October 14, 2003


Arab regimes reaching 'critical mass' (Matthew Riemer, 10/14/03, Asia Times)

[The] rift between religious versus secular authority and emphasis still continues today in the Muslim world, not only in the two branches of Islam themselves, but more prominently, if not ironically, in the mainstream of popular Muslim political discourse. What role will be played by the religious leadership, which constitutes the political leadership in many instances, as the Arab world is forced to modernize, or more accurately, to integrate itself within the Western-guided, globalized climate in the Middle East? In much of the Muslim world, this is one of the questions of greatest significance as the first few years of the new century have established an explosive atmosphere of radical change in the region. [...]

The confluence of this force of discontent in the Muslim world fueled by those who transcend the profile of pigeon-holed extremists and the continued exposure to Western-style government and the boons of capitalism threatens to extinguish the old rule in much of the Middle East and beyond, especially in some of the more famous and entrenched instances, such as the House of
Saud on the Arabian Peninsula. The addition of continuing US pressure for Arab regimes to reform only adds a sense of urgency to what many now feel is an inevitable process.

It's kind of like a 12 Step program. The first step for Islam is to recognize that the Church can not run the State and the Church/State can't run the economy. That's not an easy step. But, Islam does have one great advantage over the West, if it chooses to exploit it: they can preserve the moral teachings of Islam so that they inform Church, society, politics, anbd economics. The US has largely done this with Judeo-Christianity, while Europe has largely abandoned its traditions--the differences are instructive.

uslim Nobel Prize sends a powerful message (Ehsan Ahrari, 10/14/03, Asia Times)

In a general sense, the blame for the absence of democracy in Muslim countries should be borne not by Islam, but by the authoritarian regimes and their sycophant Sunni religious scholars, and even the former colonial occupiers. The Shia religious establishment has proven itself to be much more sophisticated than its Sunni counterpart in this regard. The doctrine
of quietism (ie, quiet protest regarding unjust political rule) of the Shia played an important role in this regard. Even though the late Ayatollah Khomeini rejected that doctrine by advocating the overthrow of a tyrant and establishment of a Vilayat-e-Faqih (rule of the clergy), there still exists powerful support within the Shia religious establishments of Iran and Iraq for quietism, which has also remained a basis for the separation of religion and politics - an important precondition for the evolution of democracy. The Sunni religious establishment, on the contrary, has a record of being easily coopted by the powers-that-be of each era, thereby legitimizing that power. [...]

Fast forwarding to the present era, the emergence of Shirin Ebadi as a Nobel laureate might turn out to be just one more development in the direction of the much-desired renaissance, if not a social revolution, that in the foreseeable future would sweep the extant autocracies in the world of Islam into the dustbin of history. Her native Iran may still turn out to be a country ripe for another revolutionary change. Hopefully, this time the triumphant system will be true Islamic democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 14, 2003 9:01 AM
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