Friday, May 11, 2007

Elected Islamists Can Be Tamed

For most of the Arab and Islamic world, the Bush administration’s boycott of the Palestinian Hamas-led government stands as the epitome of hypocrisy. America pushed for democracy in the Middle East, and in Palestine that’s what it got. But contrary to what it envisioned, elections across the region have brought Islamists to power.

It’s no secret that democratic elections sometimes bring out odd bedfellows, and the Islamists are undesirable bedfellows to many. It is, however, in the best interest of America and the West -- and indeed for the good of the peace in the Islamic world -- to accept Islamists when they come to power through the ballot box. The secret should be to tame them, not to shun them.

The West committed the original sin in Algeria when the Algerian military denied election victory to the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), which had won an overwhelming majority of 231 seats out of the 430. Instead of condemning the military’s obstruction of the democratic process, the West applauded it. It was this miscalculated step that reinforced the Islamists’ claim that the West is against Islam. It was here that the clash of civilizations started long before Samuel P. Huntington wrote his ominous article of the same title in Foreign Affairs in 1993.
Read More in Newsweek.WashingtonPost/PostGlobal.

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