In order for democracy to really take hold in the wake of the recent Arab Revolutions, the people of the region should be careful not to conform to Western ideas of democracy and instead develop their own model, one relevant to their own cultural norms and in tune with their own rich history of democracy.

The sometimes-bumpy road to democracy. Photo: AP

The Arab Revolutions themselves give us insight into what this model might look like. Indeed, recent events are to be admired for the extent to which divergent voices have been heard, legitimate grievances have been aired, and women and minorities have been involved.

They are also to be admired because a balance has often been struck between the pragmatic and the ideal, between the secular and the religious, between the desire not just to oust failing tyrants but to replace them with something new, something that could respond to the varying needs of the citizens.

For the people who set themselves alight in Tunisia, for the protestors who took control of Tahrir Square in Egypt, for the rebels fighting in Libya and for those demonstrating across the region – it was democracy they wanted and democracy which they assumed would solve their problems and answer their questions.

However, at least in the Western media and in popular discourse, there has always been an awkward mismatch between such calls for democracy and our contemporary understandings of what democracy is and – most importantly - where it comes from.

In fact, the history of democracy with which we are all familiar does not neatly fit with events in the Arab or Islamic world. This standard history of democracy emphasises the keystone moments in the story of Western civilisation: the achievements of the ancient Greeks and Romans, the more recent development of the British parliament, the American Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution.

This is usually followed by a reference to the events of the First and Second World Wars, and then the Cold War, which are so often viewed as triumphs for the Western liberal model of democracy. In turn, these events are said to have given way to the gradual global spread of democracy under Western tutelage.

An unfortunate product of this standard history of democracy is that the West is so often thought to have a unique ability to understand and practise democracy. On the other hand, non-Westerners – and especially Muslims and Arabs – are thought to have no democratic history to draw upon and are therefore simply incapable of coming to terms with or implementing inclusive and egalitarian governance.

The recent Arab Revolutions have exposed the lie underpinning these ideas.

Among the many challenges facing Arabs and Muslims today – and indeed facing all peoples whose history is not included in the accepted story of democracy – is to work out ways to move beyond this Eurocentric picture and make democracy more relevant for all people beyond the heady days of a revolution or the excitement of casting a vote for the first time.

To do so, Arabs and Muslims should look not to the story of Western civilisation, but to their own history and celebrate those moments when Middle Eastern and Muslim peoples have practised forms of governance that are remarkably democratic in nature.

For example, there is considerable evidence that the ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia and the Levant were in fact host to some of the world’s earliest democracies. Well before the significant achievements of the Greeks, the people of the ancient Middle East were convening assemblies in order to debate and decide on the important issues of the time. Democracy has origins in the Middle East that not only pre-date Athens, but probably directly influenced the Greeks and therefore the birth of Western civilisation.

Moving forward, as Europe wallowed in the brutality and inequity of the so-called ‘Dark Ages’, it was the faith and various empires of Islam that kept democracy alive. Despite the common misconception that Islam is antithetical to democracy, it can instead be seen to espouse virtues such as equality, freedom of expression, political participation and governance by the people. As many have rightfully asserted, Islam – as a religion, historically and as a civilisation – has inherent foundational principles that are compatible with democracy.

This inherent connection between Islam and democracy became the central focus of many Arab scholars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Of particular interest here is the work of Islamic feminists who argued that adherence to the Quran would serve to significantly enhance – and definitely not worsen – the role of women in society.

What is particularly interesting here is that with contemporary debates raging in the West about women’s rights in Islam and the role of a hijab in a secular state, the voices of these women – and their Islamic feminist forbearers – are rarely heard or acknowledged.

It is also often forgotten that many Arab states experimented with democracy during the colonial period. For example, the first half of the twentieth century saw states such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and others hold mass popular elections, which brought to power functioning parliaments that enacted media freedoms, the rule of law and a burgeoning civil society and opposition movements. While it is true that these were all done under foreign occupation, they nonetheless serve as another chapter in the democratic history of the Middle East and have left behind a legacy of democracy that can be drawn upon today.

