious Islamists political parties never got enough votes to form their govt, except in NWFP province, their performance was poor and were thrown out in next election . People only look towards them due to anti US sentiments, with the hope of corruption free govt but they prove no different. [see article by Ayaz Amir: http://peace-forum.blogspot.com/2011/01/clerics-on-march.html]. Main issue of Muslims world is to have full control on their resources and way of life. The want to have corruption free good government which should provide security,  justice, economic stability, jobs, fair distribution of wealth, eduction healthcare and social welfare. Unfortunately corrupt dictators cling to power with US/Western support, by exploiting the bogey of "Religious Fanatics (Muslim extremists)"these puppets of West  are hated by people due to corruption and misgovernment. Any one who genuinely wants to help the Muslim world, they should support the dedicated, honest leadership enjoying the real trust of people, any other approach will be counter productive. The issue of extremists should be left to the Muslims themselves, they know well how to deal with them. The foreign interventions provides some legitimacy to the cause of extremists, hence an indirect support to them.