October 26, 2004


Iraq's media in lively election mode (Kathleen Ridolfo, 10/27/04, Asia Times)

News of Iraq's January elections has dominated the pages of the country's major dailies in recent weeks, to some extent crowding out the more detailed coverage of the growing insurgency, the presence of multinational forces, and even the workings of the interim administration.

Newspapers in Iraq have been offering up a barrage of daily reports and opinion pieces over the past month on a variety of election-related subjects. Politicians and religious leaders "in the know" have commented on election developments, as the official Electoral Commission has detailed information on the mechanisms established to become a candidate and on voting. Articles have appeared on voter-education seminars being offered by political parties and organizations, the likelihood of whether or not expatriates will be allowed to vote from abroad, whether Sunnis will participate in the elections, as well as political maneuverings as the parties work to forge alliances and place their candidates on election lists that will meet the stringent requirements established by the commission.

But perhaps the most salient barometer of the "mood" in Iraq can be found on the editorial pages of Iraq's dailies. Commentaries overwhelmingly support the elections and offer intelligent and well-constructed viewpoints on a variety of election-related topics. Writers regularly demand that the Electoral Commission provide more information on the election process, and call on the Iraqi people to cast their ballots on election day.The diversity of opinions to be found on the pages of political dailies is encouraging and demonstrates a strong desire by Iraqis to make the nation's first elections as democratic as possible.

One need look no further for proof that men are ineducable than the ignorant refrain that Muslims are somehow going to be uniquely incapable of democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 26, 2004 9:09 AM


Muslims are people and people deserve freedom and accountable government. The natural state of man is tyranny. The concept of "Muslim Democracy" is problematic since they are based on the intermingling of eccentic religious views (from a western perspective) and the natural longing of men to be free. Individuals are free only when their neighbor is free. Islamism comes from a particular interpretation of the Koran which forbids disagreement and western style religious freedom. I know of no muslims personally who have formed their opinions regarding judaism and christainity free from the cult-like influence of Islamic scripture. Unless Christians, Jews, Agnostics, atheists, et al, are free, no one is.

Posted by: Tom C, Stamford,Ct. at October 26, 2004 10:10 AM


And? Islam isn't stronger than the tide of History.

Posted by: oj at October 26, 2004 11:51 AM

The Christian West seemed to prosper well enough before the Enlightenment.

Not to say religious freedom isn't most desirable but I don't know if there's a critical link between that and the majority Muslim population doing OK with democracy.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at October 26, 2004 12:30 PM


Read the American constitution and the Federalist Papers. No less than freedom of speech or assembly. The issue is the power of the collective versus the free individual. If liberty and freedom are worth anything, it must apply to all.

Posted by: Tom C, Stamford,Ct. at October 26, 2004 12:38 PM

Tom of Stamford:

What this means is that if Muslims do achieve liberty and democracy, there will always be tension between Mosque and State.

And, more ominously, a hyper-literal interpretation of the Koran ("SOLA SCRIPTURA!") will *always* be waiting in the wings to serve as a rally point for rebellious youth, power-hungry Mullahs, and Taliban wanna-bes.

Posted by: Ken at October 26, 2004 1:07 PM


Have you read the Koran? The danger of literal interpretation, much less hyper-literalism, does not apply. Regarding the here and now, the Koran's words only need to be taken at face value. Poetic license taken is not much of a feature.

Posted by: Tom C, Stamford,Ct. at October 26, 2004 1:44 PM

Curiously, perhaps, most of the Muslim states that are least superficially religious (that is, are formally secular) are also least 'modern.'

They are almost all dynastic -- Libya, Syria, Iraq under Saddam, Indonesia.

Some of the most conservative also are dynastic -- Saudi Arabia.

Most of the rest barely manage to achieve national dynastic status, being stuck more or less in localism, where England was in about 900, say.

When you start with dynasties, experiment a bit, and end up with dynasties, an anthropologist from Mars might postulate that the preferred form of government is dynastic.

I don't think this is a peculiarly Muslim trait, either.

Anyhow, it takes a real optimist to continue to assert that everyone wants democracy, even if we do not want to go as far as Tom and say that the natural state is tyranny.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 26, 2004 2:05 PM

How long was it from when the nation states of Europe formed in the "dark ages" until they became democratic?

Posted by: oj at October 26, 2004 3:48 PM


The decline of Europe is a function of the end of tension between Church and State--all athens, no jerusalem.

Posted by: oj at October 26, 2004 3:59 PM


Better look elsewhere--neither of them apply it to all.

Posted by: oj at October 26, 2004 4:03 PM


Apply what, the 1st amendment? Political liberty cannot be seperated from religious freedom. Equality before the law cannot be seperated from religious freedom. Orederd liberty implies an inherent respect for the differences among people. A government consituted along the lines of class, religious,racial or economic will decay,eventually, into a tyranny marked by arbitrary laws and oligarchicy. Individuals have inerests which when backed by political power,override the interests of those not so well placed. Democracy is not an end but a means of protecting therights of all. A very "Christian" idea which recognizes the absolut worth of all. Muslims live in ythe west with alof the benefits and rights generally denied to non-muslims in their native lands. Orthodox Islam presents a problem for the pluralistic and tolerant west.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at October 26, 2004 5:33 PM

The Constitution of the Founders couldn't be more explicit in not guaranteeing freedom to all.

Posted by: oj at October 26, 2004 6:19 PM


The vision of the founders was the inevitability of freedom for all within a framework of law. You can't disagree. Ordered liberty within a constitutional,federal arrangement among the states was the death warrant for slavery. It was only a matter of time.

"Democracy" was not the goal but a danger to be avoided at least the federal level.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at October 26, 2004 8:07 PM

Freedom under law isn't individual freedom, it's liberty. It is collective.

Posted by: oj at October 26, 2004 10:52 PM


I think we basically agree.However, the ideologicalsource of Islamism needs to be understood. Strictly speaking, within a "Muslim Democracy",they have a position with some legitimacy. Within an open society like the U.S. based on the principle of freedom of conscience, they have none.

Islam is not like some narrow protestant sect. It is a total ideology which demands submission or second class citizenship.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at October 27, 2004 8:51 AM


Yes, it requires Reformation but this appears to be rather easily effected, as witness Turkey, Indonesia, etc.

Posted by: oj at October 27, 2004 9:01 AM

It was instantaneous in the non-classical regions, Orrin.

Religious tyranny destroyed the early democracies, and it took a long time to rebuild them. Never happened at all in the Catholic regions.

Northwester Europe was more democratic in the 7th century than ever again until around 1900.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 28, 2004 12:30 AM

Yes, it was also a better place during that period.

Posted by: oj at October 28, 2004 7:18 AM

It wasn't a very nice place, too violent. But it got a lot worse when the Christian Commonwealth extinguished all political freedom. Europe had been more advanced than anywhere else until then.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 28, 2004 7:51 PM

Advanced further during the Christian epoch. Faded since it ended. Nothing wrong with violence--we're the most violent society going and the greatest.

Posted by: oj at October 28, 2004 10:00 PM