Is the Muslim world ready for democracy?

If we are to believe, as our cowboy-in-chief has repeatedly stated, that all people have a desire to be free, then the most recent Muslim tantrums surely must be a random occurrence. Recently, the Muslim community exploded in anger after learning a Danish newspaper had published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed back in September.

The caricatures depict, among other things, Mohammed wearing a turban and a bomb, the clear implication being that many Muslims use Islam as a means to promote and commit acts of violence against others. A people who are ready for democracy surely wouldn’t overreact to something like that, would they?

“‘We will not accept less than severing the heads of those responsible,” one Muslim cleric said in a Feb. 3 New York Times piece titled “Tens of Thousands Protest Cartoon in Gaza.” “The solution is the slaughter of those who harmed Islam and the Prophet,” said a spokesman for a militant Lebanese group.

Sounds like just the kind of clear-thinking mindsets that would flourish in a democracy. Armed mobs rioted, stormed embassies, and are now organizing a boycott of Danish goods.

This is not the first incident of lunacy in the Muslim world, as there have been many. In 1989, a fatwa was issued ordering Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie for blasphemy in his book, The Satanic Verses. In 2004, a Dutch filmmaker was publicly killed for making a film detailing the violence perpetrated against Muslim women by Muslim men; his body was left with a note of warning stabbed deep in his chest with a knife. Last year, a London museum refused to allow the exhibition of a sculpture for fear it would offend Muslims after the bombings in July. And here in the United States, as a result of similar political cowardice, it’s almost illegal to even suggest that Middle Easterners be scrutinized more closely in airports simply because they tend to fly planes into buildings more frequently than non-Middle Easterners.

You know, for all the beheading, stoning and flag-burning they do, Muslims are an awfully sensitive people.

I’m not denying that individuals do have a desire to be free; it is human nature to want to live without constraints. But freedom means different things to different people. And when we say “freedom,” what we really mean is “power.” For many of these Muslims, freedom means the power to keep women covered from head to toe in burqas. Or it could mean the effort to spread Islam across the globe by any means necessary. Regardless, if a political caricature elicits this type of insanity amongst people in the region, they are certainly not ready for anything resembling a democracy, which begs the question of why we’re trying to impose it in the first place. No constitution the United States backs will ever be more important to them than the Koran.

Unfortunately, until clear-thinking Muslims outnumber the radicals within, true democracy in the Middle East will just have to wait. I’m not holding my breath.

Information obtained from BBC News and Reuters was used in this piece.

Moises Jacobs III is a senior majoring in print journalism and English. He can be contacted at m.jacobs3@umiami.edu.

February 17, 2006


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