December 18, 2005


Islamists Ride Wave of Freedom: Religious parties in the Middle East are using democracy to gain power and legitimacy (Megan K. Stack and Tyler Marshall, December 18, 2005, LA Times)

In recent elections across Iraq and other countries in the region, Islamist parties have capitalized skillfully on new political freedoms to gain clout and legitimacy unprecedented in the modern Middle East. The growing strength of the religion-based parties is the single most unpredictable element in the Bush administration's grand vision to replace despots with democracy.

Whether it's the Shiite Muslim-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Palestinian group Hamas or Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Islamist parties have benefited from the administration's promotion of democracy in the Arab world.

This is the moment of maximum danger for Islam. If Islamists parties try to run their economies and politics along strictly Islamic lines they're destined not only to fail but to discredit Islam itself as thoroughly as Marxism was descredited by its failures. If, on the other hand, they have foresight enough to adopt rather liberal, Anglo-American, economic policies and combine them with Islamic moral/social policies, they stand to get credit for the rise in living standards that would follow. They may hate America, but it offers the template that those who wish to retain a strong religious base in a modern nation should obviously follow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 18, 2005 7:56 AM

A nice thought, But not very likely.

Islam is not Christianity. No separation of church and state, no magisterium.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 18, 2005 10:01 AM

A lot of this depends upon whether the diaspora returns home.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 18, 2005 10:11 AM

The other question about any Islamist party is the same as the question about someone like Hugo Chavez -- once they win an election, even if they then proceed to run the country into the ground, will they allow any future elections to be fair, or will the deck be stacked so that they can perpetuate their power (while of course having Jimmy Carter sanction the election as being fair).

Posted by: John at December 18, 2005 11:16 AM


Depends on your preferred time scale. Chavez is doomed and his regime is unlikely to last a generation. So even if the Caliphascists win and try to prevent future elections, they're still doomed.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at December 19, 2005 12:14 AM