Home > Islam, World events > So, bring back the tyrants?

So, bring back the tyrants?

Not good, the news from what is now the Arab Autumn. It is actually frightening, though not totally unexpected, to see how quickly the Islamists are hijacking revolutionary movements. The way things look now, the predictable shift to harsher Islamist governments looms over the heads of populations recently liberated from despotism. Not to say that despotism was good, far, far from it. Good riddance to Ben Ali, Mubarak, Qaddafi, to Saddam before them. To varying degrees and on different scales, they were thugs and they were scary. For years, for decades, they crushed their people, they stole from them, hurt, humiliated, tortured, and killed them. No one will take their defense, dead or alive, their people will not mourn them, the passage of time will not make history kinder to them.

But consider recent developments. In Libya where until Sunday people lined up to view Qaddafi’s rotting corpse in a meat market freezer in Misrata, National Transitional Council Chairman Abdel Jalil publicly announced that Libya will from now on be governed according to sharia. First order of the day (in a country, I would remind you, devastated by eight months of civil war): repealing the monogamy law. The reason given is that many women have lost their husbands during the armed struggle and need a man to take care of them. Forgive me if I see it otherwise: the top priority is to allow men to have more women.

Tunisian elections on Sunday confirmed the ascendance of the leading Islamist party, Ennahda. The party claims to be moderate but so does the Islamic Turkish party AKP which, after promising to uphold the secular society founded by Kamal Ataturk, constantly sneaks in measures destined to enforce a more virtuous Islamic society. Tunisian election images show most women already wearing a headscarf where yesterday they dressed as people do in a warm climate in a tourist destination just across from France. This is a slippery slope in a country that has had a strong secular tradition since the days of Habib Bourguiba. (In the 1960s, strongman Bourguiba drank orange juice on national TV during the month of Ramadan to make a point about religion having no place in government. Imagine trying to pull that off in any Islamic country today!)

Under Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian Copts, from the ancient Christian minority, were perhaps not allowed to build churches but neither were they massacred. Two weeks ago in Cairo, the army killed at least 26–including young activist Mina Daniel–and wounded scores more.

As always, there has been a lot of chin-wagging on talk shows here and in Europe about how one shouldn’t confuse Muslims and Islamists, the first being people who want to practice their faith, the seconds being activists who want to enforce Islam as worldwide dogma, law, and method of government. No matter what pundits say, there can be no democracy in any country where religious law (whether Muslim or Islamist, in this case,) rules, takes away options and imposes diktats. Democracy and religious rules are absolutely incompatible. A government has the right to punish citizens for breaking the law; it cannot punish them for sinning. Islam—in essence not better or worse than any other religion—needs to stay in mosques and is not welcome in the public arena.

Or else people will find themselves longing for the days of the recently fallen tyrants who, despite their crimes, allowed a modicum of individual liberties.

  1. October 26, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    mild islamism it is being called. fingers crossed as to what the future holds for the region!


  2. October 26, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    so appreciate your thoughts here. thank you.


  3. jonathan smith
    October 27, 2011 at 3:57 am

    Though riddled with nuances and unknowns, I basically agree with the arguments put forth in this article. Goodness knows that christianity has lived through the ages of church interventions in politics and, in certain countries, such as Peru, the prelate is very much involved in giving “advice” to government. With a certain wisdom, the “western world”, re. USA, saw the need to have a separation of Church and State. That has worked fairly well…not to say that the Archbishops of , say, Chicago and Boston, do not have enormous influence over their faithful who are, at the end of the day , citizens with voting powers. But at least these powers held by those individuals do not have a conquer-the-world agenda. Would that moderate Islamic states, such as Morocco, could prevail….as the Chinese curse goes…we are living in “interesting” times…


  4. Guest9
    October 28, 2011 at 12:35 am

    You said it: Democracy and religious rules are absolutely incompatible.


  5. Maryam yekta Steininger
    October 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    To have hope for the Arab world or even, Iran is a mistake , unfortunately. I don’t see any progress, call me a pessimist .


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