Finally, the recent effort to bring democracy to Iraq serves as another interesting example. Despite the attempts by the US to undermine and control Iraq’s democracy, the extremes of violence and sectarianism and the abhorrent conditions, the Iraqi people have proven themselves remarkably adept at understanding and practising democracy.

Of particular interest here – and of particular relevance to the recent Arab Revolutions - are the enormous protests in which Iraqis of various religious, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds have taken to the streets in order to hold the occupational forces and the Iraqi government to account, and to call for a more democratic future.

Together, these alternative stories of democracy serve as a powerful historical memory that can be drawn upon by contemporary Arab protestors. Democracy is not ‘ours’ to give to the Middle East. It is a dynamic system of governance underpinned by virtues of justice, equality and liberty.

And these are virtues that the people of the Middle East have at least as much historical claim to as anyone in the West.

Ben is co-convenor of a major public forum on The Arab Revolutions in Context on Friday 3rd June at the University of Melbourne. Register now.

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    • acotrel says:

      06:13am | 30/05/11

      Are you talking about the way elections are held, or ‘participation’ by the individual in their own governance ? In every situation there is a conundrum which relates to the balance between democracy and control.  Old habits die hard, and perhaps some people are happy being told what to do and being exploited?  However many people are being killed in the current revolts against Arab dictators, surely there must be a change? This is the wrong time to be conservative in the middle east.

    • Erick says:

      06:25am | 30/05/11

      There is no significant tradition of democracy in the Middle East, nor is there any democracy in Islam. It is simple theocracy.

      Rather than acknowledge the Western roots of democracy, apologists for Islam create elaborate mythologies to take the credit for what is an entirely Western creation. Even now, the revolutions in the Middle East seem more likely to give rise to theocracies than democracies.

      The sole exception to the dim history of the Middle East is the enlightened rein of Kemal Attaturk, but even that is being rolled back by the current Islamist government.

      The only way the Middle East will ever approach democracy is by dumping its oppressive religions and stepping into the modern world.

    • MarvinM says:

      09:51am | 30/05/11

      Spot on!

      One only has to look at how Turkey is struggling to hold on to its democracy in the face of growing hard core islamist parties who will probably dismantle the system that Attaturk created once they get the balance of power.

      Turkey owes a lot of its prosperity to Attaturk, sadly there is no such character these days around to help other middle eastern countries looking to become a democracy.

    • Jon says:

      10:56am | 30/05/11

      The key to the success of Western Democracies is that are SECULAR. Now unless the Mohammedans in the Middle East manage to break their addiction to religion they will all end up theocracies like Iran.

    • fml says:

      11:35am | 30/05/11

      Erick,

      Read up on Mohammad Mosaddegh. First democratically elected leader Iran ever had and the government was overthrown by the British and the US, because the Iranians wanted to nationalise their petroleum industry.

      Benjamin,

      “So called Dark Ages”, its not so called, it is called, dark ages, with good reason.

    • fml says:

      11:37am | 30/05/11

      Jon,

      If it wasnt for the US, British and French, Iran would be a democracy today.

    • Jon says:

      01:07pm | 30/05/11

      fml@ I would agree with your history of Mohammad Mosaddegh. But it does not justify the formation of theocratic states whether they be Mohammedan of Christian desirable.

    • fml says:

      01:17pm | 30/05/11

      Jon,

      Agreed, I also dont think we should blame the iranian people for the creation of the theocratic state that is Iran.

    • MarvinM says:

      02:52pm | 30/05/11

      While i agree we cant blame the Iranians for the theocracy system they find themselves in at the moment I think its rather intresting to note that Democracy has worked in both Iran and Turkey for whom have a society and culture that is are not Arabic.

      Turkey went to pains to enforce that all their important religious and day to day literature be in Turkish to stamp their dominance of Turkish Culture on its people and then you have the Iranians whom of course are Persians and practice a form of Islam that the majority Arab Sunni muslims find abhorrent,

      So i ask this. Has there been in history any real democracies in Arabic dominated countries?

