A Kinder, Gentler Islamist

Michael Totten has an absolutely fascinating article on finding a group of Islamists who don’t believe that Islam and democracy are fundamental incompatible. I’m not so sure I’d define the Kurdish Islamic Union as true Islamists (I define the term “Islamist” as a follower of Sayyid Qutb’s rejectionism, just as a true Christian fundamentalist would be a follower of The Fundamentals), but Totten’s basic point is true.

As he puts it:

If all the world’s Islamists were like these mellow Kurdish Islamists there would be no Terror War and there would be no talk of any clash of civilizations. It’s no accident, nor is it merely a convenience, that the Kurds of Iraq are American allies.

I quite firmly believe that the future of Islam will be a lot more like the Kurdish Islamists than it will be like the Salafis or the Wahhabists. The rejectionism of Sayyid Qutb has taken such hold because of the authoritarian regimes of the Middle East drive young Muslims towards the only place where they can escape the state – and that happens to be into the hands of fundamentalist imams. But slowly, and surely, the old autocracy of the Middle East is changing, and it is changing everywhere. The removal of Saddam Hussein had a major effect on this, but ultimately it won’t be the United States who brings democracy to the Middle East, it will be the people of the Middle East who are sick and tired of being mired in an explosive mix of autocracy on one side and fundamentalism on the other.

Sooner or later, the entire edifice will come crashing down. The question is whether it will do so violently (as it is in Iraq) or somewhat peacefully (as in Lebanon). Given that the Middle East is still a critically important region because of its massive oil wealth, everyone has a vested interest in making that transition as painless as possible. Like it or not, our national security is tied in a very direct way to the future of democratization in the Middle East, and if it fails the consequences will be nothing but disastrous.

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