After the outbreak of the Arab Spring revolutions against oppressive regimes, we have heard a lot of a phrase, and from different people this phrase is: “Arab peoples are not ready for democracy and freedom”. Those who rejoice in this miserable phrase are the tyrannical rulers, and even support its wide spread.
What is democracy?
In short, democracy is the people themselves ruled through agreed means, to choose a person who heads the system that controls and directs the various affairs of country.
Therefore, democracy is a method related to the people’s choice of their ruler, not the governing ideas. The governing ideas, convictions and principles may be religious, secular, materialistic, or anything.
Democracy against tyranny, even if it is in a rule called the Islamic Caliphate.
Therefore, the fight by some Islamists against democracy, under the pretext that it eliminates the rule of Islamic law, is a matter that needs to be thoroughly reviewed.
Democracy in Islam
The succession system in Islam is based on democracy, through consultation, the choice of the people, compromise and pledge of allegiance. This was exactly the system followed in the era of the Rashidun Caliphate. As for the taking the power by force and make it as inheritance, these are things occurred in Islamic history after that, and they are related to the Islamic Sharia. The Islamic jurists developed them as necessary, and then these developments were taken to be as pillars of despotism in Islamic political jurisprudence.
As for the possibility that a lot arises when we talk about democracy clashes with the Sharia, which is the possibility used by the majority of the people will agree to legalize something forbidden in Sharia, it’s a field not related to democracy and the mechanism of governance. Rather, it is related to researching the truth of affiliation with Islam. The group of Muslims whose members agree on the permissibility of something forbidden needs to an Islamic call again, not to dominate by force and to coerce Islamic rulings, especially in the state of weakness that Muslims live today.
If we exclude the conspiracy theory in presenting such objections to democracy to keep the Arab countries under the sway of tyranny, then what is most raised in this subject is nothing more than being an ideological argument in which the arguer is only looking for self-victory. I have written a little bit of that in a blog titled with “Islam, liberalism and Ideology argument”.
Furthermore, the despotic rulers come and support this opinion, and warn from democracy because it contradicts the Sharia according to them. However, the fact says that they are often the most distant from Sharia. Lately they changed their opinion from “the clash of democracy to Islam” to “Arab peoples are not ready for democracy” and some of them added “and do not deserve it!”
Why Arab peoples are not ready for democracy
Firstly, there is no specific stage of political maturity, at which it can be judged that this country is ready for democracy and the other is not. Democracy or freedom must be practiced in order to be realized, not to be judged from outside.
For example; when the mother carries her three-year-old child and prevents him from walking, she fears of an irrational behavior by the child, the child must walk and fall in order to master walking, and the three-year-old child has a natural ability to walk. The same thing in the democracy.
The reason behind why the thirty-year-old Arab child is prevented from walking, and if he walks two steps, he will fall, is prevention the Arab child from practicing the walk, who is preventing him?
Of course, many different answers will be presented, some of them with the aim of distraction, including ignorance, tribalism, extremism, sins, failure to follow the Salafi approach, political Islam, the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdullah Al-Salem, and so on.
However, the main reason that causes most of the problems we are suffering from in Arab and Islamic countries will be abandoned, which is the despotic regimes supported by the West Countries.
The Arab Countries are always accused of being the cause of backwardness, failure, weakness, rivalry, extremism, ignorance and racism, and absolutist regimes are exempt from responsibility of those matters, for example:
A car stuck in the sand, and we brought a driver to move it forward and we push it from the back to get out. However, the driver presses the brakes instead of the gas pedal, turns the wheels to sink more into the sand, and maybe he turns back and we push forward, the car will not come out of course. The reason is not the weakness and laziness of those who push the car. Therefore, the West countries is the one the assigned the conspirator driver behind the steering wheel, in order the car would not get out.
Our current situation, with all its problems, failures and mistakes, is a result of the absence of democracy, not a cause for the absence.
Arab peoples are not ready for democracy, what is the solution?
The promoters of this miserable saying always stop when it is presented, the Arab peoples are not ready for democracy, period.
Well, what do we do after diagnosis, doctor? The doctor is silent and his eyes toward the muscled security staff standing at the door.
If Arab peoples are not ready for democracy, then we must equip it, we must work on that, call for that, bear harm for that, make sacrifices, demand consultation and civil institutions and then constitutional ownership, until we reach full democracy.
We do not have to look admiringly at democratic countries that govern themselves, such as USA. So if the democracy reached our countries, we said: No, it is a little boy, who is less than thirty years old, and it can not walk, Arab peoples are not ready for democracy and freedom and it should stay that way.
Some go further and say: The nature of the Arab or Gulf peoples in particular does not accept only the hereditary monarchy, because the system of the tribe’s sheikhdom is rooted in the Arab conscience.
This is an unfounded statement that fits what La Boétie described in 1530 in his book Slaves by Choice, about the willingness of some to become a slave by choice.
The elected Consultative Assembly of Qatar
In 2004, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar at that time, promised to form an elected Consultative Assembly (Shura Council) in the future. In 2008, the appointed Shura Council adopted to conduct partial legislative elections, so that two-thirds of the members of the Assembly would be elected, and the Emir appoints the remaining third. Then the Emir stated that the Consultative Assembly will be in 2013.
Recently, the current Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, promised an entirely elected Consultative Assembly in October 2021.
These are all steps to the dream of democracy, although they are slow steps, but they are better than doing nothing for many years.
We must expect from now, based on to every democratic experience, that there will be people who exploit the outlets of democracy and freedom for their own benefit and against the goals of democracy and freedom.