Thus the folly of Arab Spring apologists, who envision a new generation of Muslim rulers, popularly elected and thus — the fable goes — responsive to the needs of their “constituents.” Responsive government, however, is the hallmark of societies in which freedom means self-determinism. In the Muslim Middle East, it is foolish to speak of “constituents.” The ruler’s fidelity is not to the people but to Allah. It is for the people not to dream but to obey, as long as the ruler is faithful to sharia. They don’t enjoy the prerogative of deviating from the path.
“Accommodation,” like “constituents,” is a term that echoes through the Arab Spring. Sharia must be accommodated — given pride of place in the Middle East and growing deference in the West. “Accommodation” turns out to be Arab-Spring for “balanced approach,” the oh-so-reasonable packaging of an idea that is actually perverse.
Almost never do we hear that federal law must accommodate, say, the law of Tennessee. When people’s principles are the same, their legal systems — a reflection of their notions about right and wrong — will mesh easily. When there is a conflict, it is not because of a lack of accommodation; it is because either the federal government or the state government is in error. We don’t accommodate error; we correct it, either in the legislature or in the courts.
Calling for “accommodations” is a polite way of saying that cultural values and the legal systems they create are incompatible. When a culture cedes ground to a different culture’s antithetical principle — when, for example, we are told free speech must “accommodate” sharia blasphemy laws that proscribe negative criticism of Islam — that is not a reasonable compromise. It is a corruption of the good. That is how a culturally confident society sees it.
There is a reason why the Islamic supremacists who run the Organization of Islamic Cooperation insisted in 1990 on having their own “Declaration of Human Rights In Islam.” The purportedly Universal Declaration of Human Rights, written by non-Muslim diplomats after the Second World War, does not work for them. Islamist leaders understood that Western concepts of civil rights and human rights do not jibe with sharia. They wanted their own declaration, reflecting their own very different aspirations.
Neither does “democracy” work for the Islamists on the rise across the Middle East — at least, not as we understand it in the West. For us, democracy is not a process but a way of life, a worldview implying basic assumptions about liberty and equality. To the Islamic supremacist, “Democracy is just the train we board to reach our destination,” as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now Turkey’s prime minister, put it in 1998 when he was the mayor — or, as he referred to himself, the imam — of Istanbul.
The destination Erdogan had in mind is power. Not the empowerment of free people that is the genuine augur of spring. The power of the “Arab Spring” is the imposition of perfect slavery.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and the executive director of the Philadelphia Freedom Center. He is the author, most recently, of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, which is published by Encounter Books.