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The Globalization of Jihad: From Islamist Resistance to War Against the West - Islam and Democracy

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ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY

Many radical Islamist organizations have embraced democracy as a means to their ends, as we have witnessed in the recent electoral victories of Hamas in Palestine and, to a lesser extent, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This reveals the danger in promoting democracy for democracy’s sake in the Middle East.

Those following recent events in Palestine will recall that President Mahmoud Abbas wanted to delay the plebiscite. The United States insisted that it proceed according to the established timetable. The Palestinian government complied with the Americans’ request and the result was a Hamas victory and the new political crisis we are witnessing today.

Hamas did not win because it is loved by the people or because most Palestinians support its radical agenda. It won for two reasons: 1) because most Palestinians are fed up with the Fatah party and its corruption, so in fact the Palestinians voted not for Hamas, but against Fatah; and 2) it was a vote by the people as an act of defiance against the West, for the people saw Hamas as a symbol of resistance and national identity. As a result, the government of Palestine has been delivered into the hands of the extremist enemies of peace.

As a side note, it is worth pointing out that at least one good thing may come from the victory of Hamas in Palestine. With Hamas coming to power, the Palestinian people will be looking to it to solve the tremendous socioeconomic problems they face. If they fail to do so, as will likely be they case, the Palestinian people will blame Hamas for their misery. In the end, Hamas may find it is much easier to be the opposition than to be the government.

Democracy has existed in the United States for more than two centuries and has flourished in Europe for many generations. In contrast, Western-style democracy is in its infancy in the Muslim world. All too often, those who win power through the ballot box become tyrants. America is trying to apply democracy in a region that has no established democratic institutions and no modern democratic traditions. Until indigenous democratic institutions are firmly established, democracy in the Middle East will continue to be a means for extremists and tyrants to take and hold power.