by Salim Mansur
Arab despots are doomed, to be overthrown and hanged or shot, as were Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi.
They have had their moment on history’s stage and, almost without exception, they have been deserving of utmost contempt.
Their exit does not, however, mean an end to some variation of authoritarian rule that will remain tyrannical for non-Muslim minorities, women, dissidents and others deemed unfit to be part of the intimidated Muslim majority.
Authoritarian rule in the name of Islam is the legacy of Arab-Muslim history. There is a tradition from the early centuries of Islam which decrees a day of strife is worse than
60 years of tyranny.
The religious authorities in Muslim countries armed with this spurious tradition are ever ready to sanction tyranny and repress freedom. Hence, among Arabs and Muslims, the worst of tyrants are frequently men in religious garb, preaching their bigotry from the sanctity of mosques and legitimizing their cruelty in Allah’s name. This is what occurred in Iran in 1979 when Iranian nationalists, supported by religious authorities, painted the Shah of Iran as a monster supported by the U.S. and drove him out.
If the Shah had been as much of a monster as he was made out to be by his opponents, he would have acted as the Chinese communists did in 1989 when they set tanks against students rallying for freedom in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Four months after Iraq was liberated in April 2003, a visitor from Iran, Seyyed Hussein Khomeini, arrived in Shiite Islam’s holy city of Najaf.
The younger Khomeini was Ayatollah Khomeini’s grandson. In Iraq, he talked about the monstrosity of Iran’s religious rule bequeathed by his grandfather. Hussein Khomeini warned Iraqis against following Iran’s example, and he told them how Iranians fervently longed for freedom.
“If it comes from inside,” Hussein Khomeini announced, “they will welcome it, but if it was necessary for it to come from abroad, especially from the United States, people will accept it. I as an Iranian would accept it.”
In my column last week, I observed that freedom as a “foreigner’s gift” breeds resentment and ingratitude. The shoe thrown at George W. Bush in Baghdad by an Iraqi journalist was very revealing about Arab and Muslim temperament. The worst display of Arab sickness, however, was the extent to which Iraqis descended into the barbarity of sectarian violence after freedom was brought to them, instead of seizing upon the opportunity to build a prosperous society. Egyptians have gone forward — not surprisingly after overthrowing a dictator — in overwhelming numbers to vote for the sort of religious-based authoritarian rule from which Iranians wish to escape. Syrians predictably will follow Egyptians when they have their turn after Bashar al-Assad is overthrown.
The West needs to understand the present tumult in the Arab-Muslim world is part of an immensely complex historical convulsion. Only after Muslims have drunk in full measure from the poisoned tumbler of Islamism will they eventually learn with sufficient humility what freedom means and democracy requires. Since the West cannot fast-forward history for Muslims, it should decide with wisdom and prudence to leave the Arab-Muslim world to find its own path towards a decent future.
Categories: Contributor Columns