Islamism Threat to Democracy

Article excerpt


I was fortunate to attend the 100th anniversary in Washington of the American Jewish Committee, which had been a mixed experience for me. On the one hand I admired a community firmly bonded around a culture of humanistic values, culturally sensitive and influential. But I also had a manifest anxiety toward the Arab/Muslim world devastated by wars, whose very existence is threatened by backward-looking thoughts, mainly radical Islamism.

A historic tragedy is at play before our own eyes: Another Munich, when some European democracies thought they could avoid the war by appeasing Nazism. Winston Churchill said: "You accepted shame to avoid war, now you will have both." History's verdict was simply merciless.

Today, Arab but also Western diplomats are making the same mistake toward the "green fascism." Thus, their "smart" strategy will consist in involving these groups in a democratic process; Islamists would then, they believe, change their behavior.

But this is a blatant failure to recognize Islam, history and democracy. Islamism is born out of a reaction to attempts to modernize Arab/Muslim society. Its credo, "There's No Power than that of God," pretends to be democracy's antithesis, which means the People's Power. Forgetting Islamism's origin is tantamount to illusion.

Extremism is a form of political activity that rejects the principles of parliamentary democracy. Extremist ideology and practices are based on intolerance, exclusion, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and ultranationalism.

Extremism is a danger for any democratic state because its fanatic character may be used to justify violence. Even if it doesn't directly advocate violence, extremism creates a climate conducive to violence.

It is a direct threat in weakening the constitutional democratic order and civic liberties and an indirect threat by causing political mistakes. Classical political parties may be tempted to adopt crowd-pleasing themes and positions that are the prerogatives of extremist parties in an effort to stymie their electoral progression.

This extremism one finds in radical Islamism was born at the end of the 1970s against the backdrop of the rout of the nationalist and Pan-Arab ideologies. It is not a matter of "modernizing Islam" but of "Islamizing modernity."

In the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the "Green Peril" is seen as a major threat. …