    • fml says:

      04:13pm | 30/05/11

      MarvinM,

      I guess Lebanon is the closest you will get.

    • AJ of Here says:

      04:20pm | 30/05/11

      None, MarvinM. You’d have to go back all the way to Sumerian times to have something close, but even then, as the Hamurabi Code indicates, rulership was via kings, not the vote.

      The article writer fabricated many things, or was subject to islamic propaganda and is regurgitating what the islamists wanted him to think.

    • Dark Horse says:

      07:11am | 30/05/11

      The concepts of democracy and Islam are mutually exclusive. Thinking that ME Arab muslim states had a “rich history of democracy” is fuzzy thinking. Even the UAE, perhaps the best run country in the ME is a benevolent dictatorship.

      When the hordes of muslims shout for democracy, I’m sure they probably mean they want to be free of the shackles of Islam because they have no idea what democracy is. However, there is no freedom from Islam as the rest of the world is finding out in varying ways.

      What happens in the ME will have a great impact on the rest of us whatever the outcome. There is a long way to go yet.

    • acotrel says:

      07:49am | 30/05/11

      People in the ME will continue to get more exposure to western democracy and culture through the internet.  That must eventually change things?

    • Dark Horse says:

      10:38pm | 30/05/11

      acotrel ... the only thing that exposure to Western democracy and culture does is convince them that the ways of their pedophile prophet are correct. We are seen as sexual deviants that allow women to appear nude, porn, alcohol, music, art, and all the other things that are deemed anti-Islamic, However, eventually they should see that despite our shortcomings, our countries are countries that work ... there’s do not.

    • James says:

      08:26am | 30/05/11

      They need an islamic reformation to bring islam into the 21 century. They need to TRY tolerance of people with other religions and belief systems. Until this is undertaken they will be known as a “gutter” religion and not worthy of recognition from the civilized world.

    • Sony B Goode says:

      09:13am | 30/05/11

      Islam makes illegal any reformation or any change to any idea contained in the koran which is the perfect word of god. The world will end if islam is modified. Death is the penalty for anyone leaving the fold. War is essential until the entire world is converted. It’s a cult not a religion.

    • dinkidi says:

      02:21pm | 31/05/11

      Geez, even if they could develop a sense of humour, it would be something. A more miserable lot you would never meet.

    • Spaghetti Godess says:

      08:39am | 30/05/11

      As Islam is a Theocracy, no one is allowed to think for themselves, -  therefore there can be no democracy.  Reading of the Koran confirms this.

    • James In Footscray says:

      09:38am | 30/05/11

      ‘Western democracy’ doesn’t suit everyone - uh-oh! I don’t think Japanese or Turks view their democratic systems as particularly ‘Western’; it’s either democracy or it isn’t. Only dictatorships distinguish ‘their’ form of democracy as necessary for local conditions, whether it’s China or Turkmenistan or Zimbabwe.

    • MarvinM says:

      10:03am | 30/05/11

      Turkey is only succesfull due to the forsight of the creator of its political system.

      Attaturk saw how democracies worked in western europe and knew that for Turkey to prosper it would need keep radical islam at bay. He actively set about keeping islam out of the political landscape. The Caliphate and Sultinate were abolished and Sheriat (Sharia) law was Abolished. New laws enacted that were secular in nature and very western in thinking, for example Women were given the right to vote in 1934!

      Also may i add that until recently was one of the only countries in the Middle east that had a ban on Burkhas in public places.

      These days though the Radical Islamists are rising in power so time will tell how much longer Attaturks secular system can last.

    • James In Footscray says:

      09:38am | 30/05/11

      ‘Western democracy’ doesn’t suit everyone - uh-oh! I don’t think Japanese or Turks view their democratic systems as particularly ‘Western’; it’s either democracy or it isn’t. Only dictatorships distinguish ‘their’ form of democracy as necessary for local conditions, whether it’s China or Turkmenistan or Zimbabwe.

