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Guiding Iraq toward Democracy

Reader comment on item: A Strongman for Iraq?

Submitted by John F. Bradley (United States), Apr 28, 2003 at 15:35

I fully agree that Iraq needs a transitional period, so that democratic institutions can develop organically. At the same point, we are not entitled to expect Iraq to be democratic in quite the same way the United States is. As an example, in the US, we have such extreme respect for the rights of the tiny minority of atheists and agnostics that our Constitution is interpreted to prohibit ANY official support of religion. Iraq is an Islamic country, and we should not be upset if it chooses to treat Islam as its "established religion", so long as other religions are tolerated, rather than persecuted. Ironically, this was one of the few areas where Saddam Hussein was on the side of, rather than the enemy, of human rights.

I find your citing of Ataturk as a model for democracy quite troubling. Ataturk took power in the 1920s, yet even today, Turkey is still not a democracy in the full sense. The government is not neutral, but rather hostile to religion, particularly to Islam, and even when the voters elect a pro-Islamic parliament, the Turkish military regards itself as the guardian, not of democracy, but of "secularism". Why shouldn't a population which is overwhelmingly religious have the right to expect the government it elects to be pro-religious? And why should military strongmen "protect" the people from their own mistakes? It is by making mistakes that societies learn.
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