“In the Western study of medieval Islamic history, the institution of iqta — land grants from the sovereign to his soldiers — once loomed large, because scholars searched for reasons behind the Muslim failure to develop feudalism, and with it the contractual relationships that eventually led to constitutional government. But looking for parallels between the West and Islam — especially the classical Islamic heartland from North Africa to Iran — has always been politically a sad endeavor, since the region seemed so resistant to the ideas and institutions that made representative government possible.
President George W. Bush’s decision to build democracy in Iraq seemed so lame to many people because it appeared, at best, to be another example of American idealism run amok — the forceful implantation of a complex Western idea into infertile authoritarian soil. But Mr. Bush, whose faith in self-government mirrors that of a frontiersman in Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” saw truths that more worldly men missed: the idea of democracy had become a potent force among Muslims, and authoritarianism had become the midwife to Islamic extremism.”
Technology is the greatest advocate for representative government. “Tech voice” through social media, smart phones, cell phones, and other advances have pushed the enveloped beyond recognition. Deep in the heart of it all, democracy may very well be a poor solution in Arab North Africa. However, what may matter most of all is creating authentic outlets for meaningful expression. In the West, Barack Obama was ushered to the White House atop powerful technological networks that transformed the political landscape.
The most recent US election may have been a high-water mark for participation, but many folks have come to the feeling that Goldman Sachs stole more than just a few trillion dollars. The history of the invasion and settlement of Arab hordes in KMT suggests that voting and other “tools of democracy” are hardly going to meet the needs of the neediest. But, it may satisfy those burgeoning middle classes who are dying for the creature comforts of the West. Time will tell.
“Understandably, the Western foreign ministries and press paid a lot more attention to the court liberals. A revulsion against the Iraq war and a distaste for President Bush helped to blind people to the spread of democratic sentiments in the region. It blinded them to the fact that among Middle Easterners, democracy, not dictatorship, was now seen as a better vehicle for economic growth and social justice.
Most important, Mr. Bush’s distastefulness helped to blind Westerners to the momentous marriage of Islamism and democratic ideas. Men and women of devout faith, who cherish (if not always rigorously follow) Shariah law increasingly embraced the convulsive idea that only elected political leadership was legitimate. Islam puts extraordinary emphasis upon the idea of justice — the earthbound quid pro quo that a man can expect in a righteous life.”
Righteous lives are hard to come by these days.