    • Markus says:

      10:10am | 30/05/11

      I notice an incredible overuse of the words “probably”, “arguably” and “it can be seen” in this article.
      All of which, as any essay writer or public servant will tell you, are weasel words for “I have absolutely no evidence to support my farcical statements”

      ‘As many have rightfully asserted, Islam – as a religion, historically and as a civilisation – has inherent foundational principles that are compatible with democracy’.
      Who? Name one person, and their evidence to back up a statement that bears absolutely no relation to history.

      Islam in its current form cannot co-exist with a secular, democratic society. Never can, never will.

      There has also been zero evidence that any of the riots in the ME thus far have the goal of a democratic society in mind.
      All it shows is they wish to remove a corrupt governance and replace it with a more respectable. And who would the people of a country inhabited entirely by members of a fundamentalist religion find more respectable than a religious leader?

    • Zaf says:

      12:17pm | 30/05/11

      Markus - I would agree that any religion is incompatible, as a political system, with secular democracy - and Islam is no different (and in fact is probably more problematic than many at this point in time). 

      Wrt democratic traditions, however, its worth noting that the first ‘schism’ is Islam - between Sunnis and Shias - took place when the majority of Muslims (and I suspect that means Muslim men) VOTED against Mohammed’s descendents leading them, and instead picked one of his companions, Uthman. 

      Certainly subsequent Muslim cultures have tended to monarchy/dictatorship (with theocracy a relatively recent and relatively rare outcome in real life) - but so have most cultures over history.  Islam is not intrinsically more or less compatible with democracy than any other religion.  jmho.

    • bikinis on top says:

      10:15am | 30/05/11

      Can the Middle East really become the American Mid West or the USA Wild Wild West?

    • MegaLawlz says:

      10:16am | 30/05/11

      From what I gather, democracy only came to the modern West because the Muslims of the middle ages preserved the teachings that the West then threw out. Our current understanding of Ancient Greek philosophy, including democracy, was only preserved because the Muslims took an interest in it, translating it into arabic from the original greek, before it was translated again into the modern world.

      Given there is a history of accepting and studying these theories, maybe the notion that democracy can be implemented in today’s ME isn’t so far fetched after all.

      Also, it’s naive to think that each country or culture won’t have it’s own flavour of democracy. Just look at the difference between the UK, Australia and the USA.

    • Markus says:

      10:56am | 30/05/11

      There is a big difference between a group of elite Arab academics studying and keeping written records of the ideas of Western democracy, and these ideas having had any influence among the Arab/Islamic general populous and society.

    • TheRealDave says:

      11:12am | 30/05/11

      I see this ‘The West was retarded/barbaric until they ‘re-discovered’ their own history via the Islamic world’ crap crop up from time to time. WTF?!? Did the Eastern Roman Empire just dissapear did it? You know, that great big chunk of the Empire that survived right up to the mid 1400’s…..maybe the name change to the Byzantine Empire did it….or did they all get amnesia as well??

      The Middle Ages is a perfect example of what happens to a civilisation that lets relgion get its hooks far to much into the day to day running of government.

    • fml says:

      11:54am | 30/05/11

      TRD,

      Crap? just because you dont like it? If you dont think about it, it doesnt exist right?

      You keep saying use google, well then go on, search terms Islamic Renaissance or the Islamic golden age. Europe was in the dark ages because it stopped science and literature in the name of god. It was the Islamic empire where the European texts where kept and the science improved upon. No one is saying Europe disappeared thats simply absurd. Science and literature did stop, and it was brought back to europe with the Islamic conquest of Spain Where treatises on Medicine, Astronomy and mathematics were translated into latin and hebrew and spread through out europe.

    • TheRealDave says:

      12:30pm | 30/05/11

      So what your saying is that Islam is now in a ‘Dark Age’ because they’ve regressed back into a religious shell repressing freedoms, suppressing the sciences, relying on Western Advances for new technology, literature, entertainment etc??

