The Iraq Study Group report

Can Democracy be imposed in Muslim Countries?

Can Democracy be imposed in Muslim Countries?

By Alamgir Hussain

In the post-9/11 era, the Bush administration’s new project of spreading freedom and democracy in the dictators-ruled countries became one of the most discussed and closely followed topics in the media and at all levels of society. Although many doubted the means Bush Administration undertook to spread democracy around the world, there was hardly any disagreement on the point that freedom and democracy can usher in peace and prosperity. Believing in this fundamental premise, many in the US and around the world supported the aggressive policy of instituting democracy by overthrowing the authoritarian governments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, the adventure of spreading democracy itself has not fully succeeded in those two countries so far. All indications suggest that it faces rough going.  These countries have remained breeding grounds for terrorists to some degree.

Can democracy be imposed from without? If we look back into the 1930s and 40s, we see clearly that the world’s most incorrigible dictators of that era, the imperialist militarists of Japan, the brutal expansionist Nazis of Germany and the deadly fascists of Italy, have been replaced by the fine democratic governments imposed by the intervention of the allied forces in the post-WW II period.

The skeptics may argue that the rule of the game has changed now and it does not work anymore. But let us consider the intervention in mainly Christian Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid-1990s. After the downfall of dictatorial communism, these regions ran into a disastrous civil war as a result of religio-ethnic fighting between the minority Muslims and the majority Christians. Unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, intervention quickly brought the fighting and violence under control. Since then, reconciliation, reconstruction and democratic processes have made steady progress. All indications suggest that secular democracy and peace will continue to strengthen and be lasting.

However, there is one concern. Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise amongst the Muslim populace and al-Qaeda and other like-minded Islamist groups are spreading their tentacles to that region. Hence, the future of a lasting peace and democracy in Bosnia-Herzegovina will solely depend on how the Muslims behave in the coming years and decades.

Similarly, the United States’ forced ouster of Charles Taylor of Liberia and Aristride of Haiti, both Christian countries, have so far held in good stead. More pressing interventions in Muslim countries, namely in Somalia and Afghanistan, have miserably failed during the same period. Instead of bringing democracy and peace, interventions in these countries have made the world a much more dangerous place by inspiring Muslims at far corners of the world to form new terrorist groups and strengthening the already existing ones. On the other hand, there are no indications that interventions in Christian countries, namely Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, have inspired any Christian group in far places, say in Nigeria, Philippines, Australia, USA, Canada or South America, to create terrorist groups and to unleash violence of any sort.

Those who argue that democracy and rule of law cannot be imposed by outside interventions are obviously wrong, as demonstrated by the interventions in Japan, Italy and Germany in post-WW II era. All indications from the more recent but unfinished interventions in the Balkan, in Liberia and Haiti also prove them wrong. However the critics are right when considering the intervention in Somalia in 1993 and more recent ones in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In order to understand this intriguing disparity in success of outside interventions in Muslim and non-Muslim countries, one must grasp the fundamental precepts of Islam, which is the common ideological denominator that binds them together. Islamic scholars over the centuries have divided the world into two domains. The first being the Dar-al-Islam (house of peace), which constitute the domains dominated and ruled by the Muslims according to the Islamic laws. The other is the Dar al-Harb (house of war), which is dominated and ruled by the non-Muslims and Muslims must wage a ceaseless war (so it called ‘house of war’) against it in order to bring it into the domain of Dar al-Islam, thereby fulfilling the wishes of the almighty creator.

Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) is a towering Islamic thinker, historian and philosopher. According to  famous comtemporary Islamic thinker Prof. Tariq Ramadan, whom Time Magazine voted to be one of the world’s 100 greatest thinkers and scientists in 2004, considers Ibn Khaldun as giant Muslim contributor to the Greek rationalism, philosophy and science that were later transmitted to the Europeans prior to the advent of Enlightenment in Europe [Roots of Rationality, Guardian 22 Sept, 2006].

In affirming this principle of Islam, Ibn Khaldun wrote of the Christians in his greatest treatise, ‘The Muqaddimah’:

“We do not think that we should blacken the pages of this book [Muqaddimah] with discussion of their [Christian] dogmas of unbelief. In general, they are well known. All of them are unbelief. This is clearly stated in the noble Koran. To discuss or argue those things with them is not up to us. It is for them to choose between conversion to Islam, payment of the poll tax, or death.” [For more affirmation, see Koran: 9:29]

In affirmation of the Koranic edict of fighting the infidels (non-Muslims) until religion is Allah’s (Islam) alone [Koran 8:39], he furthered wrote of the Dar-ul-Harb in ‘The Muqaddimah’ :

“In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty because of the universalism of the mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense.” [Quoted in State and Governance in Medieval Islam, Ann Lambton (1981), Oxford University Press, New York, p201]

In today’s violence and terrorism stricken world, those involved in the desperate search for peace, should understand the basic Islamic principles and thoughts. Dar al-Islam (Islamic world), with whatsoever there-in, is the perfect abode of peace and prosperity, which is achievable only by the institution of the divine laws of the only true God, Allah. Islam is the complete and perfect code of life for governing perfectly all aspects of human life: social, moral, spiritual, religious, political, economic and everything else. Extra-Islamic doctrines, such as democracy, are inferior to the divine Islamic codes of governance. Outside interventions and democracy in Islamic countries are, thus, not necessary; neither do Muslims accept it.

