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The spread of democracy has been quite successful in different countries around the world especially after the end of cold war. Today many countries around the world are functioning under their own democratic systems of government with slight modifications across different nations. However, the Arab world is still struggling to become accustomed with the notion of democracy itself, much less implement it as a system of government. The challenge galore, the introduction of democracy is not an impossible idea in the Arab world. If the right effort is made aimed at ending misperceptions about democracy among Arabs and promoting favorable associations between democracy and shura (the Islamic system of governance), then democracy in some desirable form can become viable in the Arab world.
The foremost resistance to the democratic options emanates from the perceptions built around the system as foreign and the role of United States in promoting its policies in the Arab world. As Alon Benmeir in one of his articles states that many people in the Muslim world see democracy as an American styled system of government (Challenges to Democracy in the Arab and Muslim World, p 329). This is the primary reason why Arabs are not receptive to the idea of democracy in the first place. The Arab population has seen the US as traditionally working against their interests; however the very Arab governments against which it advocates democracy have very stable relations with US. This breeds skepticism among the general populace about the sincerity of US intentions and therefore the talk about democracy is generally regarded as mere gibberish and as a shield under which the US wants to achieve its interests. Important among other factors is the role of US in the Arab Israel conflict. With such a history, the US initiatives are bound to be taken with skepticism.
The western world's notion of Arab's resistance towards democracy is as misperceived as the Arab world's conception about democracy. Mostly the reason to this kind of response by the Arabs is traced to religion. It is inferred that Islam and its principles are reasons for the violence, injustice, lack of education, corruption and ineffective systems of government in the Muslim countries. However, these opinions are largely based upon misunderstanding and ignorance about the spirit of Islamic teachings. Alon Ben-Meir in one of his article states Islam as one of the main factors for authoritarian rule through out history in the Arab world (Challenges to Democracy in the Arab and Muslim World, p 329). However this premise can be weakened by studying the basic tenets of Islam which advocate against tyrannical and outright authoritarian rule. What transpired in history could not be completely attributed to religion as various other factors such as tribal traditions and conventions have a great impact on the shaping of a particular society. It is this link through which Islam and democracy can be bridged by advocating abolishment of unjust and unfair systems under which people have been usurped in the name of Islam.
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The Islam's views of sovereignty and democracy's alternative view of the same are important so as to understand the essence of both. Democracy being defined as system of government for the people and by the people is akin to Islam's interpretation that every government should work for the welfare of its people. There are no hard or strict guidelines about the manner in which this goal could be achieved. Emphasis is laid upon Ijma and Ijtihad in Islam to solve the problems as required by the needs of specific times. As stated by Al Sulamis in his article, the similarities between shura (the Islamic system of government) and democracy are plenty and offer an encouraging insight into the opportunities that the two systems can provide if blended together in creating an even better and greater system (Democracy in the Arab World: The Islamic Foundation, p 2). It is also argued rightfully in the same article that democracy is predominantly an Islamic system of government as it encompasses all the acceptable standards of freedom, equality of opportunity and justice. The idea is to understand that an Islamic system in its true form and spirit also advocates building of a just, equitable and prosperous society. The role of democracy on the other hand is same with shared objectives and goal. Therefore it is imperative that the misperceptions from both sides should be cleared for the promotion of better systems of government. However, it is very difficult to create a uniform system given the challenges in the form of diversity of opinion and human limitations in controlling the factors affecting the set up of a desirable society. As proposed by Alon Benmeir, investment in education and economic development of societies together with political reforms can pave the way for a successful evolution of the present systems towards a better form and state (Challenges to Democracy in the Arab and Muslim World, p 330,332).
The political set up of governments in Arab countries and the associations that people have with their governments is important in establishing the variables affecting the process of evolution. As analyzed by Moshe Gerschovich, the evolution of existing political systems to bring change is better than imposing democracy through force and removing established governments (Democratization in Morocco: Political transition of a North African Kingdom). Most of the countries in the Arab world have monarchies which are evolving through reforms in order to adapt and meet the requirements of changing times. As Lisa Anderson states that a new breed of young leaders is taking the helm of Arab affairs in its hands and the important fact is that it is cognizant of the challenges and requirements of the modern day (Arab Democracy: Dismal Prospects, p 5). The kind of US relationship with Israel directly affects its ties with the rest of Arab and Muslim World in general. For US to increase its influence in the Arab world such as to win the hearts and minds of the people, it has to redeem itself in the eyes of Arabs. The role that it plays in the resolution of Palestinian conflict in the creation of separate Palestinian and Israeli states and its future strategy regarding Iraq and Afghanistan would have great implications for its image and influence upon the Muslim World in future.
The evolutionary process of introducing reforms related to education, economy and judiciary together with the evolution of political system should be synchronized to bring about speedy and desirable change. This requires acceptance on the part of government as well as the general population. This is possible by creating a favorable perception of democracy in the minds of general populace by presenting it as a true form of government that is commensurate with the Islamic standards. This implies focus on the betterment of education system and research by scholars that aims at proposing a system that embodies the best of shura (the Islamic system of governance) and democracy. This approach leads to eliminating the notion of democracy being imposed or the Islamic system being imposed on one another. The emphasis would be based upon creating a better system of governance.