There May Be Hope For Democracy In Tunisia

The Washington Post posted a story yesterday which updated what is happening in Tunisia after the revolution.

The article opens with this scene:

Upstairs, Ibrahim Amara and his friends gather around the computer to watch YouTube preachers offering a vision of Islam that rejects democracy and elections. “Democracy’s freedom is absolute,” Ibrahim says, “and we don’t accept that. In our religion, freedom is limited to the freedom God gives you.”

Downstairs, Ibrahim’s father, Saleh Amara, explodes in frustration over his son’s new, post-revolutionary passion. Saleh and his wife have gone along with some of their 27-year-old’s new restrictions — okay, they’d stop watching soap operas and “Oprah” on TV, because there was too much sexual content — but Saleh says his son goes too far. Growing the long beard of the pious is fine, though it will probably limit his job opportunities. And if Ibrahim insists that his secular-raised, college-educated wife cover her hair and wear gloves, well, that’s his business. But how can he spurn free elections, the sweetest fruit of Tunisia’s revolution?

That is the problem with balancing democracy with Islam. Islamic governments, if they follow Islamic Law (Sharia Law) are incompatible with democracy. There is a divide in Tunisia as to whether the country will become a western-style democracy or a Muslim theocracy.

The article further states:

In the campaign leading to October’s elections and in the months since, small but violent demonstrations by Salafists have frightened many Tunisians.

Islamist preachers calling for sharia law, a return to polygamy and a reduced role for women do not represent a majority but are making headway, some secular Tunisians worry. At brunch, over spicy tuna salad and brik — Tunisia’s fried phyllo snack — served on Royal Albert china, Cherif tells of a well-educated friend whose mother chastised him for voting for a secular party. “You voted against Allah,” the mother said.

“How do you fight against that?” Cherif asks. “How do you educate people about our mild Tunisian brand of Islam when Islamist parties are telling voters that their path is the only one to paradise?”

There has been hope from the beginning of the ‘Arab Spring‘ for western democracies in the Middle East. Tunisia is the only country where that seems remotely possible. We need to keep in mind that Turkey existed as a western democracy since Ataturk’s reforms in 1924 helped Turkey become a secular nation. Unfortunately in the past few years, the Muslim Brotherhood is taking over the nation and support for Sharia Law has grown. There are still Christian churches in Turkey, but they do not have signs on their buildings–it would not be safe to identify them as churches. I hope that Tunisia can survive as a western-style democracy where all religions are treated equally. Unfortunately, recent events in the Middle East which have strengthened the Muslim Brotherhood will make that difficult.


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