As the brave Syrian people endure the Assad terror, many who wrote in the past about freedom, democracy, and human rights for the Middle East are having second thoughts in light of the events unfolding in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Theirs is based on the notion that extremist Muslims, like the Muslim Brotherhood organization, are poised to control the destiny of the region.
Let us consider certain facts.
The publicly announced goals of the Muslim Brotherhood is to evacuate foreign forces from “Muslim” lands and to cleanse the sheikhdoms from western-installed rulers using the disciplinary Shariaa to achieve both.
Muslims in the region have been hibernating ever since the Ottoman Empire rose to dictate its separatist policies after realizing the west will survive without Islam. In an attempt to isolate the west, Muslims isolated themselves for over 400 years during which the west progressed slowly towards finding the right balance between power and the tools to protect it (The best book on this subject is: What Went Wrong by Prof. Bernard Lewis). Chief amongst these tools is the separation of Church and State.
Islam is far from these discoveries. With oil, Muslims can acquire the tangible elements of survival and inclusion but without the reflections and the realizations the western societies had to endure, Muslims will remain absolutist in defining victories within the limited possibilities of religious emancipation. We cannot compete with the west because we believe religion is the source of inspiration that leads to deliverance. Self-reliance and human industry have yet to be ascertained in our calculations.
This takes us back to today’s problems. If the Islamists ascend to power, will they protect that power to rule by re-inventing themselves or will they rule as ideologues? Is Islamism the last bus stop for Muslims in the region to realize their emancipation begins by separating Mosque and State?
When you spend your time preaching Islam, very little is left to improve the lives of others through discernable agents of empowerment. Islamism will fail us as did the other ideologies we experimented with ever since the Ottomans exited the stage.
The question then becomes: Do we let our people discover it for themselves at a very high price tag for the region and its people, be it indigenous or occupiers? Or do we fight them (and their intolerant God) in the hope Muslims will “protest” Islam, in its present oyster-like state, for its limited capacity to be the Aspirin for all ills?
Do we give them a chance to fail so that Muslims shed their mystery and their ill-timed existence? Or is their existence a blessing and will accelerate their inevitable demise but only after they exercise some control and fail miserably? If they fail, will the west have to go to war against Muslims or do we let Muslims extinguish their flames on their own?Â
The blurry line between a devout Muslim and a terrorist Muslim has yet to be defined, assessed, and dealt with. The propensity for any devout Muslim to turn on a dime should give us pause but not at the expense of freedom, democracy, and human rights, which, if ignored, delays further any hope to reform Islam by separating Mosque and State.
For democracy’s sake, let them share responsibilities in the areas where failure is a guarantee (i.e. economy, tourism, finance) and separate them from areas where their long-term impact will delay their exit (i.e. culture, religious affairs, education, and judiciary).
But not without building strong and independent armies whose loyalty is to country to defend us from their anticipated abject failures. We learned enough from Pakistan to avoid the same mistakes and learned enough from Turkey to embrace their model.
Let all Muslims clear the bus, and their minds, on this last stop in the middle of the desert.