Ikhwanweb :: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website

Thu93 2020

Last update18:06 PM GMT

Back to Homepage
Font Size : 12 point 14 point 16 point 18 point
:: Issues > Activites
Islamist Govts Not the Enemy, Say Mideast Experts
Islamist Govts Not the Enemy, Say Mideast Experts
Scores of Middle East and democracy experts released an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday asking him to focus more of his foreign policy efforts at making reforms in the region, including boosting human rights.
Monday, April 13,2009 13:05
by Ali Gharib AxisOfLogic.com

Scores of Middle East and democracy experts released an open letter to U.S. President  Barack Obama Tuesday asking him to focus more of his foreign policy efforts at making  reforms in the region, including boosting human rights.

Signed by over 120 academics, scholars, experts and others, the letter said that  previous U.S. policy had been "misguided" and "produced a region increasingly  tormented by rampant corruption, extremism, and instability."

The signatories, ranging from liberal Democrats to neoconservatives, called for the  Obama administration to "encourage political reform not through wars, threats, or  imposition, but through peaceful policies that reward governments that take active  and measurable steps towards genuine democratic reforms."

In doing so, the letter said the U.S. should end its "fear of Islamist parties coming  to power" because most of them are "nonviolent and respect the democratic process."

Citing Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the group said "the U.S. should not hesitate  to speak out in condemnation when opposition activists are unjustly imprisoned."

The letter was coordinated by Radwan Masmoudi of the Centre for the Study of Islam  and Democracy; Shadi Hamid of the Project on Middle East Democracy; Geneive Abdo of  the Century Foundation; Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International  Peace; Stanford University professor Larry Diamond; and Freedom House"s Jennifer  Windsor.

The conventional wisdom in Washington is that Obama has scaled back the lofty  rhetoric delivered by his predecessor, George W. Bush, about "promoting democracy"  across the globe, albeit in a style that many critics charge was selective and  hypocritical.

While Bush spoke glowingly of elections in Iraq, for example, he rallied forces  against an elected government in the Palestinian Authority containing the unpalatable  Hamas, and, in the name of stability, maintained relations with authoritarian  dictators like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

What the signatories are asking for is not a "continuation" of Bush policies, but  instead "a new initiative" for democracy in the Middle East, said Geneive Abdo, a  former journalist and fellow at the Century Foundation, at a press briefing launching  the letter.

Abdo, an expert on Islamic studies, told a packed room of reporters at the National  Press Club Tuesday that the repressive political situation in the region should not  be seen as a battle between Islamism and authoritarianism.

She pointed out that opening up the political process will force all parties - not  just Islamists - to be "more accountable to their electorate and republics."

Citing specifically examples in Turkey, Indonesia, and Morocco, the letter said that,  despite disagreement with some illiberal Islamist viewpoints, "the right to  participate in reasonably credible and open elections has moderated Islamist parties  and enhanced their commitment to democratic norms."

"There is no system I know where Islamists put in power by democracy have cancelled  elections," said Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian democracy activist, as he rose from  a chair provided for him on the dais, apologising for his bad legs due to torture he  received in prison.

But embracing Islamists as legitimate political actors and democratic forces will  have far-reaching goals for U.S. policy - from the commonly named case of talking  with a potential unity government in Palestine containing Hamas to negotiating with  other religious groups like relatively moderate elements of the Taliban in Pakistan  and Afghanistan.

Stanford University professor Larry Diamond said that in retrospect, those decisions  aren"t always as difficult as they seem. At the press briefing, he looked to the  example of the Sahwa, or Awakening movement, in Iraq, which co-opted former Sunni  insurgents.

The members of the Sahwa, said Diamond, had almost certainly committed horrific acts  against the U.S. and its allies, including possible terrorism, but the move to  incorporate them is widely seen as having drastically improved security and stability  there.

What"s clear from the letter and press conference, however, is that not making  mention of human rights and democracy - or more strikingly, playing down expectations  for them, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did on a recent trip to China - is  unacceptable for U.S. goals around the globe.

