Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Future Prospects for Islam and Democracy

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Future Prospects for Islam and Democracy

Article excerpt

A CSID luncheon speech by Ahmed Shaheed, minister of foreign affairs for the Republic of Maldives, focused on his conservative, mostly Muslim country's recent peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy. Six years ago there were no political parties and the government controlled the media and courts, Shaheed said. Among the lessons learned from the Maldives are that Islam and democracy are compatible and it is possible for the Islamic world to change. The West shouldn't see a country through a monochrome lens, Shaheed advised, and label it either good or bad.

Georgetown University Professor John Esposito discussed "the significant gaps between what people want, what their governments allow them to have-and what our government wants."

In Muslim-majority countries like Egypt, Libya, Sudan and various North African countries, Esposito said, governments retain the trump card. They can hold elections or pull them back. They can remain security states with an "iron fist inside a velvet glove."

There is greater desire for Islamism and good government in the region, according to Esposito: people don't want Westernization or secular governments. …

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