Mideast democracy faces difficulties

With great expectations we are happy to declare that democracy, after centuries of authoritarian rule, is about to triumph in the Middle East following the recent "people's revolution" in Tunisia and Egypt, and hope neighboring Muslim countries will follow suit.

However, I'm doubtful if such change will come to pass.

No such eventuality will happen soon in a region where there has never been the tradition nor the will for representative government. Whereas democracy is deeply ingrained in the America psyche, to Muslim peoples, barring a pitiable minority, kingship and authoritarian rule is the ultimate system for keeping squabbling parties together.

Last month, when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told President Obama he doesn't know Egyptian culture, he spoke the truth about the nature of his people. Likewise, when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said Iraqis are a difficult people to rule, he too knew his people. And now when Afghan President Hamid Karzai has started wooing the Taliban, he knows Afghan culture.

All this is hard to understand for leaders in democratic countries who think Western-style representative government can be plopped on nations where Muslim citizens are in the majority. In countries where democracy has been plopped -- such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, to mention a few glaring examples -- only corruption and bad governance have followed, adding greater misery to the already-miserable people chafing under dictatorships operating under the garb of democracy, and we fall for the bluff.

And then there is the specter of radical Islam, which is spreading fast in the wake of increasing interference in Islamic countries. In Egypt there is the Muslim Brotherhood; in Iraq, the fiercely Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr; in Afghanistan, the Taliban; and in Pakistan, the government itself dangling its nukes as bait for U.S. dollars.

We close our eyes to these dangers as if it is a passing phase, and kid ourselves into believing democracy will not permit such horrible fanatics to come to power. To bolster our defense against the threat, we keep pouring billions of dollars by way of bribes into troublesome Muslim countries who make us believe the mullahs are coming.

Zia Rehman

Augusta

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