August 29, 2011
The Emergence of Non-Jeffersonian Democracy in the MENA Region
BBC News reports that Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the head of Egypt's National Transition Council (NTC) has announced the NTC goal to create a modern democratic government influenced by the teachings and example of Islam's founding religious and political leader, Mohammed:
"In his first speech since moving to the capital from the NTC stronghold of Benghazi, Mr Jalil told some 10,000 supporters to avoid retribution attacks, adding that Libya's new leaders would not accept any extremist ideology.
"We are a Muslim nation, with a moderate Islam, and we will maintain that. You are with us and support us - you are our weapon against whoever tries to hijack the revolution," he said.
Mr Jalil, who served as Col Gaddafi's justice minister before joining the rebels when the uprising started, said women would play an active role in the new Libya, and thanked a number of nations - including France and Britain - for supporting the NTC.
But he also warned against secularism, envisaging a state "where sharia [Islamic law] is the main source for legislation".
His words, broadcast live on television, were met with rapturous applause, as fireworks illuminated the Tripoli waterfront."
Americans need to support and respect such movements toward democracy as long as they allow moderate and modern interpretations of sharia to compete for public support. Because Islam's founding father was a political and religious figure -- and he formalized many principles of governance and religion in the same moments -- it is unrealistic to think that endogenous self-determination movements in overwhelmingly Muslim countries will not be suffused with Islamic values and narratives.
But many of Mohammed's principles -- like political leaders' responsibilities to their constituents and the insistence on respect for minorities -- align easily with the democracy of the European Enlightenment. Others are less compatible, but open to interpretation and contestation and likely to modernize with the economies of the region. Now is a time for the West to wish the best to Libyans, show friendship, and support movements toward democracy and increased individual freedoms.