Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Democracy isn’t enough!

It is often said that the solution to fundamentalist Islam is democracy. “Look at Turkey”, say these advocates, “or look at how Muslims thrive in the West.” The singular example of Turkey is considered the proof-of-concept that democracy can tame Islam. Let’s look at the picture in more detail.

Turkey didn’t become modern by adopting democracy. It was the autocratic rule of Ataturk – a dictatorial almost totalitarian-like ruler – that changed the culture of Turkey. Democracy came later. (The closest Ataturk imitator was the Shah of Iran.) For years the Turkish military stood ready to prevent Islamic recidivism, making Turkey known as a “guided democracy.”

Consider the case of Algeria. The military suspended democracy when it was clear that fundamentalists were going to be elected. Algeria wasn’t always a fundamentalist hotbed. After the French abandonment of Algeria, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism came with a revival of Arab culture and the goal of establishing “authenticity.” Over the last 15 years, over 150,000 have perished in civil strife in Algeria. If this is Arab authenticity, donne-moi les Francais.

Many Muslims in America and Europe embrace liberal values (perhaps this is self-selection by emigration). However, some turn to Islamism. Mohammad Atta turned to radical Islam in Hamburg – not Egypt. In France, children of secular Muslims are turning to fundamentalist Islam. In Holland, a policy of permissive toleration has failed to inspire toleration in some Muslims and the policy is discredited. This raises doubts about assimilation.

Liberal democracy is still a proper long-term goal but it requires a critical examination of Islam. The first order of business must be an honest and open discussion of Islam. Until the problem is discussed, faced, judged, and when found harmful, condemned, no lasting change can take place. Since this may not be possible in societies where you will be killed for being critical of Islam, this must happen herein America – and in Europe.

If we fail to pass moral judgment, if we tacitly sanction the jihadist ideology, if we become morally complicit in whitewashing Islam, if we stand by and do nothing we have failed as human beings. This is not a job for governments; this must be done by individuals – especially intellectuals. How often have we looked back in history and said we would have taken a moral stand? Why not now?