      I get confused with all this Islamic propaganda. One second they are the ancient birhtplaces of Democracy and all that is good and decent, the next they invented maths, science, medecine, religion, warfare etc then they are teaching it back us, because ‘we’ apparely forgot all about them…much like my car keys, now they are re-discovering things they used to know or invented but misplaced, they’ve had several golden ages and several renaissances…..yet despite all this they are still, nearly exclusively, 3rd world backwaters that brutally repress their own people.

      Did I miss anything??

      Image if they didn’t have any oil??

    • fml says:

      01:04pm | 30/05/11

      TRD,

      Well yes they have regressed, what has that got to do with the advancements they made in the past? Einsteins scientific discoveries are now useless because he is now dead?

      “because ‘we’ apparely forgot all about them” yes, europe did forget all about them, whats wrong with that? It did happen quite a few hundred years ago.

      car keys? yes thats exactly what its like, car keys. /sarcasm.

      “yet despite all this they are still, nearly exclusively, 3rd world backwaters that brutally repress their own people.” Like i said before what has this to do with their previous discoveries?

      “.yet despite all this they are still,” They didnt use to be, now they are. I dont understand why that is difficult to understand.

      “the next they invented maths, science, medecine, religion, warfare etc” They didnt invent these, they made advancements.

      Simple fact is historically its true, just because you cant seem to grasp simple historical facts, and that in 400 years they have regressed scientifically does not mean it didnt happen.

    • Jon says:

      02:30pm | 30/05/11

      MegaLawlz @ From my very limited understanding, The Western Roman empire and Eastern Roman Empire - (Byzantine Empire) co-exist on and off in trade and religion since the spilt of the old empire. However the Western Empire became more theocratic and turned away from ancient Greek philosophy that had served them well.
      The conspicuous feature of Byzantine literary culture in general, is the study of philosophy in particular, is its relative continuity with ancient Greek literary culture. They were the keepers of Ancient Greek philosophy that the remnants of which the Western Empire was to re-discover much later.

      The Mohammedan Jihadists (crusaders) eventually destroyed the Byzantine Empire, which was tragedy for the West and the citizens of the empire. The Byzantines at that time from what I have read had no concept of holy war and were not prepare on how to fight one against the Mohammedans.  As a result of the fall of the empire Byzantine Scholars fleeing to the Western Roman Empire brought with them the knowledge and art that would play a pivotal role in bringing about the Renaissance in Western Europe.

      The vast amount information stored in the libraries of the Byzantine Empire were kept by Mohammedans as because it was useful and was needed to run the areas they had conquered and it was far superior knowledge than they had. This was not benevolent act it was useful to spread their religion.

    • fml says:

      02:59pm | 30/05/11

      Jon,

      I wouldnt laugh at someone elses knowledge because it seems you have omitted a vital piece of information.

      “Western Roman Empire brought with them the knowledge and art that would play a pivotal role in bringing about the Renaissance in Western Europe.” there was 800 years between the islamic expansion in europe and the european renaissance and the information did not just sit there until the renaissance, it was used and advanced by muslim scholars during those 800 years.

    • fml says:

      03:13pm | 30/05/11

      Sorry Jon,

      My apologies you were not laughing, i just saw lawlz and it didnt click that it was a name! *sigh* looks like someone has the case of the mondays.

    • S. Michael says:

      03:23pm | 30/05/11

      @ TheRealDave:

      ” get confused with all this Islamic propaganda. One second they are the ancient birhtplaces of Democracy and all that is good and decent, the next they invented maths, science, medecine, religion, warfare etc then they are teaching it back us, because ‘we’ apparely forgot all about them…much like my car keys, now they are re-discovering things they used to know or invented but misplaced, they’ve had several golden ages and several renaissances…..yet despite all this they are still, nearly exclusively, 3rd world backwaters that brutally repress their own people.

      Did I miss anything??”

      The Crusades.

      The basic thinking is that the Crusaders, over the course of roughly 300 years or so of periodic invasions and occupations of Jerusalem and associated countries, managed to turn what was a relatively (by medieval standards, anyway) tolerant Palestinian group of dominions into precisely the barbaic, rampaging infidels that the Crusaders’ own propaganda had said was already there.  Saladin was respected for his chivalry in Europe a hell of a lot more than Richard the Lionheart, his opponent, was.  The same, however,  cannot be said for Babyars and many of the Islamic warleaders who followed him.

