Day By Day

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy [well -- two out of three ain't bad]

Ahmad, an Iraqi blogger writes:

Iraq abolishes Saddam's alcohol restriction law

Ministry of Interior in Iraq abolished Saddam's alcohol, night clubs and casinos restriction law which was introduced in the 90's. The law has been abolished because it interferes with and limits Iraqis personal freedom. Businesses, however, are required to obtain a licence from Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Health. [Arabic link]

Hat tip -- WSJ

Read it here.

The Journal points out that this refutes the dire predictions of those who were convinced that democracy in Iraq would create a Shiite theocracy along the lines of that in Iran. It appears that even the Shiites are party people too.


Saad Eddin Ibrahim writes in the NYT:

IN last month's Saudi Arabian municipal elections, the nation's first experiment in real democracy, many were worried because Islamic activists dominated their secular rivals. Indeed, we have seen a similar trend in Turkey, Morocco and Iraq in the last few years; and we can expect it in the coming Lebanese, Palestinian and Egyptian elections. Yet, while this Islamic trend can no longer be ignored, neither should it be a source of panic to Western policy makers and pundits.

Based on my 30 years of empirical investigation into these parties - including my observations of fellow inmates during the 14 months I spent in an Egyptian prison - I can testify to a significant evolution on the part of political Islam. In fact, I believe we may be witnessing the emergence of Muslim parties that are truly democratic, akin to the Christian Democrats in Western Europe after World War II....

Westerners should not be dismayed at the thought of allowing religious parties a role in the emerging political structures of the Arab world. For one thing, as citizens, Islamists are entitled to the same basic rights as others. It would therefore be hypocritical to call for democracy in these countries and at the same time to deny any groups wanting to peacefully contend for office.

Second, Islamists tend to be fairly well organized and popular. Yes, some have created armed wings to their movements, ostensibly to resist foreign occupation (Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad in Palestine) or in response to authoritarian regimes. But in all cases, a moderate, less-violent Islamist core exists. Excluding the religious parties from the political mainstream risks giving the upper hand to the armed factions at the expense of their more moderate centers.

Ibrahim argues on the basis of recent experience that the election of Islamists can be a stage on the road to a moderate and functioning democracy.

Of course, this is not to say that we should expect Hezbollah or Hamas to turn into Western-style democratic parties overnight. While countries opening themselves to democracy should work to bring Islamists into the system, they should not - and the West should not pressure them to - allow those groups unwilling to abide by certain rules into the game.

These principles would include: strict respect for constitutions and the rule of law, including full independence of the judiciary; recognition of the principle of the rotation of power based on free and fair elections with international observers; pledges that elections be held on a schedule that is not subject to tampering by whatever group comes to power; agreement that non-Muslim minorities must be guaranteed full citizenship and cultural rights, including the right to compete for any elected office, to freely exercise their religion rights and to speak their chosen language; and agreement that women must be assured full and equal participation in public life.

When all parties agree to such conditions, they will have gone a long way toward reducing apprehensions at home and abroad about their participation in politics. This does raise questions about who would guarantee that all parties abide by these rules of the game. Each country, of course, would have to decide for itself; Turkey made its armed forces a guardian of the Constitution, and other places it might be high courts. In any case, there must be faith in the system.


Read the whole thing here.


Gregory over at Belgravia Dispatch has some interesting comments on Ibrahim's article, including references to some of my favorite films.

Read him here.

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