On the other hand, Dar al-Harb, which does not hold such perfect code of governance, has scope of improvement. Hence, the imposition of democracy and freedom were quickly accepted in countries like Japan, Germany and Italy etc. The international policy-makers who might be at a fix over their repeated failures to achieve those goals in Muslim countries which are easily achievable elsewhere, must understand these fundamental distinctions between Islamic and the non-Islamic countries.

Iran tells Arabs to oust U.S.

Iran tells Arabs to oust U.S.

By Jim Krane
Published December 6, 2006

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s top national security official urged Arabs yesterday to expel the U.S. military from bases in the region and instead join Tehran in a regional security alliance.
    The offer was a strong sign of Iran’s rising assertiveness in its contest with the United States for influence in the region.
    Persian Gulf countries, suspicious of Iran’s intentions, are unlikely to respond to the call and push out the U.S. military or end U.S. security deals they view as offering them an umbrella of protection, many here said.
    But smaller countries, such as Kuwait, do have to tread a fine line of not antagonizing either Washington or Tehran. Some Gulf countries refused to participate in recent U.S. Navy maneuvers in the Gulf so as not to offend Iran.
    Iran’s top national security official, Ali Larijani, apparently aimed to allay Arab concerns and raise suspicion about U.S. intentions in his speech yesterday. He told Arab business leaders and political analysts that Washington is indifferent to their interests and will cast them aside when they are no longer useful.
    “The security and stability of the region needs to be attained and we should do it inside the region, not through bringing in foreign forces,” Mr. Larijani said. “We should stand on our own feet.”
    Such words are a direct rejection by Iran of the “notion that it can be contained,” said Vali Nasr, an Iran specialist with the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, who attended the conference.
    Speakers at the Arab Strategy Forum said they think Iran’s rising clout came as a direct result of the faltering U.S. policy in Iraq that has put Iran’s Shi’ite allies in control of the government in Baghdad.
    Mr. Larijani’s proposal outlines what analysts here describe as an attempt to split the Arab world into two camps: a U.S.-Israeli-Arab coalition that seeks to contain Iran and an anti-American, anti-Israeli alliance led by Iran.
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for wiping Israel off the map and expressed doubts about the Holocaust. Yesterday, Iran’s foreign ministry said it will hold a two-day international conference next week on the Holocaust to examine the event without any “preconceived ideas.”
    Most Arab governments remain firm U.S. allies, but Persian Iran’s tough stance against Israel and the West has broad grass-roots appeal.
    Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Sunni-dominated countries have expressed misgivings about the growing influence of Iran’s Shi’ite-dominated government, which in the 1980s sought to export its Islamic revolution and topple neighboring governments.
    “Nobody is asking the Americans to pack up and leave,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a Dubai-based political analyst. “There are vital American interests here, and the smaller Arab countries need protection.”
    Mr. Larijani expressed annoyance at Arab fears about Iranian intentions, saying Iran and its Sunni-dominated neighbors have more in common with each other than with the United States or Israel.
    He assured Arab leaders that Iran seeks “peaceful coexistence” and could replace the security umbrella of U.S. bases in the region.     

Hillary Can Win…But should she win? No way!

Hillary Can Win…
By Dick Morris | December 6, 2006

Now that Hillary has dropped the coy pretense of indecision that she used to justify her reelection to a Senate seat she no longer wants and has told friends that she plans to run for president, two questions present themselves: Can she win? And what kind of a president would she be?She definitely can win…and probably will. She is uniquely able to expand the electorate to bring in millions of women, mostly single, who will vote overwhelmingly for a female Democrat. The feminization of poverty, long decried by the left, will finally lead unmarried women to show up at the polling place and vote their short-term economic interest and vindicate their gender bias. In 2000, only 19 million single women voted. By 2004, their turnout rose to 27 million. With Hillary in the race, the single-female vote will probably go up to its proper ratio of the adult population — 33 million votes.

Can white men outvote single women? Despite the intensity with which white men tend to oppose Hillary, they can’t vote twice.

The enthusiasm that will grip many Americans — women in particular — at the cultural implications of a woman president will probably sweep through the primaries and cause many to overlook Hillary’s flaws and dismiss her defects. The generic of a woman candidate will prove so attractive that millions of voters will overcome their objections to the specific person who is running.

Her mastery of the establishment of the Democratic Party, her vast lead among ex-officio delegates — many of whom have received campaign contributions from her coffers — and the celebrity draw of her ex-president husband will prove hard for a mere mortal to overcome.

But should she win? No way!

Those who know both Hillary and Bill well and are willing to speak frankly in public realize the fundamental differences between the two and grasp how his abilities are the counterpoints to her defects.

