Who said Arabs does not want democracy? First, what do we mean by democracy? Is it the rule of people? Is it citizens’ right to informed choice that would lead to political and economic reform? Well, if this is how US understands democracy, this is how Arabs understand it too. Democracy, liberty, and human rights, are common human values shared by the members of the huge human family, no matter what we call them: Arabs, Americans, Chinese, whatever.
The Arab people all over the region, even in the most conservative societies and strong dictatorships are fighting for democracy, or more specifically liberal democracy (take Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia as clear examples). The civil society and pro-democracy movements there are growing strong and the pressure they are imposing on dictators is increasing. Although there are no tangible results that I can use as evidence, I can confidently claim, as an on-ground observer, that they are on their way.
Arabs, especially the young generations, who form more than 60% of the region’s population, are not coping with the lack of democracy. I disagree. Arabs suffer from the lack of democracy, true! But they do not look forward to the bloody democracy that comes through war and violence. What happened in Iraq was a nightmare to the whole region. Innocent civilians killed, sectarian tensions expanding and increasing, natural wealth stolen. No one, including the pro-democracy activists, wishes to see their country in the horrible status of Iraq. It is true Iraq now is enjoying some initial signs of democracy, but this won’t remove the past misery and the expected consequences. As soon as the American troops completely leave Iraq, things will turn worse. Why? Because, while imposing democracy by warfare, the people lost their most-needed opportunity to absorb democracy and transform their mentalities and life-styles from the very closed tunnel under Saddam to the wide-open horizon after Saddam. They were pre-occupied by saving their lives.
That is, of course, if we assumed that US intentions in invading Iraq were sincerely for promoting democracy, not for hunting down Saddam Hussein (as a person not as a dictator), or for the revival of Bush’s “holly crusade.” Now, thanks to the information leaked through some reputable websites like Wikileaks and some reputable writers like McCelellan (of “what happened” book), and other international reports, we realized that the war on Iraq was not for saving the world by finding the hidden nuclear bombs or promoting democracy in a country that was governed by a hard-liner dictator like Saddam.
So, obviously, the neighbor Arab countries won’t get jealous of Iraq’s democracy. They are scared! And, the people there cannot and will not accept to be another Iraq, even if Iraq became the most democratic country in the world.
I can also claim that dictators in the region became stronger after the fall of Saddam. They – the dictators – are using the Iraq example to frighten their people and enhance their dominance over their seats. I can go further and say that by waging war on Iraq, US harmed democracy and enhanced dictatorship in the region. If America really wants to help, it should care more for promoting democracy in the Middle East through disseminating knowledge about civil rights, enhancing civil society, and supporting nonviolent resistance and struggle by the people in the region against their dictators. This support can take many forms starting from financial and moral support to the pro-democracy initiatives, up to imposing diplomatic pressures on the dictators to apply liberal democracy principles. But war is not and can never be a reasonable or working option!
Nevertheless, I would like to put something really clear about Arabs in general and Muslims in particular. The Middle East is the region where the three divine religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam - which form the majority of the religions in the world – emerged. People there are religious by nature, regardless what religion they embrace. They can hardly understand any thing in the world or embrace any ideal or principle if it is not introduced and justified through religion. Actually, as I mentioned in an earlier post, democracy (Shura) is an obvious and non-negotiable rule in Islamic Shaira (law). Democracy is not a strange concept for Muslims or Arabs. Accordingly, Arabs/ Muslims would never hate to have democracy, but they will absolutely prefer eternal dictatorship to democracy promoted through war.