Elected Islamists or Dictators? A Critical Commentary

Posted on October 17, 2012 by

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Almost a year has passed since the Arab Spring – an abundance of cataclysm and outbreak that shook the Arab World to pieces. The aftermath of this series of events is still being felt, and critical decisions must be made regarding new leaders to sustain the rebuilding process. Islamists are now being voted into power after various dictators have been overtaken. The future of the Middle East post-Arab Spring and the quest to fill this leadership void poses great controversy. It seems the ultimate question is: Who represents the lesser of two evils – Islamists or Dictators?

Intelligence Squared, a UK-based organization that features intellectual debates initiated by facts and extensive research recently took the stage to discuss the issue. Click here to see the entire debate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GipAgn3CDk

My assessment is that neither Islamists nor dictators are the appropriate or desirable solution as to who should lead the Middle East. I ultimately hope to see a functional representative government in post-revolutionary countries, such as Egypt. A liberal democracy would be the ideal. The primary issue, however, is how to maneuver through obstacles to realistically make this happen. Islamist parties are currently reestablishing their ground in influential positions, often doing so with cruel intentions. Egypt, a country formerly known as an ally to the United States, has transformed significantly. Those now controlling the government are proud supports of terrorist groups, and wish to “practice torture, reduce woman to the level of subhuman, and would very much be delighted to see a global, hegemonic, Islamic state,” according to Emen William Garcia (www.policymic.com).

Dictators have been favorable to some because of their generally cooperative and positive outlook toward the United States. The con rests in the stereotypical way in which dictators rule by sole and absolute power through oppression and violence. The election of Islamists, on the other hand, is advantageous because it would be one step closer to achieving a democracy, and legitimacy through election. Although classified as a democracy, this would not function as a liberal representative government. The freedoms we often take for granted in the United States, such as the freedom of speech and freedom of religion would most likely be restricted.

Egypt in particular has been faced with a struggle between what is popular and what is just. In the past few days, there has been a battle between President Mohammed Morsi and Abdel- Meguid Mahmoud, the independent public prosecutor. The President attempted to remove Mahmoud from his office of power after citizens were outraged by a recent controversial ruling made by Mahmoud. President Morsi did not succeed – Mahmoud remains in his judiciary position no matter what his record. Mahmoud’s office conveys legitimacy; it is long-standing in the old regime and now secure in the present institutions of law and order. The values of a democracy will need to be used to take a deeper look at how populism and justice be separated in this institution.

The outcome of who fills the leadership void in Egypt, Islamists or dictators, will have significant consequences across the globe. There is the risk of creating a more vulnerable environment for the United States due to increased radicalization with the popularity of Islamist extremist parties. On the other hand, we may be witnesses to the spreading of liberalization.

The main concern I have is which side is most inclined to reconstructing and evolving the ideologies of current Middle Eastern political systems. How can liberalism be implemented into the beginning stages of this Arab democracy to defeat threatening groups such as Al-Qaida? The dictators, although exceedingly greedy, would be preferable for the United States because of the relationship that has been formed. The elected Islamists could be most dangerous to the U.S. because of their history of aggression and Anti-American values; but maybe the notion of voting and a democracy is the best thing that could happen and could potentially be the source of liberty in this country. This is indeed one of the most complex dilemmas of our time.

An interactive timeline of the Arab Spring can be seen here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2011/mar/22/middle-east-protest-interactive-timeline

Sources:

http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/15/having-faith-in-political-islam/

http://www.npr.org/2012/10/07/162457484/better-to-elect-islamists-than-have-dictators

http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/arab-spring-countries-torn-between-justice-and-populism

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Posted in: Islam