Arabs Want Democracy, but Not the Brand From Abroad


Monday  March 8, 2004

Issa bin Mohammed Al-Zedjali, Special to Arab News

MUSCAT, 8 March 2004 — So much talk is now going on among ranking officials in the US administration about democracy and how it should be implemented in all Arab countries. To them, American democracy is the only ray of hope for the Arab world — a democracy that they claim will take the Arab countries to judicial and political reforms!

There is one question we want to ask every Arab citizen: Do we really need American democracy?

The answer, of course, is an absolute “No”. We just do not need a democracy tailor-made for the US.

American democracy is not good for the Arabs; it is only beneficial for the American citizens because it has been styled for them on principles based on the values relevant to them.

This “Made-in-US” democracy would never benefit the Arabs because it is strange to our way of life in all its aspects. Let us not forget that our society and we as Arabs have our own traditions, customs and concepts that are so distinctively different from those of the American society.

If we need democracy in the Arab countries, it has to be based on Islamic Shariah, in the first place, and on Arab heritage and on the Arab way of life in accordance with the basic law of each country and what suits it. This is what we require, a democracy that does not contradict with the present society or clash with our age-old values, customs and traditions.

No doubt, we agree with the US administration on the need for improvements and developments in the systems of some Arab states, but the process should be carried out by Arab hands and based on Arab principles.

We know very well what had happened in the US in the wake of Sept.11. Without any rhyme or reason the American police rounded up many American citizens and expatriates belonging to various nationalities from the streets and raided their houses. The arrested were put behind bars without trial. Is this democracy? Does this type of democracy suit the big Arab world?

American democracy is not based on stable principles; it is based on changing interests. A good example is what happened last week to Jean-Bertrand Aristide who became president of Haiti after he won the elections in the 1980s. He was later toppled by a military coup but the US restored him to his office using its might and tactics — only to force him out of the presidential palace and the country as well last week. The US made a U-turn in the name of democracy, but is this democracy?

From time to time, the US surprises the world with unique concepts, the origin of which we don’t know. No doubt, these concepts are for the fulfillment of American goals.

The latest is the “Greater Middle East Initiative”, a concept we failed to locate in old and modern books of geography and history. Meanwhile, the US administration keeps on saying that there is no democracy in the world other than its own brand.

— Issa bin Mohammed Al-Zedjali is the editor in chief of the Times of Oman.


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