Monday, May 08, 2006

Cultural Challenges to Democratic Reform in the Muslim World: the Case of Syria

It took a long time before democracy found support in Muslim societies, and continues to be seen today by many in the Muslim world as an alien political system. With few exceptions, Muslim populations have shown little enthusiasm for democratic reforms, even when political leaders and elites are increasingly willing to advocate such reforms. Most recently, Islamists have joined in calling for democratic reform, but their calls go unheeded by conservative Muslims and the larger public. The reluctance to support democracy stems partially from a cynical outlook toward politics, and a deep feeling that political discourse is being used more to manipulate the public than to serve it. Still, at the roots of this reluctance is a cultural attitude and practices that are at conflict with the very basis of a democratic state, i.e. a state based on the rule of law, equal rights, and respect for social and political diversity.