"This is urgently in the American national interest," said Diamond, echoing the  common criticism that repealing a predecessor"s policy is not enough. "We don"t have  a policy now. Simply rejecting what Bush did is not a policy."

Diamond suggested that if the administration was serious about promoting democracy,  it would begin crafting country-by-country policies.

At the press briefing, the signatories on hand said that, as well as diplomatic  measures, so far absent in Clinton"s recent trips through Asia and the Middle East,  economic measures could be taken to pressure for reform.

The groups suggested making economic aid conditional upon democratic and human rights  reform - a tack that is not unprecedented. But Michelle Dunne, an expert on Arab  politics, said that such pressures would need to be undertaken delicately without  being too "blunt."

Dunne also cautioned against "picking players" and said that the whole focus on  democracy was that the people of nations needed to choose their representatives for themselves.

The strength of the letter, said Diamond, was that it was not only a bipartisan effort, but more importantly, the signatories cut across ideological lines.

The Source

Posted in Activites , Human Rights  
Related Articles
El-Katatny In Beirut Discusses Post-Islamist Political Participation
Sultani to Ikhwanweb: Ending Islamists-Regime Clash Through Expanding Margin of Agreement, Dialogue
Egypt Bans Islamist Reporter From Medical Travel
To Engage or Disengage...That is the Question?
Anxiety And Engagement
Democracy and the Muslim world: the “post-Islamist” turn
U.S.: Islamist Govts Not the Enemy, Say Mideast Experts
Islamist-Leftist Cooperation in the Arab World
Al Baradie’s Call to the Government to Engage MB
Violent Islamists vs. Non-Violent Islamists
When Islamists Wield Power
Islamist setbacks prompt strategic rethink
MB Bloc, World Islamist MPs Denounce Duweik’s Prison Sentence
Islamists in Politics: The Dynamics of Participation
Democracy ‘normalizes’ Islamists?
Islamists at the Gate, But It’s Okay
The Islamist Dilemma
Resolving America’s Islamist Dilemma:Lessons from South and Southeast Asia
Why Does Islamists’ Dialog With The West Stumble?
Islamist Parties and Democracy: Going Back to the Origins
What Moderate Islamists Expect from Obama?
Islamists’ Rise Could Benefit Women’s Rights
Contemporary Islamists in the Middle East
Arab democracy needs ‘Islamist revision’
’Islamists edge towards democracy’
Islamist Parties and Democracy: Three Kinds of Movements
Reuters: Egypt’s Islamists Sees Election Setback in 2010
Mauritania Islamists: Military Coup Threatens the Country’s Stability
Party Leader Says Islamist Trend is Fact in Mauritania, Other Countries
Islamists gain from Mideast turmoil and democratic deficit
Arab Islamists, their internal democracy
Reform between Islamists, Secularists
Turkish Islamist Intellectuals at Left-Leaning Crossroads
The West and the Islamists
POMED Notes: Islamist Parties and Democracy
The Islamist Conundrum
EVENT on "Islamist Parties and Democracy"
The Muslim Brotherhood is Pro-Dialogue, Engagement of Women and Copts : Habib
Experts Urge U.S. to Talk with Islamist Movements to Encourage Democratic Trends
Experts Urge U.S. to Talk with Islamist Movements to Encourage Democratic Trends
US/INTERNATIONAL: Dialogue with Islamists
Islamists win seats in Kuwait Parliamentary poll
Why Islamists Don’t Win Elections
Political Islam and Democracy - What do Islamists and Islamic Movements want?
Islamist Pragmatists Ripe for Engagement?
U.S. engages Muslim Brotherhood despite Rice
Engaged to Hamas
To Engage or Not to Engage?
We Must Engage With Moderate Muslims
Political Islam: Ready for Engagement?
Engagement or Quarantine: How to Deal with the Islamist Advance
View from Dubai: Why the West must engage Islamists