      Let’s also remember there’s Islam nations and Islam nations.  The “seat of all civilisation” tag usually rests on what was once Persia and Babylon, and to a lesser extent Egypt of the period.  A fair amount of knowledge about medicine originated out of medieval Muslim nations.  But they weren’t all enlightened and at the same cultural or technological levels: Saudi Arabia and a number of the others were always little more than wandering idiots on camels, with no advanced cultures of their own.  Not for nothing is it said that the Saudis were on camels before they found oil there, and once the oil’s gone, they’ll be back on camels afterwards.

    • Markus says:

      04:10pm | 30/05/11

      800 years? It was not that long between the two was it fml?
      While it’s been quite a while now since I studied medieval history, I remember the fall of Constantinople was not until 1453. By that time the Renaissance was already in full swing in large parts of Europe.

      While I’m sure Arab/Muslim scholars expanded upon the records held by the Byzantines in those 800 years from initial Arab expansion, I am sure the Byzantines themselves expanded upon them also.

      And as I said above, there is a big difference between Muslim scholars having made important contributions to these advancements, and claiming that said advancements were regularly integrated to be part of the Arab/Muslim society of the time.

    • MegaLawlz says:

      04:13pm | 30/05/11

      @John - what you’re describing is a full circle. The West had the knowledge, threw it out, and brought it back in. May the East will do the same? It had the knowledge, dismissed it, and may it’s ready to take it in again?

      And from what I’ve read, the Western scholars weren’t just fleeing the fallen Byzantine empire. They were fleeing the West because science and free thinking were inhibited by the church and the sovereigns, as were teaching the peasants and women to read and write.

      And how is holy war any different to any other war? They are all barbaric, and are fought the same way. Either way, an idealogy is being fought for, and given that Europe was essentially Christian and the church controlled everything, anything the Byzantines fought for was also a holy war. How can the Empire not have been prepared for a physical assault? How was it built in the first place? Certainly not by the peace.

      The point being argued isn’t the benevolence of Muslim scholars - though the fact that they gave refuge to the ‘heretics’ fleeing Europe suggests some degree of it - it’s the fact that the East was once open to new ideas so there’s a chance that they will be again. I understand that we can’t compare now with the middle ages, especially with the advent of globalisation, but things generally do come around in full circle.

      Also, the topic is not just muslims, but arabs and the middle east as a whole,  which are not all Muslim.

    • fml says:

      04:38pm | 30/05/11

      Markus,

      800 was a rough approximation but its not far off.

      firstly, i was responding to TRD who said that Muslim advances of the time were, in his words, “crap”.

      secondly, the muslims did integrate the advancements into their society, look at the gardens at Alhambra, and also omar khayyam who created a calender that was accurate to five decimal places. The medicinal advancements of Avicenna were used at medical universities in europe all the way to the 1600’s.

      No one is claiming the Byzantines may not have made scientific advances, but to claim that the muslims didnt (TRD) and that they didnt use them in society (you) is just plain wrong.

    • BMJ says:

      10:34am | 30/05/11

      If people in the region want change then they must fight for it. I just don’t think enough people in the ME want that change bad enough yet. Most wouldn’t mind it but are content with things going like they are. The tipping point where real change could happen is decades away.

    • TheRealDave says:

      10:47am | 30/05/11

      So, according to the author, its only by embracing the Koran and fundamental Islamist teachings that modern Mulsims will ‘gain’ more freedom, more tolerance a more ‘democratic’ life if you will etc?

      That my friend is called a Theocracy, a government run according to the strict intepretations of religious law. Democracy has NOTHING to do with it. Which is the likely end game result for all these Arab/Muslim revolutions across North Africa and the Middle East. And we’ve seen how well Theocracies govern their own people haven’t we?

