Fighting It– Democracy for Muslim Mid-East?

Bernard Lewis, the most senior Professor and student of the Middle East gave a lecture in July for Hillsdae College and spoke about “Freedom and Justice in Islam”. As he approaches 90, there is no one with a longer history of studying the cultures from which Islamo-fascism has sprung. His conclusion is powerful, especially the end…”Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us.”

excerpts: … Conclusion

Let’s spend a moment or two defining what we mean by freedom and democracy. There is a view sometimes expressed that “democracy” means the system of government evolved by the English-speaking peoples. Any departure from that is either a crime to be punished or a disease to be cured. I beg to differ from that point of view. Different societies develop different ways of conducting their affairs, and they do not need to resemble ours. And let us remember, after all, that American democracy after the War of Independence was compatible with slavery for three-quarters of a century and with the disenfranchisement of women for longer than that. Democracy is not born like the Phoenix. It comes in stages, and the stages and processes of development will differ from country to country, from society to society. The French cherish the curious illusion that they invented democracy, but since the great revolution of 1789, they have had two monarchies, two empires, two dictatorships, and at the last count, five republics. And I’m not sure that they’ve got it right yet.

There are, as I’ve tried to point out, elements in Islamic society which could well be conducive to democracy. And there are encouraging signs at the present moment—what happened in Iraq, for example, with millions of Iraqis willing to stand in line to vote, knowing that they were risking their lives, is a quite extraordinary achievement. It shows great courage, great resolution. Don’t be misled by what you read in the media about Iraq. The situation is certainly not good, but there are redeeming features in it. The battle isn’t over. It’s still very difficult. There are still many major problems to overcome. There is a bitter anti-Western feeling which derives partly and increasingly from our support for what they see as tyrannies ruling over them. It’s interesting that pro-American feeling is strongest in countries with anti-American governments. I’ve been told repeatedly by Iranians that there is no country in the world where pro-American feeling is stronger, deeper and more widespread than Iran. I’ve heard this from so many different Iranians—including some still living in Iran—that I believe it. When the American planes were flying over Afghanistan, the story was that many Iranians put signs on their roofs in English reading, “This way, please.”

So there is a good deal of pro-Western and even specifically pro-American feeling. But the anti-American feeling is strongest in those countries that are ruled by what we are pleased to call “friendly governments.” And it is those, of course, that are the most tyrannical and the most resented by their own people. The outlook at the moment is, I would say, very mixed. I think that the cause of developing free institutions—along their lines, not ours—is possible. One can see signs of its beginning in some countries. At the same time, the forces working against it are very powerful and well entrenched. And one of the greatest dangers is that on their side, they are firm and convinced and resolute. Whereas on our side, we are weak and undecided and irresolute. And in such a combat, it is not difficult to see which side will prevail.

I think that the effort is difficult and the outcome uncertain, but I think the effort must be made. Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us.”

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One Response to “Fighting It– Democracy for Muslim Mid-East?”

  1. CS Says:

    I love Hillsdale College!

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