Thursday, May 01, 2003

Matthew Yglesias in this post raises a number of issues about the possibility for democracy in Iraq with the presence of Islamist forces. First of all, a coalition between Sunnis and Shi'ites is possible. Technically, modern Sunnism recognizes Shi'ite Islam as a fifth school of Islamic law which they call the Jafari, after the last imam recognized by both Isma'ili and Ithna 'Ashari Shi'ites. True, some fundamentalist groups persecute different sects, but others argue for Muslim unity using analogies like the Crusades for why it can be beneficial.

However, it is far from clear that Islamic fundamentalism is opposed to democracy. Consider this Gulf News article about an attempt by Islamist MP's in Bahrain to give women the right to drive while veiled. Islamist politicians, like those on the religious right in the U.S., respond to all sorts of political pressures. Also, haven't we seen Islamist parties function democratically in places like Turkey and Indonesia? The issue of clerical rule is obviously different, but that is hotly debated even among the Iranian clerical establishment. (This is, incidently, why I think people like Thomas Friedman are over-playing the ethnic aspects of Shi'ite theological dispute.)

Obviously, if I were voting in Iraq, I would not support someone like SCIRI. But for the U.S. to fear this the way we do is because of a certain amount of Islamophobia and a certain accurate sense that Islamist parties are more likely to oppose American policies than some other shades of the political spectrum in the Islamic world. And its better than the alternative: Confessional politics which could one day turn Iraq into another Lebanon.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home