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 agosto 2020 


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After the end of the Cold War and the dismantling of the Soviet Union, democracy entered the lives of peoples around the world who had previously been deprived of it. For some, like the Eastern Europeans, it was an apt substitute for the previous totalitarian regimes, and they hastened to adopt it. For others, like the Arabs, it was a symbol and a system they had long sought to implement. Indeed, in the Arab world, politicians ceaselessly talk about democracy; the intelligentsia discuss it, journalists and thinkers write about it, and peoples sing its praises. It is the safety raft that will finally lead Arabs away from the pain and backwardness in their lives. In the past 15 years, thousands of articles have been written, hundreds of books published and innumerable conferences and workshops organized to study and discuss democracy yet always without any serious outcome. So, where is the problem? Why was it so easy for Eastern Europe to apply democracy, while we Arabs still talk about it but lack the courage to do more? The call for democracy is a call for change, and change, by its nature, engenders opposition from the forces of the status quo. In Eastern Europe, once the status quo suddenly crumbled, democracy filled the vacuum without encountering resistance. In the Arab world, however, those behind the status quo are also those tightly holding onto power. They regard democracy either as a wake-up call for regimes to take the initiative and introduce top-down reforms; or as a topic best lost in endless debate between reformists and those wanting to preserve the status quo. In either case, the forces of reform rely on the assumption that the powers responsible for the status quo will in due course introduce democratic reform once they become convinced that it will work in their favor. This assumption was further reinforced when the US, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, saw its call for democracy in the Arab world as a useful tool in the fight against terrorism. However, this development did not add weight to reformist demands. To date no Arab regime has taken serious steps toward democracy, except for superficial changes and minor electoral reforms, and this for two fundamental reasons: first, because the US call for democratic reform coincided with another call for the reform of school curricula, mainly religious curricula. This gave the rulers in some states a powerful tool against democracy by claiming its introduction would harm religion. A second reason is that the forces of the status quo in Arab states confuse two very different concepts: democracy and liberalization. The West has reached the stage of liberal democracy, but what the Arabs need is introduction of the most basic principles of democracy power through peaceful means, the rule of law, political participation, the absence of alienation by those outside power, pluralism, freedom of expression and assembly, equality before the law and accountability. These in no way contradict prevalent Arab religious or cultural beliefs. The West adopted democracy before liberalism, which emerged naturally as a result of economic, social and cultural development, and only after democratic principles had become entrenched. Yet the powers behind the status quo in the Arab world exploit the confusion between democracy and liberalism to further their own agendas, by turning their peoples against democracy. Complicating matters, as members of the UN the Arab countries are signatories to international conventions and agreements that deal with human rights, including the rights of women and children. These conventions, formulated after the establishment of the UN, were the result of a liberalism embraced by the West before and after World War II. Therefore, when the Arab countries signed on to them, their social infrastructures had not developed along similar lines to those in Western countries, where liberalism had become an integral part of national culture. This goes a long was toward explaining why several Arab countries do not abide by the terms of these conventions, though they are signatories to them. In conversations I had with members of delegations from Western countries and from international organizations participating in the Regional Conference on Human Rights and Democracy, held in Sanaa, Yemen, on Jan. 10-12, it became clear to me that they fell into two schools of thought on how to urge the Arabs to democratize: The first school believed that Arab states must be made to embrace democracy for its own sake; the second believed in urging them to adopt democracy as a guarantee against eventual Islamist majorities in their parliaments. I shared my honest opinion about the matter, namely that the second option would only rally a majority of Arabs against democracy, because, employed in such a way, it would be regarded as contrary to social liberalism. On the other hand, proponents of the first school would genuinely assist the Arabs in adopting democracy, even if Islamists made inroads into Parliament, since sharing power with Islamists in a democratic order would help them adapt and learn how to live within a pluralistic and participatory system as in Yemen, Jordan and Turkey. If this is prevented, however, what would ensue is the forced alienation of some groups from power and the institutionalization of this process. If Islamists are today the targets of such alienation, other groups will join them in due course. Alienation is the antithesis of participation, and there is no democracy with alienation. Adnan Abu Odeh, a former Jordanian ambassador, information minister and chief of the Royal Court, wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR

Altri articoli su:
[ Islam e democrazia ] [ Corte Penale Internazionale e Tribunale Penale Internazionale ] [ ONU e OMD ] [ Conferenza di Sana'a ] [ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ]

Comunicati su:
[ Islam e democrazia ] [ Corte Penale Internazionale e Tribunale Penale Internazionale ] [ ONU e OMD ] [ Conferenza di Sana'a ] [ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ]

Interventi su:
[ Islam e democrazia ] [ Corte Penale Internazionale e Tribunale Penale Internazionale ] [ ONU e OMD ] [ Conferenza di Sana'a ] [ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ]

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