      I, like a few other posters, also think its a tad humerous that the author goes pulling ancient unprovable ‘factoids’ from his arse to purport some kind of Middle Eastern birthright to ancient Democratic ideals…..and then grabbing some colonial era ‘evidence’ of further ‘Democracy’ in the region….while a the same time refusing to acknowledge the longest running, most successful fusion of the Islamic World and actual modern democracy as set down by the great Kemal Attaturk (who incidentally was the man most repsonbile for our defeat at Gallipoli)  in Turkey. Is it, Mr Author, because Kemal was so visionary to put Islam, like other religions, where they truly belong and establish a SECULAR modern vibrant state instead of the Islamic run theocracies of which you prefer?

      Give me 10 new Turkey’s acoss North Africa and the Middle East than 10 new Irans. Would all of us, the entire world, be far far better off?? Includng the peoples of those countries??

    • John says:

      10:50am | 30/05/11

      You people need to understand Democracy is code word for being headlocked by the International Bankers. To me, what it seems, is that the west is trying destabilizing the middleast east, so that they can install puppet regimes under the guise of democracy, then lock those country’s into taking counterfeit money from the IMF and the WORLD BANK. Basically enslaving the nation into debt, like the current west is today. The International Banking Cartel now own and rule over the West, their new aspirations now lie the in middleast, as they need more slaves to work for their interests. I mean really look at the WEST? Do we really have democracy? We have Cultural-Marxist Framework that nobody wants, we have politicians working for the interests of foreign aliens, our nations are heavily in debt to these bankers, our lives are not getting anywhere, and our political input is rather minute because of the stranglehold the elite have over the media. I can’t believe people come out and state we have wonderful democracy.

    • AJ of Here says:

      11:17am | 30/05/11

      I call bulldust.

      The first civilisations, the ones praised by the author, that had their democratic gatherings were NOT muslim. If it predates the late-500 AD, then it cannot, by definition, be muslim. That is like saying that the Arabs built the Pyramids (they did not; the Copts did).

      This is another LIE by someone trying to link islam to something good, just like they claimed that muslims invented the zero (no, the Indians of the sub-continent did) or algebra (no, algebra was with us from the beginning of time, ever since the first caveman wondered if ONE goat is worth x in chickens, what was TWO goats worth?).

      This is a total BS of an article, riddled with biased “errors”.

    • MegaLawlz says:

      12:19pm | 30/05/11

      No one is saying that Arabs and Muslims are responsible for all the advances the human species has made. You just can’t ignore their contribution, is the point. And the fact that they are capable of being enlightened means there’s hope for the modern day middle east. Also, being Indian and Muslim are not mutually exclusive.

      And putting “errors” in quotation marks suggests you don’t think these so called errors are actually errors.

      Also, Arabs and the ME didn’t just suddenly appear with the advent of Islam 1400 years. There were around in the late 6th century, so what’s wrong with praising their civilisation? The article isn’t just about Muslims, it’s about Arabs and the ME in general.

    • AJ of Here says:

      04:17pm | 30/05/11

      No, I don’t believe they are actual errors, Megalawlz. I believe that they are complete fabrication, done knowingly. Thus, they are not errors. Speaking of islam and Indians, why don’t you talk to an Indian as to what they think of the islamic invasion from Afghanistan all those years ago? How about you start in Auburn, Sydney. You know, the place where Australia’s oldest Hindu temple was fired upon 8 times by local islamic thugs after over 2 years of constant harassment by the same?

      There is nothing done by muslims that were not replicated elsewhere or done by someone else and claimed by muslims. Their greatest claim might be in the field of medicine, except that doctors today take the HIPPOCRATIC Oath, not the Avecina Oath. Given that Hippocrates predates Avecina… Another obvious fabrication by islamists.

    • Zaf says:

      12:11pm | 30/05/11

      For goodness sake.  Democracy is basically the people voting and the majority deciding the outcome.  What is so essentially Western or Eastern or Muslim or Christian about this?  The strength of the idea is illustrated by its widespread appeal among people in just about every country in the world.

