Prompted by last Friday’s bombings in northern India (which killed 13 and wounded at least 80), Sadanand Dhume has a valuable op-ed in today’s WSJ (subscription req’d) about the appeasement of radical Islam that is typical in today’s democratic societies. He concludes:
India’s experience offers important lessons to other democracies struggling to integrate large Muslim populations. It highlights the folly of attempting to exempt Muslims from universal norms regarding women’s rights, freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry. It reveals that democracy alone — when detached from bedrock democratic principles — offers no antidote to radical Islamic fervor.
ME: This has been one of my main complaints about the Democracy Project. The main cause of Islamic radicalism is Islamic doctrine, not lack of democracy. The doctrine at issue does not make all or even most Muslims into radicals; but as long as it is not reformed, it will always make some percentage of them radicals (in many places, a larger percentage than we like to acknowledge). Democracy — even real democracy — will not defeat radicalism. And while democracy has many virtues, it also creates the conditions in which Islamic radicalism can flourish in a way it cannot in authoritarian regimes. For example, my infamous defendant, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, settled in the United States because it was easier for him to operate (i.e., preach, plan, recruit and raise money) here than it was in his native Egypt; the 9/11 attacks were planned in Hamburg, Madrid, San Diego, Sarasota, Phoenix, Fairfield, etc.
In any event, what makes western democracy valuable are its specific bedrock principles of liberty and equality, some of which Dhume alludes to: freedom of conscience (and, relatedly, no state establishment of religion), freedom of the governed to legislate (regardless of the dictates of any religious creed), equality of men and women, equality Muslims and non-Muslims, equal treatment of all under the law, no separate legal systems based on race, ethnicity, religion, etc. The Democracy Project would be far more worthwhile if, instead of talking about “democracy,” we focused on how countries were doing on these specific metrics. Otherwise, just as everyone is a “moderate,” soon everyplace will be a “democracy” — notwithstanding that there is little moderation or democracy in evidence.
Which is to say, I’m with Stanley Kurtz.