Democratic ideology cannot defeat Islamic theology
By Elie Elhadj
"Notwithstanding that Arab rule is tribal, corrupt, and mired in favoritism and nepotism it is significant that Arab rulers typically stay in office until death, be it natural or resulting from a military coup. No Arab king or president, however, spares an opportunity, to display the loyalty of his subjects. While the presidents conduct stage-managed referendums in which they consistently manage to achieve near 100% approvals, the monarchs draw mile-long queues of happy-looking men on every national and religious occasion to demonstrate their people’s allegiance.
Regardless of the contrived appearance of these demonstrations, a degree of real support for Arab rulers does exist. It is impossible to falsify every ballot and force every subject to hail the king. When the presidents of Egypt and Yemen allowed contested presidential elections on September 7, 2005 and September 20, 2006; respectively, the former gained a fifth term with 88.6% of the votes cast, hardly different from his four previous uncontested referendums, and the latter won 77.2% majority, after 28 years of rule.
Representative democracy is not a natural choice for most Arabs. Obedience to hierarchical Islamic authority is. Obedience is at the heart of ulama’s teaching. In the Arab home, school, mosque, work place, and the nation at large a culture of blind obedience to autocracy prevails. Poverty, illiteracy, and ill health, together with a fatalistic belief in predestination make the masses politically quietest, save for small minorities of Jihadists on the one hand and Western influenced professional activists on the other. It should be noted that the Shiite partisans of Ali have been rebellious against the religious and temporal order of Sunni rulers since the early Islamic state. Obedience here, therefore, refers to the obedience of the adherents of a specific sect to the rulers of their own sect.
Curiously, Muslim, but non-Arab countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Turkey, together representing almost two thirds of world Muslims, conduct democratic elections and allow female prime ministers and presidents. Obviously, these non-Arab Muslims have a more relaxed attitude towards Islamic dogma than Arabs do. Why is the political persona of the Arab masses quietest?"
Syria Comment blog