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Good OpEd --

Reader comment on item: A Democratic Islam?

Submitted by GWK (United States), Apr 17, 2008 at 17:34

Dr. Pipes --

The article is clearly an OpEd rather than a academic analysis, but for the intel and anthropologically-oriented in your audience it is still helpful ... .

There are many points I have to say bravo toward, because they stand out as great analytical conclusions. For my own sake if not for anyone else's let me repeat the points I appreciated the most:

1. "Islam's problem is less its being anti-modern than that its process of modernization has hardly begun. Muslims can modernize their religion, but that requires major changes: Out go waging jihad to impose Muslim rule, second-class citizenship for non-Muslims, and death sentences for blasphemy or apostasy. In come individual freedoms, civil rights, political participation, popular sovereignty, equality before the law, and representative elections."

-- Fair statement of our goals for interactions with the Muslim World. If this alone could be a proposition that every non-Muslim nation would sign and demand of Muslim nations, it would be great! But most of the non-aligned nations and a lot of Europe would be afraid to propose such a goal. (-- "To their detriment", I would ask.)

2. "Two obstacles stand in the way of these changes, however. In the Middle East especially, tribal affiliations remain of paramount importance. As explained by Philip Carl Salzman in his recent book, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East, these ties create a complex pattern of tribal autonomy and tyrannical centralism that obstructs the development of constitutionalism, the rule of law, citizenship, gender equality, and the other prerequisites of a democratic state. Not until this archaic social system based on the family is dispatched can democracy make real headway in the Middle East."

-- My comments (and you would know better than I, so your feedback is desired), would be that in the tribal cities of Muhamad's and Abu Bakr's time, the sentiment was apparently more democratic than it is today. Government was, of course more local, but the stories of Mohammad and his companions in the 1st century A.H. reflect a transitional society that had adopted many of the cultural ways of the Romans, Christians, Jews, and Kush, and the trading patterns across the Arabian peninsula and Holy Land reflected a nascent mercantilism that could have been the beginning of a democratic society.

And, if not mistaken, theses very characteristics made Islam in the 1st 2 centuries A.H considerably MORE participatory and democratic and scholarly that its contemporary Christian European counterparte were. (Dr. Pipes -- big claim, I know, but your feed back on that point would be appreciated. When I took a leav of absence to teach High School history, this was a key point in my curriculum. If I was mistaken, please let me know. If I am right, then it feeds abck to the anthropological analysis -- the culture was at one time progressive. So then, what happened?)

3. "Globally, the compelling and powerful Islamist movement obstructs democracy. It seeks the opposite of reform and modernization – namely, the reassertion of the Shari‘a in its entirety. A jihadist like Osama bin Laden may spell out this goal more explicitly than an establishment politician like Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but both seek to create a thoroughly anti-democratic, if not totalitarian, order."

-- Ahh! Here is a risky bit of editorializing. Turkey is a key ally in GWOT. Equating Erdogan with UBL is very inflamatory! As with any OpEd that takes an ad hominen tone, the seletivity of disclosure is the weak point of the argument. But it is the opinion maker's strongest tool, because the passive reader now has to refute inflamatory data without the benefit of all the background information. It may be that Erdogan is a terrorist in waiting. But because you make a drive-by insinuation that that's the case, in a casual breezy, almost off-handed way, it is something we can digest as a side point that's not worth questioning. But it is a really important datapoint. Is Erdogan a terrorist in waiting or not? (Your response is welcome, but I could wait for a really thorough analysis -- although I would prefer to be convinced that he's as clean as the driven snow.

Thanks for this thought-provoking OpEd.

Submitting....

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

Daniel Pipes replies:

"Equating Erdogan with UBL is very inflamatory!"

Understood. But how else to make the point that they share ultimate goals?

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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