Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The Muslim Middle East: Is There a Democratic Option?

The Muslim Middle East: Is There a Democratic Option?


American counterterrorism strategy defines as “moderate” or “mainstream” any Muslim who does not support the jihadi extremists, which sets the bar very low and does not consider the question of how widespread such support actually might be. Unfortunately, Al Qaeda is not the lunatic fringe of Sunni Islam—it is the fanatic core of Sunni Islam, and shares much of its ideology with other organized Islamic groups and, for that matter, much of the Muslim faithful. “Moderate” Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, are moderate only in relative terms, are mostly antidemocratic, and are more correctly considered nonviolent enemies of the U.S. This being the case, a democratic opening in the Muslim Middle East is all too likely to bring to power profoundly antidemocratic groups that are virulently and possibly violently hostile to the U.S. A possible alternative strategy is one stressing good government, with gradual democratization as societies decompress.

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