      And if we accept that secular democracy with universal suffrage and strong protections for minorities and individual rights is the Gold Standard of democracy (and I think that it is), then let’s not be historically illiterate and forget how long it has taken the advanced democracies (including us) to get to that point – or, in fact, that it’s a journey that has not yet been completed for many of us.

      For example, the US remains one nation under God, which limits individual liberties (abortion rights, gay marriage) – but it would be foolish to argue that it is not a healthy functioning democracy despite its limitations.  And that it has great potential to move closer to the Gold Standard (as do we).  A system of one person one vote in the Arab countries is a vital first step on the road towards that Gold Standard.  They should be encouraged, not sneered at by fraudulent arm chair experts on Islam and the Middle East.

    • Gregg says:

      12:24pm | 30/05/11

      I’m not surprised Benjamin to find some questioning of what you have attempted to present and personally I find you have jumped about all over the Middle East and regardless of where western style democracy has had its beginnings and how it has developed, we can only hope that something better develops in many countries than what has been there for the past century or so.

      You mention Syria, Lebannon, Iraq etc. and part of their development came about through English and French involvement post WW1, a development that has seen much internal conflict, dictatorships and bloodshed which could have well been occurring prior to English/French involvement, given tribal and religious conflicts history.

      As for Islam being consistent with democracy, I think there is a long way yet to see Islam giving an equal vote to all with complete freedom and you could do far less than just ask some women in Saudia Arabia who would like the freedom to drive a car.
      Perhaps that is somewhere you could launch a democracy crusade and we’ll attempt to keep our style as it is, warts and all.

    • Wehel says:

      06:05pm | 30/05/11

      Im sorry, but most people replying to this have no idea what they are talking about.  The ME is such a complicated place, that comparisons between what worked for the Europeans simply betray a fundamental ignorance.

        There is only one theocracy in the ME, Iran, so this idea that the ME is full of rampaging mullahs is really quite bizarre.  Besides, i dont think they really care what we think, they have the right as we do to choose whom they want to rule them.  The West has supported their tyrants, the least we can do is help support the seedlings of democracy and pledge our support for democratic institutions.

        Unlike the West, the people of the ME have lived with ethnic and religious diversity for hundreds of years (  one of the prophets closets mates was a black ethiopian named Bilal),  relatively peacefully, so this idea that there is inhrently no tolerance in the ME is absurd. 

      How a nation acts under bondage is very different to how they will when they feel they control their own destiny.

    • stephen says:

      06:52pm | 30/05/11

      The Mullahs, unfortunately, think and probably hope that democratic reform or indeed any reform is a passive act ; not so, and the West knows that and that’s why we are so nervous because from the Saudis to the Iranians, they have already ‘bought’ into our Capitalism and any subsequent major disruptions would hurt us very much indeed.
      Any idiot knows that their forms of Democracy would be different, and it - as much as political reform in Syria and Iran specifically in relation to Israel - is mostly the manner of change which will dictate the type of outcome, (the Manner, here being, so much a loaded quality.)

    • Glen says:

      07:53pm | 30/05/11

      The only known proven policy that worked for these fellows and their African cousins is European Colonialism. And I am sorry to say.

    • Steve says:

      12:52am | 31/05/11

      geez mate.  thats is a truly bigoted and thoroughly ignorant comment.

    • AKoiLus says:

      11:32am | 06/06/11

      Your right, but if there was a better way we’d be doing it. Yet for them how can it work when there is no separation of (Mosque) Church and State.
      No separate legal system. Theirs is religious based like 14th century inquisitions as far as I can tell. Now here’s the big one. A hurdle to tall to ever scale. They don’t use freehold title. The Middle East is mostly a dust bowel because little to no investment will ever be placed on ground that the investor will only ever own 49% period! If the local chief want’s you out you lose the lot. Again an area dominated and controlled by religious poppy cock. We have been creating academic’s of them for centuries, and the one’s who have used their knowledge to create change back in their homeland are either dead or in exile. Muslims are God’s way of showing us his sense of humor is warped.

 

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