He is intensely creative, constantly turning issues over in his mind seeking new solutions. She rarely has a new idea but specializes in advocacy — the rote recitation of talking points.

He has an instinctual feel for people and an uncanny ability to read a room and know what everyone in it is thinking. She is obtuse in her understanding of people and ham-handed in her approach.

He cares deeply about being loved. She seeks popularity as a means to the goal of getting elected but otherwise marches to the beat of her inner, liberal drummer.

He distrusts ideology, and his innate perfectionism finds all belief systems flawed. She swallows the ideological line of the guru du jour hook, line and sinker. During the healthcare years, it was Ira Magaziner who pushed her buttons. When she decided to back the Iraq War, it was the generals who paraded before her committee. She is vulnerable to a cultish adoration of the guys with all the answers.

He lets the give and take of politics wash off his back. A critic is a potential convert whom he hopes to charm over to his side. She has a rigidly dichotomized view of friends and enemies, demanding total loyalty and public silence from the former and maintaining a ruthless determination to destroy the latter. She is a Democratic Nixon to those whom she perceives as her enemies.

He is a moderate by instinct, seeking incremental change. She devotedly and deeply believes in a European-style socialism in which government takes much more of our national income and offers a far wider array of services and benefits.

He’ll raise taxes when he has to. She’ll increase them just to redistribute income.

He’s most like Eisenhower, Kennedy and Bush Sr. — feeling his way, acting with caution, and skeptical of all advice. She is more like LBJ, Nixon or Bush Jr. — determined to charge ahead and do what she thinks needs to be done, the torpedoes be damned.

And finally, he knows who he is and, except for his private shortcomings, is not ashamed to let it show. She constantly seeks to reinvent herself and rigidly maintains an almost totally inaccurate image in public of what she is really like in private. He has little discipline. Hers is iron. His caution is innate. Hers is a learned response to what happens when people see who she really is.

He made a very good domestic-policy president. She would be a disaster at home and abroad.

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Probes dismiss imams’ racism claim

Probes dismiss imams’ racism claim

By Audrey Hudson
Published December 6, 2006

Three parallel investigations into the removal of six imams from a US Airways flight last month have so far concluded that the airline acted properly, that the imams’ claims they were merely praying and their eviction was racially inspired are without foundation.
    An internal investigation by the airline found that air and ground crews “acted correctly” when they requested that the Muslim men be removed from a Minneapolis-to-Phoenix flight on Nov. 20.
    “We believe the ground crew and employees acted correctly and did what they are supposed to do,” US Airways spokeswoman Andrea Rader said.
    Omar Shahin — one of the imams and the group’s spokesman — said the men did not behave out of the ordinary while on the plane, and that passengers overreacted because some of the imams conducted prayers in the concourse before boarding.
    US Airways’ investigation is “substantially complete” but Miss Rader said airline officials still want to meet with the imams to review the situation. “We’re looking at it as a security issue and as a customer-service issue and where we might need to do outreach,” she said.
    Airline officials have had several discussions with Mr. Shahin, but a meeting scheduled for Monday with all six men was canceled at the imams’ request.
    “We talked with crew members and passengers and those on the ground. We’ve done what we typically do in a situation where there is a removal or some kind of customer service at issue,” Miss Rader said. “We found out the facts are substantially the same, and the imams were detained because of the concerns crew members had based on the behavior they observed, and from reports by the customers.”
    The Minneapolis airport police department’s report on the incident said the imams’ behavior warranted their removal. The imams were not accused of breaking any laws.
    The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is reviewing the actions of department members who were involved in the incident.
    Secret Service agents questioned the imams, who are accused of making negative comments about President Bush and the Iraq war. Officials of the Transportation Security Administration were involved in screening the imams and their baggage.
    “There is no indication there is any inappropriate activity, at least no indication at this time,” DHS spokesman Russ Knocke said. “To my knowledge, we are only doing a review, and that is a fairly routine practice with incidents like this.”
    The Air Carrier Security Committee of the Air Line Pilots Association investigated the incident and said, “The crew’s actions were strictly in compliance with procedures and demonstrated overall good judgment in the care and concern for their passengers, fellow crew members, and the company.”
    “The decisions made by all the parties were made as a result of the behavior of the passengers and not as a result of their ethnicity,” the report concluded.
    The suspicious behavior cited in the report included “changing seats, stating anti-war, anti U.S.-Iraq involvement, negative comments concerning the president of the United States.” The report noted that “two of the passengers requesting seat-belt extensions when their body size did not appear to warrant their use.”
    Mr. Shahin told television reporters that he needed the seat-belt extension because he weighs 280 pounds. However, the police report lists his weight as 201 pounds. Weights listed for the other imams ranged from 170 pounds to 250 pounds.
    The imams have retained the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as their legal counsel. CAIR officials said yesterday that initial claims by the airline contradict the official police report.
    “The imams are obviously concerned about a number of false and distorted representation of the facts and events, and one example is initial reports that all suggested they refused to get off the plane when personnel asked them to, and the police report said they all got off and cooperated,” a CAIR spokesman said.