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Two dangerous ideas

Reader comment on item: Combating the Ideology of Radical Islam

Submitted by David Isecke (United States), Apr 12, 2003 at 21:47

While in agreement with Dr. Pipes, I have strong reservations about the ideas I see presented by Graham Fuller. These ideas seem to stem from the view of 'democracy' as the ascendant ideal. It naturally follows from this that the muslims have the right to choose an Islamist government. The two ideas I see as very dangerous are:

1) We should "support moderate Islamists even if they do not explicitly renounce violence as a political tool."

2) "Democracy is the best option for the Muslim world, an end to rule by unpopular leaders would be in the best interests of the United States."

The answer to the first is, there are no moderate Islamists. Even if they are not engaged in actual violence against us at the moment, they are supporters of this violence. Also, if violence is considered a political tool, then rule of law and democracy are no more than propaganda veneer. Iran is a "democracy" by this standard, and its clear that it is a dangerous enemy to civilization under the current mullocracy.

My answer to the second would be that under democracy, muslims certainly would have the right to elect a radicalized government to office. However, this merely underscores the danger of trying to immediately implement a democratic government on a population that has no experience with living in a true civil society. They are as likely as not to elect one despot to replace another. The popularity of this despot is no comfort to the West, either. Remember the popularity of Osama bin Laden. If he were running in an election in, say, Syria, he'd probably win. This would be a dark day for civilization.

Democracy has been tragically overstated in importance compared to local governance, civil society, and rule of law. Consider what we would think of a democratically elected government who subjugates women, reinstitutes the slave trade, and revokes citizanship for all non-muslims. This would abridge freedom for real people far more than the concept of 'democracy' would ensure it. In fact, the government, even if elected, should NOT have the ability to do this. In the United States, we have a Bill of Rights to prevent the government from subjugating the individual. We have also a seperation of powers to keep any one branch in line. Without these things, our republic would not have been nearly so resilient.

In other words, it is not the right of a majority to enslave or subjugate a minority. The best protection against this is not democracy; it is a strong rule of law that binds the government, as well as the people. Once people are used to living under a rule of law, in a working civil society, we can probably trust that democracy will have the effect of keeping this civil society from turning totalitarian, but that is the point: Democracy is only useful as a guaruntor of civil society and rule of law. It is worthless by itself.

For one more example, consider the democracy of Iran against the constitutional monarchy that was Britian after the signature of the Magna Carta. The British had a much better civil society, because the concept was there that even the monarch had to bend to the law. And the law was, at least in part, specified by the Parlaiment, which was also not elected at the time.

History has shown us many times what is really important to creating a decent civilized society. I hope we heed this lesson, instead of simply worshipping at the altar of democracy.
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