Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
The Hypocrisy of Capitalist Democracy
By Ramzy Baroud
ccun.org, December 27, 2009
The Hypocrisy of Al-Demoqratia
So this is how democracy works?
In 2004, France banned headscarves and school principals chased after
young "defiant" Muslim girls who continued to cover their heads in school.
Now, following a national referendum, Switzerland has banned the
construction of minarets, because minarets also somehow symbolize
oppression. Thanks to the dedicated action of the far-right Swiss People's
Party, the Alpine skies will be free from the snaking menace, which would
spread intolerance and taint the splendor of Swiss architecture.
In between these two peculiar events, the targeting of Muslims in Western
countries and the subjugation of entire Muslim nations all over the world
has never ceased. Not for a day.
Moreover, the collective
targeting of small or large Muslim communities in Western countries, and
the deliberate abuse and degradation of Muslim individuals and Islamic
symbols (from the Holy Koran to the Prophet Mohammed) has also never
Bizarrely, most of these actions have been done through
"democratic" channels and justified in the name of democracy, on the basis
of upholding the principles of secularism and Western values.
Many thoughts come to mind here; all unreservedly angry.
remember when the word "democracy" used to resonate so loudly among Arabs
and Muslims around the world. The more they were denied it, the more they
yearned for it. University campuses in Cairo, Gaza and Karachi took their
student union elections so very seriously. Innocent blood was spilled in
clashes around campuses as students desperately tried to express their
right to vote, to speak out and to assemble.
Those were the days,
when al-demoqratia, Arabic for democracy, was the buzzword in the Middle
East and beyond. Even Palestinian political prisoners held their
elections, ever so faithfully, surrounded by highly fortified towers and
under the deriding gaze of armed men in the unforgiving heat of the Naqab
Arab and Muslim masses were keen on democracy to the
extent that there was a near consensus that democracy, although a Western
conception, could be distinguished from the many ills invited by Western
interventions, imperialism and wars that scarred and continued to impair
the collective Muslim psyche.
An entire school of Muslim thought
was in fact established around the concept that democracy and Islam are
very much compatible. Such a notion goes back to Egypt's Azharite scholar
Rifa'a al-Tahtawi, who argued in the first half of the 19th century that
the principles of European modernity were compatible with Islam.
"Al-Tahtawi's work influenced the philosopher Muhammad Abduh [1849-1905],
another Azharite who is often described as the founder of Islamic
modernism, which is captured in his statement that in Europe he found
Islam without Muslims, while in Egypt he found Muslims without Islam,"
wrote German anthropologist, Frank Fanselow.
If one sets his
prejudices aside to ponder this for a moment, one would realize the
intellectual valor it takes to consider and even embrace commonalities
with the very powers that have instilled so much harm and fear.
Even in their darkest, least proud moments, Muslim intellectuals and
nations displayed impressive open-mindedness. They are hardly ever
credited for that.
More recently, in Egypt, people tried hard to
vote, in the face of beatings, public humiliation and imprisonment. In
Palestine in 2006 the price was even higher - starvation. Gaza continues
to endure under a medieval Israeli siege, ultimately because of an
Muslim communities in the West have long been
considered the luckiest; after all, they live in the abodes of democracy.
They drink from the fountain of rights and freedoms that never runs dry.
However, these idealized assumptions missed the fact that Western
democracy was conditional. And unconditional democracy can only be a
Much has been said to explain the West's faltering on its
own commitment to democracy. No, the tragedy of September 11, 2001, is
hardly the defining moment that created the growing chasm that made the
West fearful of Islam. Despite all that has taken place since then - the
constant spewing out of right-wing hatred, evangelical fanatic preaching
and all the rest - America is still more tolerant than Europe. Nor was the
growing anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe a response in solidarity to
Honestly, the French are not fond of Americans,
nor are the Germans necessarily that passionate about the Swiss. But this
didn't stop a German Christian Democratic state interior minister, Volker
Bouffier, from making a "recommendation" to Muslim communities in his own
country: "Naturally the Muslims in Germany have a right to build mosques.
But they should make sure not to overwhelm the German population with
How do you overwhelm people with minarets? Is this a
post-post-post-modernistic logic that we are yet to be informed of?
There are only four minarets in the entire country of Switzerland, a
country with a population of approximately 7.6 million people. How
overwhelming can that be? And aren't religious freedom and the freedom of
collective and individual expression basic rights guaranteed by democratic
But this is hardly about a 4.8-meter tall minaret in the
northern Swiss town of Langenthal. It's about the fact that the one who
suggested the structure is a Muslim furniture salesman by the name of
Mutalip Karaademi. He didn't know, of course, that his modest idea of
adding a minaret to the community's mosque would generate a nationwide
referendum, and an international "controversy".
Karaademi was not
trying to "Islamificate" the Swiss. He just wanted his community to have a
place for worship (as opposed to the unused paint factory it currently
uses for prayer), to be able to express its collective identity without
fear. Ironically enough, the Muslim community in Langenthal is mostly
Albanians, refugees who fled Kosovo seeking escape and deliverance.
What a strange paradox: Muslims escaping to the West, physically and
figuratively, only to find double standards, self-negation and, at times,
For now, however, a new consensus is forming:
democracy can be invoked and used against Muslims only, and not for
Muslims. It can be manipulated to deny them their identity in Europe and
their freedom in Palestine, to ensure their subjugation in Iraq and in
Afghanistan, and to meddle in their internal affairs everywhere else.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net)
is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been
published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world.
His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a
People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London), and his forthcoming book is My
Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story. (Pluto Press, London),
now available for pre-orders on Amazon.com.