Are Islamists faster to Democratize?
It is phenomenal how organized Islamic groups in the Middle East are fast to respond to democracy processes. It poses so many questions.
The Palestinian parliamentary elections, first in decade, prompted me to think in this direction and ask why Islamists are fast to encompass democracy. The sweeping participation of Hamas leaves me mesmerized. Does this group believe in democracy more than so many autocratic governments in the Middle East that call itself secular? In 1996 Hamas boycotted the elections. In 2006, they are the first to give up weapons before entering polling station to vote. Late Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat remained in power until the last day of his life. And he claimed to be secular!
That reminds me of Sunni Iraqis who believed that by boycotting January 2005 elections,they will have weight. They realized they were mistaken and quickly reversed their decision in the following elections and turned into political participation.
Hamas’s participation is sign of confidence in the democracy process and not in the explosives' belts and suicide bombers. They are showing more trust in democracy when they have the choice to terrorize their people by imposing themselves like so many autocratic governments in the Middle East.
The dramatic development was last week when Hamas declared its readiness to negotiate peace with Israel through a third party. That was a strange announcement; especially that it comes few days before the elections. Hamas, which is branded as a terrorist group by U.S., has to denounce and remove the idea of demolishing Israel from its Charter to give credibility for its seriousness to move on with peace efforts. But if it accepts negotiating peace with Israel, this means that it is acknowledging Israel as a state and neighbor. That will put Arab leaders in a very embarrassing situation, because Arabic press is always glorifying Hamas's stance from Israel.
Another statement today that made it clear that Hamas wants to be part of a peace process is when one of its leaders said if we won seats we will ask for the portfolio of the ministries of services like health and education and leave international affairs to Fatah movement to negotiate the peace with Israel. Apparently, they are not at ease negotiating peace with Israel but they do not mind.
I honestly find this a big transformation.
It is the same transformation, the Muslim Brotherhood (banned Islamic group in Egypt) is witnessing. I am surprised how they are quickly responding to democratization. They are faster than our government. They denounced Iranian President’s statements for wiping out Israel from the map unlike one of the Egyptian government writers who showed admiration to the Iranian President statements. The Muslim Brotherhood’s members of parliaments are so active to uncover the Egyptian government corruption in the press and they talk to the people to get complaints from citizens. Last week, they joined the world's appeals to release Jill Carroll, who is kidnapped in Iraq by armed Islamists. In Egypt, the MB are asking for unified law for building mosques and churches on the basis of equal citizenship between Copts and Muslims, following the recent attacks on Copts in Luxor. This is really big.
The Sunnis in Iraq who believed in armed resistance, now want to join the Iraqi police and army to combat terrorists.
I find that with little openings for democracy, Islamic groups are responding and faster to join the democratic processes. On the other hand, U.S. President George Bush sends open invitation for democracy and freedom to the US allies in the Middle East and he gets almost no response.
However, I see that the participation of Islamic groups or movements is another success for the Bush Adminstration. The engagement of these groups in democratic processes is much better than their isolation that leads to suicidal terror. Giving them hope for a better future through freedom and justice will purify by time their ideologies of hatred that was formed because of oppresion and dictatorship. The new conditions will give the chance for people to think freely to choose what they want. Political Islam emerged because of the lack of so many forms of freedoms. If jobs were created, economies are liberated and poor peoples were able to choose a decent life, the role of the political Islam as panacea for all problems will disappear. Life rewards will not stand at the step doors of heaven but in life.
The Scene of the police that is helping the voters to find their ways to polling stations was in the Iraqi elections and I applauded it before. And now I am applauding the Palestinian police as well by insisting on having this photo here. Only in Egypt, police kills voters.
First photo: A supporter of the Fatah movement chants slogans and waves party flags after polling stations closed for the Palestinian elections in Gaza City January 25, 2006. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)
Second Photo:Palestinian policeman helps an elderly woman as she arrives to vote at a polling station in Gaza City January 25, 2006. (Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters)
Last Photo: Supporters of the Islamic group Hamas celebrate the results of their group in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in the West Bank town of Hebron Wednesday Jan. 25, 2006. According to an exit poll by Bir Zeit Universityt Hamas took 39.5 percent of the vote in the elections on Wednesday and the ruling Fatah Party 46.4 percent. (AP Photo/Nasser Shyoukhi)