A very important and illuminating piece from Barry Rubin of GLORIA, via FrontPage (thanks to EPG):
The following may soon be true: the good news is that Islamists are not committing terrorism; the bad news is that they are running the governments.
Welcome to the latest Western debate: should Islamists be helped to run in elections in order to moderate them. Both in Washington and Europe this idea is seizing people’s minds. The European Union advocates dealing with Hizballah and may decide the best way to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace is to strengthen Hamas. In Washington, the main example is to help the Muslim Brotherhood run in fair Egyptian elections.
The easy answer is that radical Islamists will not be moderated by participating in elections or gaining power. The Bolshevik (Communist) party in Russia and the Nazi party in Germany ran candidates for parliament. But there is only one point in responding to the latest bad idea–there certainly seem to be a lot of them, don’t there?–in the Middle East debate. For example:
“¢ Remember the Oslo peace process was based largely on the idea that once Yasir Arafat and colleagues governed Palestinians and dealt with daily problems they would be more moderate, responsible, and abandon terrorism.
“¢ In Algeria an imminent Islamist electoral victory sparked a military coup and bloody warfare. Even if Islamists play fair encouraging them means more civil wars and instability.
“¢ Many American experts predicted in 1978 that once Islamists gained power in Iran they would be easy to live with.
Then comes this about Turkey:
This does not mean pious Muslims cannot be real democrats. A Middle Eastern equivalent of European Christian Democratic parties might eventually emerge. Turkey, however, is quite different from Arab countries, having a more moderate brand of Islam and entrenched democracy. Its governing Islamic party knows it must act moderately enough to avoid antagonizing the secular-oriented majority and army.
In addition, in Turkey three vital preconditions creating Islamist democrats don’t exist in the Arab world:
“¢ There must be a clear split between radical Islamists and moderates.
“¢ A charismatic leader must have the courage to reshape Islamism.
“¢ An explicit and real change in ideology is required.
This somewhat obscures the fact that Kemal Ataturk didn’t establish modern secular Turkey by having “the courage to reshape Islamism.” He did it by going to war with Islam itself, and prevailing, although adherents of political Islam have been chipping away at his victory ever since. The difference between Islamism and Islam is yet another conceptual distinction that means a great deal to Western non-Muslim analysts, but little or nothing to Muslims themselves.
Still, there is much that is good in this article. Read it all.