Recently, there has been much talk about the need to spread democracy to the Arab and Muslim world. This initiative is lead by the United States and some indigenous groups in the Middle East.
This movement has taken a new sense of urgency since the tragedy of 9-11. Among the reasons given to spread democracy is that if more people in the Middle East were given an opportunity to play a role in their governance then they will be less likely to resort to terrorism as a means to effect political change.
The Free Muslims Coalition strongly supports the promotion of democracy in the Middle East. However, the Coalition cautions that imposing democracy on the Middle East without first promoting secularism and destroying terrorism may lead to the creation of Islamic extremist states that will ultimately reject the democracy that brings them to power.
A case in point is the tragedy of Algeria. Algeria, which is a secular country, agreed to democratic parliamentary elections in 1992. The people of Algeria chose to elect extremist Muslims to government and before taking office, some of the newly elected officials announced that the democracy that brought them to power was inconsistent with Islam and they would reject a democratic form of government once they took office. As a result of the apparent extremist agenda of the newly-elected parliamentarians, the government dissolved parliament and imposed military rule. Algeria has been in a state of civil war ever since.
But Algeria was not the first example of the extremist Islamic agenda hijacking a secular country in the Middle East. Since the violent 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, many Arabs have thrown their support behind the creation of Islamic states. There is a popular belief among many Muslims that the best way forward for their countries is the creation of Islamic states. They see Islam as an answer to the totalitarian regimes that currently govern them. Iraq is the most recent example where the demise of the secular state resulted in a strong movement by clerics to create a theocracy rather than a secular democracy.
Unfortunately, many Muslims in the Middle East equate secularism with failure. The 20th century saw the creation of “secular” Muslim states from Morocco to Iran. As we can witness by looking at the development statistics of the region, most of these states did not bring peace and prosperity to their citizens. Most of these “modern” Arab states brought their citizens repressive rule, war and poverty. These states differed in their official orientation: some were based on capitalism; others were driven by socialism or communism. However, regardless of their official orientation they shared the commonality of being centrally run and in failing to provide their citizens with peace and prosperity.
The equating of secularism with failure has been successfully propagated by Muslim extremists. Even more dangerous than the creation of isolated Islamic states, today’s Muslim extremists seek to create a Muslim empire based on the delusion that Muslims are not sufficiently religious and that if they were to return to a strict interpretation of Islam that the problems in the Muslim world would be solved.
In fact, the common response by many citizens of the Middle East who favor the creation Islamic states is that "we tried capitalism, we tried socialism and we tried communism and they all failed so let us try Islam." The Coalition sees grave fault with this notion. Supporters of Islamic states are relying on false notions. Islam is a religion, not a blueprint for the creation of a modern state. The Koran does not contain sufficient guidance for the creation of a state. All modern states which have been founded and inspired by Islamic extremists are fascist, reactionary, impoverished and do not boast the features of democracy.
Democracy is rule by the people; a system of free choice where rulers are elected and held accountable by their constituents. The element of free choice of leaders is an explosive topic right now in the Middle East & North Africa. If fair and free elections were held tomorrow, the majority of Arab countries would probably elect totalitarian leaders with an intolerant pro-Islamist agenda. The election of extremists would spell death to democracy. We must first expel Islamic extremists and terrorists from Arab and Muslim societies before democracy sweeps the region.
The Coalition supports the right of all peoples to self government, but recognizes the importance of a solid system of government which guarantees a secular democracy protecting the rights of all people, regardless of gender, race or religion, and strives tirelessly to eliminate threats to democracy including extremism and terrorism. The Coalition fosters this secular environment by opening debates on the prerequisite of secularism in governments in the Middle East & North Africa, rallying against Islamist propaganda in media outlets, in institutions of education and in political campaigns, and by exploring the creation of secular democracy-preserving constitutions for Arab and Muslim countries.
The Coalition believes that Muslims must be reeducated about the benefits of secularism and that the failure of their governments to bring them peace and prosperity was not because they were secular. The Coalition also believes that democracy can not succeed unless terrorism is defeated and Islamic extremism is discredited.