by Maksud Djavadov (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 39, No. 7, Ramadan, 1431)
Applying secular perspectives, derived from the Western notion of party politics, on measuring the power of the Islamic movement will never produce accurate results. Just like applying secular methods of pure party politics will never bring a desired result for an Islamic movement.
If free and fair elections were held today in Muslim majority countries, Islamic organizations/parties would dominate these elections. This eventuality on the horizon is what the US and its NATO allies use to justify their unilateral support for corrupt and authoritarian regimes in the Muslim world. The strategy of portraying Islamic representatives as terrorists, extremists or haters of liberal values has worked to a certain degree. It provided a justification to the average US and EU citizens, who were constantly misinformed of the true nature of the Islamic movements, to be fearful of Islamic governments and Muslims in general. However, as more and more people become better informed of the situation in the Muslim world and about the agenda of the genuine Islamic organizations, the above presented hypothesis will no longer hold any clout amongst citizens of the Western world. The average US and EU citizens have begun objecting to their governments expenditures on some cruel puppet in a distant land.
Therefore, the imperialist powers are in the process of developing a new “intellectual” theory through which they can justify their support for despicable regimes in the Muslim world. This new theory is often developed in the West through the help of the liberal-center, which is often unaware of the political consequences of its views. One of these new theories was published in the April 2010 edition of the Journal of Democracy which is a publication of the neocon “NGO” the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
The research report under the title “Do Muslims Vote Islamic?” reached the following four conclusions: 1) electoral participation by Islamic parties is far from unusual; 2) the electoral performance of Islamic parties has been generally unimpressive; 3) in those Muslim-majority countries where elections were freest Islamic parties performed worse; and 4) Islamic parties have (relative to their starting point) liberalized their stances significantly over the past several decades.
In order to expose the political agenda behind these conclusions the defects in the assumptions which led to them need to be examined and exposed.
The first two conclusions
The primary false assumption of the first two conclusions is: the report assumes that “…many Muslims have had the opportunity to vote for Islamic parties.” What goes counter to this false assumption is a legitimate question. What happens when Muslims actually do vote for an Islamic movement? The general results are of three kinds. The first scenario — recall the result in Algeria — is where the Western backed military junta resorts to massacres and annuls the voting result. In the second scenario — Palestine’s election of Hamas in a landslide victory — the entire global establishment goes to war against an Islamic movement using the media, economic and military means. The third scenario — for example, the situation in Tajikistan — is where the regime draws the movement into a political process, which is completely controlled by the authoritarian regime, and slowly squeezes it through so-called constitutional amendments and other administrative labyrinth, thereby making it next to impossible for the elected Islamic representatives to function adequately.
Therefore, as an objection to the first conclusion one can state that even though many Muslims did have the opportunity to vote for Islamic organizations, most did not because they knew their vote would be disregarded, but not because they did not support the Islamic organizations/parties.
Most Muslims do not participate in the so called “elections” where the regime will never fully respect their vote. The research report of the Journal of Democracy itself states that “…in Pakistan, for example, 62 percent of the adult population believed in 2001 that good government …should implement only the laws of the shari‘a. In Bangladesh, 44% of respondents said the same. Yet few voters supported the Islamic parties that claimed to share this goal. In Egypt, 80% of respondents favored implementation of the shari‘a in a 2000 survey; that same year, only a quarter of the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidates won election to parliament.”
Based on this data the logical counter argument to conclusions one and two is that the people in Egypt, Bangladesh and Pakistan understand that even if the overwhelming majority of the people vote for an Islamic organization it will never be allowed to take power. The only reason why the authoritarian regimes such as in Egypt and Tunisia hold elections is to legitimize themselves. Through their non-participation in a fake electoral process the Muslim masses refuse to legitimize the system imposed by Western governments. The highest third party estimates of voter turnout in the parliamentary elections of 2005 in Egypt were between 22–25%.
It would be idiotic to assume that even if 50% of the population votes for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the ruling regime will share power with them at an equivalent level. Therefore, many voters in Egypt make the “most” out of the “elections” and literally sell their vote. In the Parliamentary Election Preliminary Report of December 2005 the Independent Committee on Election Monitoring (ICEM) reported that it costs anywhere between 20 and 500 Egyptian pounds to purchase a vote.
Therefore, the “election” results in an authoritarian atmosphere cannot be used as a measurement of the popularity of an Islamic movement. This leads us to the political agenda behind conclusions one and two: we the free and democratic West are not preventing the Islamic movements to come to power; they are unpopular by themselves because the people do not support them; they could never come to power anyway. This gives the imperialist governments of the West more political space for justifying their support for autocratic regimes in the Muslim world. These two new theories are more sophisticated than the previous theory which claimed that if it’s not Mubarak then its Bin Laden. The first two conclusions advocated in the Journal of Democracy give more leeway to the Western governments in front of their domestic audience and the ill-informed global public.
The last two conclusions
Conclusion three of the report runs as a total contradiction to the evidences in the report itself. In an analysis leading up to conclusion three the report states that “…in a number of countries with semi-free elections, Islamic parties run candidates only in a limited number of districts out of fear that running in more will make the government nervous and lead to stepped-up repression. Just before the 2003 voting in Jordan, for example, a leader in the Islamic movement noted that his party had assured the palace that they did not seek to gain a majority in the upcoming elections.” This fact shows that if elections appear to be “freer” in some of the US backed systems, they are nowhere near to being actually free. Therefore, classifying them as being “freer” is a political sham.
This brings us to the political agenda behind conclusion three: promoting the idea that Islam and freedom cannot coexist. It attempts to create an impression which would lead to an environment where the elimination of Islamic socio-political forces would be regarded as a natural course towards “freedom.” This conclusion tries to promote a more sophisticated form of suppressing Islamic forces through “free” elections that would choke out the Islamic organizations through a fake political process like in Tajikistan and Pakistan.
Conclusion four assumes that just because Islamic movements began addressing contemporary issues they have become more westernized. The research report states that “among Islamic parties that have joined national elections, there has been a trend toward the adoption of more liberal electoral platforms… recent platforms are more likely to mention democracy, the rights of women, and the rights of minorities… On the issue of democracy, three parties’ switched — and all moved toward offering secular justifications for democracy.” This assumption is a double edged sword that tries to discredit and then draw the Islamic movement into a dull and demagogic polemic.
The political agenda behind conclusion four is to present Islam and the Islamic organizations as not being able to address the issues of human rights, women’s rights, minority rights and so on without assistance from secular western ideology. It tries to create an image of Islam as though it is not concerned about the rights of others. However, this is only one side of this conclusion. The second agenda behind it is that it tries to tie the idea of being progressive and forward thinking to being secular and Western. It attempts to show that in order to be considerate of others rights and become civilized one has to adopt Western concepts.
The overall distortion of the research report under the title “Do Muslims Vote Islamic?” is that it attempts to study the power of the Islamic movement through the perspective of party politics. It is enough to note that in Iraq Ayatollah Sayed Sistani is not a member of any political party, but he has more authority, power and influence then all Iraqi secular parties put together. A similar statement would also apply to Khalid Mash‘al who while being the head of a movement in Palestine enjoys more popular support in the wider Arab world then any US-backed ruler in the region. Therefore, applying secular perspectives, derived from the Western notion of party politics, on measuring the power of the Islamic movement will never produce accurate results. Just like applying secular methods of pure party politics will never bring a desired result for an Islamic movement.