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Islam as Democracy against the Dictatorships of the Western Powers

The West has financed dictatorships in the Middle East and Arab World for more than a century.

The pro-democracy protests against Western-backed dictatorships in the Arab world have shown, once again, the immense hypocrisy of our rulers.  Which side are the Western governments on — the side of protesters or the side of dictators?  The answer is simple: on the side of those who generate millions in profits for big Western multinational corporations.

But this is no surprise.  It is well known that the West has financed more than a century of dictatorships in the Middle East and the Arab world, since it is through the autocracies that the West manages to control the wealth of this part of the planet — even though it means the exploitation and impoverishment of the people who face the dismantling of social policies, under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund, in order to repay foreign debt due to the millions spent on Western arms purchases. . . .  With regard to the aspirations of civil society, increasingly widespread poverty, torture and repression, lack of freedoms and rights . . . no Western ruler gives a damn.  All of them have demonstrated that, continuously, with no known exception, for over a century.  Recent statements by Henry Kissinger are significant in this regard: “We have had five presidents believing that Mubarak was their best way to achieve American objectives in the region.”

For evidence, we only need rescue from newspaper archives the Western leaders’ praises after praises for the Arab tyrants: for their economic policies, for maintaining stability, for contributing to international security, for ensuring secularism and halting the advance of Islamist movements. . . .  In short: for being submissive to the dictates of Western financial markets and the International Monetary Fund.

In this general framework, only one variant matters: the collusion or lack thereof with the State of Israel.  That makes clear the decisive role of Israel in the maintenance of dictatorships in the Arab world, which is corroborated by the statements of Netanyahu in support of Ben Ali and Mubarak, as well as by decades of collusion with the House of Saud and other monarchies fabricated by colonialism.  No surprise then to learn that Israeli diplomacy has done everything possible to save Mubarak.  Of course, Israel’s concern is rationalized not only by the specter of the rise of political Islam but also by the fact that the democratic governments that may arise will not maintain their countries’ complicity in the genocide of the Palestinian people.  The opening of Gaza’s border with the Sinai is a key to the survival of the Palestinian people.  That is a compelling reason for us to welcome democracy in Egypt and the Middle East!

What about “Islamism”?  That is a scarecrow raised to justify support for “secular”dictatorships.  For that purpose, it is deliberately concealed that parliamentary democracy is now accepted by a majority of so-called Islamist parties throughout the Arab world.

A paradigmatic case is that of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.  By 1944 its founder, Hasan al-Banna, supported the participation in parliamentary elections with the argument that the Egyptian Constitution was “Islamic,” as it recognized that authority rests with the people and it ensured decision-making in concert (Shura) and respect for individual freedoms.  In some of his writings he wrote in favor of parliamentary democracy: “The basis of political organization founded in parliamentary representation does not contradict the fundamentals that Islam has established for the organization of power.”  From the beginning, the Muslim Brotherhood have never stopped saying that their intention was not to take power, but to educate society and influence the system so that the Islamic ideals of justice would be implemented.  However, they are harassed as a bogeyman by mass media manipulation and Western governments.  (I am no fan of the Muslim Brotherhood, but I am against their demonization.  To know their positions, visit their Web site in English.)

Now there is talk of the return to Tunisia of Rachid al-Ghannouchi, founder and historic leader of the Tunisian En-Nahda Party, after 22 years of exile.  According to Ghannouchi, Islam provides a more fertile framework than the Western one for democracy to bear fruition.  There exists a book in which Azam Tamimi examines his thought in detail, Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism, published by Oxford University Press.  Among his ideals: “an Islamic system based on the will of the majority, free elections, free press, protection of minorities, equality of secular and religious parties, and the full realization of the rights of women in all areas, from participation in elections, freedom of dress, the right to divorce, to the right to be head of state.  The role of Islam is to provide an ethical system.”

An ethical system that necessarily entails the abolition of usury, ensures basic services for all the population, and establishes mechanisms to prevent the accumulation of capital in a few hands — that is as valid for Spain as it is for Egypt.

In short: it is a fact that Islamist movements are nowadays champions of democracy against the corrupt tyrannies funded by the West.  It is curious to see how the terms are inverted to the point that the dissidents who are demanding democracy are passed off as absolutists … and the dictators who suppress civil liberties as saviors of democracy.   The world turned upside down?  The world as seen through the media of mass manipulation.  That is, from the perspective of the interests of big financial corporations of the West.


Abdennur Prado, President of the Junta Islámica Catalana, is an organizer of the bi-annual International Congress of Islamic Feminism.  He is the author of many books and articles on contemporary issues of Islam, which can be found on his blog.  The original article “En el mundo árabe, islam significa democracia y occidente dictadura” was published in WebIslam on 2 February 2011.  Translation by Roberto D. Hernández (Groupe Décolonial de Traduction).


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