For years I have been pointing out how bad the rule of Islamic law, Sharia, is for women, non-Muslims, Muslims who want to leave Islam, girls who want to live free lives, and ultimately for every free soul. And I was one of the only observers to be on to the “Arab Spring” from the beginning, showing that it wasn’t an outpouring of pluralism and democracy but an Islamic supremacist putsch, in Egypt and elsewhere. And now Richard Miniter shows in Forbes why all the Islamic countries of the world are economic basket cases except for those that have been blessed with oil, an accident of geology: Islamic rule is bad for economies, as well.
At one point in this article Miniter says: “If a party doesn’t elect its leaders in fair, multi-candidate elections, then it is not going to be a democratic and peaceful force if it comes to power. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Tunisia’s Islamists meet this test. Hamas and the Polisario Front do not.” But there is no way that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood or Tunisia’s “Islamists” are going to be “democratic and peaceful” forces once fully in power. Other than that, however, this article is eye-opening and essential reading.
CASABLANCA””For almost a year, diplomats, experts and journalists have been telling investors not to worry about the new Islamist governments emerging in the wake of the Arab Spring. They are wrong.
The optimist argument was simple: “democratic realities will force Islamists to maintain economic growth in order to win the next elections.” Arab spring will not immediately shift to winter; responsibility makes politicians responsible and so on.
Certainly, the Islamists talked a good game. Morocco’s Islamists, in their party platform and in their speeches, stressed that a freer economy would attract foreign investors and boost jobs. They said that reducing youth unemployment was their No. 1 issue. They said that they wanted to return annual GDP growth to 7% per year””making Morocco into an “Asian tiger.” They said they wanted free-trade agreements with their neighbors. (The kingdom already has free-trade deals with the United States and the European Union). They said they favored deregulation and privatization and even proposed a modest tax cut. So things looked good.
And the fear of fickle voters was supposed to discipline the Islamists. When the Islamist parties won this past November, they even carried Morocco’s commercial center of Casablanca. They persuaded small-business owners and professionals to shift their allegiance from the liberal and socialist parties, which had commanded their votes in 2007, to the Islamists, in November 2011. These swing voters expected economic reforms and modest social changes””not the reverse. If the Islamists don’t deliver on the economy, they will be out.
To be sure, Morocco was never going to adopt F.A. Hayek’s constitution of liberty. The Islamist leaders said their economic models came from Turkey and the center-right parties of France, not Singapore or Chile. But, importantly, they weren’t looking at Iran or China either. Turkey was, until recently, a high-growth country that combined entrepreneurialism with a growing deference to Islam. (In the past 18 months, however, Turkey embodies the dangers of Islamism in politics; the ruling AKP has launched a jihad against the republics” secular generals and its dissidents, grown diplomatically closer to Iran, economic growth has stalled, and investors are looking for the exits.)
Now, after a few months in power, the ruling Islamist party in Morocco is revealing a new agenda””one that is already frightening the native business community as well as foreign investors.
One Islamist government minister””in a series of private discussions””has suggested that government agencies, and even firms partly owned by the state, should no longer advertise in newspapers and magazines that also advertise alcohol, a legal product in Morocco. That means that the state airline, Royal Air Maroc, can no longer place ads in most major dailies. The problem for publishers: Both airlines and alcohol are major advertisers, losing either one would be painful. Indeed, some publications could close no matter which side they chose. So far, this is not a regulation, but a whispering campaign. But local publishers are getting the message.
Another Islamist, the Minister of Communications, was publicly considering an order forcing television stations to pre-empt popular programs to run sermons instead, on prime-time weeknights. This is deadly for ratings and therefore for ad revenue. It also signals that Morocco is changing from its welcoming ways””philosophically moving from Paris to Riyadh. Where would a foreign investor rather spend a weekend?
Even before the rule could be finalized, it was seen as an omen, a harbinger of the Islamists” economically destructive ideas. The conversation in the business community here moves quickly from observation to extrapolation. Whenever politicians become more interested in symbols than realities, they are seduced by a poisonous poetry that forces their people into the clammy embrace of poverty. There doesn’t have to be a conflict between mosque and market; but the Islamists learned their economics from Arab and Eastern European socialists. Many of them still like the idea of a command economy and like the idea of issuing commands. That works no better in Iran than it did in Belarus. Why try it in Morocco, which has a diversified modern and relatively free economy? That’s why investors and local entrepreneurs are nervous.
A few days ago, the king asked to see the head of the government and the communications minister. He reminded them that the new government had to respect the constitution, which gives broadcasters free speech, and he reminded the government leaders to respect the diversity of peoples in Morocco. Not everyone is Muslim, he said, and wouldn’t necessarily be served by a sermon.
Read it all.