This book can help in showing the fact that the Islamic is not both static and dynamic, but it is dynamic and complex religion. This book can be of great help to any person who is interested in knowing more about democracy in the Middle East. This paper examines how Salame has managed to present the concept of democracy in the Middle East.
The idea of political liberalization and that of democracy have emerged to be the central concepts in political debates both within and beyond the Middle East. There is a rise on the number of people who are focusing on the advantages of democratic practice in several parts of the world, coupled with the rise of economic liberalism. Due to these there are signs that, the end results will be political pluralism. The existence of the authoritarian regimes especially in the middle and the fragility that is accompanied with the experiments that are exhibited with democracy brings about the old question on whether the concepts of Islam and democracy can be reconciled. In the book Democracy with Democrats Salame has to presented a variety of essays that are connected with the studies that have been done by a group of renowned scholars on the issues of political, sociological and economic impacts on democracy in relation to the Islam and the growth of the Islam prevalence over the general public as it has been observed in the Arab countries.
Salame who is a Lebanese scholar edited the book with horizons, conditions and the possibility of democracy in Middle East world. In the book, Salame has managed to choose an interesting title: Democracy with Democrats? The title is significant since it provokes one to think and it triggers discussions on its meaning. The book starts with anthology introduction of academicians who have adopted an optimistic growing interest in the appreciation of democracy in both the followers and the supporters of the political Islam. The optimists suggest that movements that are formed by the Islamists that lean on the achievement of democracy would finally lead them into the full assumption of the critical values and principles that are inherent in the process of achieving democracy. As a result, these would make them concede the basically of the public mobilization, the sectarian and political pluralism, and reliance on election ballots in the relation to equal, transparent and fair competition over authority.
On the other hand, the academicians that include most of the authors of this book have demonstrated a skeptical stance on the issue of the Islamists appreciation in incorporating democracy. The scholars suggest that one should avoid being over-optimistic on the issue of Islam’s positive attitude towards democracy in the Middle East. The book further suggests that the wave of democracy that has been observed in the Middle East will soon or later face a fate similar to that of the sea waves where at first the sea waves approach the shore while being strong and high but finally as they prepare to hit the shore they clash and fade away. The author suggests that the idea of Islam adopting democracy is a pure pragmatist strategy to benefit.
The author explains about the idea of Islamic exceptionalism that has re-emerged among the western orientalist. Salame further argues that the rapid fall of some regimes have been brought about by the lack of democracy in most of the opposition groups accompanied by the deeply rooted cultures are the major obstacles of to democracy in the Middle East (Salame 2). The author further suggests that the calls for democracy in these countries are too superficial, too muted and dispersed to convince any individual that these societies are committed in the political participation. The author major aim was to use this book in questioning the presumed exceptionalism in these countries. In doing this, the authors have drawn upon several national cases and engaged in a discussion of institutional evolution, social change, and the prevailing political discourse (Salame 3). In doing this, the authors have gone ahead to produce a complex picture by discussing the concept of exceptionalism.
The growing interest in democracy in the Middle East has shown that these countries are creating alternative hegemonic monolithic political systems that extrinsically wear a mask of democracy that on other side calls itself a representative of the people's democracy. But beneath the figure of democracy they are motivating themselves in an attempt to exploit the democratic performance in their service of constructing an ideological and dogmatic collectivist statehood basing their argument on religion especially the Sharia law and the assabiyyah's discourse. In general, the authors of this book argue that the outcome of this marriage between the political Islam and the democracy is what they call ‘democracy without democrats.'
Democracy without Democrats describes what is being experienced in the Middle East in the Arabic Spring era. Intellectuals and observers are following up on the constructive and dramatic changes that are exhibited in Tunisia and Egypt. The developments that have taken place in the two countries have shown political alternatives, and that have the ability to regenerate themselves strongly.
The most important in terms of the presence and the influence among the possibilities in the current post-evolution Tunisian and the Egyptian public is the conversion of democracy from and imported product into an appreciated concept in the discussion in which the political Islam is propagating its operating method with an aim of re-establishing the state in both Tunisia and Egypt. The Islam's political interest in democracy and the attempts of repatriating their working method have been appreciated. And there are positive expectations about the sociological, political and the future of the Middle East that is expected to be ruled by the Islamists (Salame?? 28). But the support of the democracy by the Middle East can be seen as a political tool of operation that for the Islamic movements whose history has demonstrated rejection and the conceptual antagonism against the concept of democracy cannot but make the observing be cautious in supporting the intriguing transformation in Islamist discourse. The excessive support that is exhibited by the non-democratic political movements makes one consider the possibility that the Islamic democracy is a figure façade that is in the process of masquerading in the actual essence of no other than what the book describes as the ‘democracy without democrats.
A good example is in Egypt where the revolution started with a call that produced a publicly blatant propagation of democracy that was demonstrated by both the Islamist and the non-Islamists. Currently after their victory the number of the Islamists who celebrated democracy has dropped rapidly. One may think that democracy has managed to fulfill its purpose and reached the expiry date at the end of the elections. At the end of the elections there seems to be no need to deal with any issues regarding democracy it is considered to stay on hold until the next when the presidential elections are nearing, and the country goes into another authority competition whirlpool. After winning the Islamists evade even mentioning the word democracy and instead they replace it with their basic call for the application of the Sharia laws to all the spectrums of the society. All that has been observed in both Tunisia and Egypt further supports Salame's Idea of democracy without democrats.
Ghassan Salame and his colleagues saw the possibility of having the option of ‘democracy without democrats' in the Middle East, especially the Arab world. Presently we are witnessing what was observed by Salame and his colleagues almost twenty years ago. The past few decades have vividly revealed the extent of the catastrophic results that have emerged from the artificial and the mere façade democracies of the fallen previous dictatorships. And the actual of outcome is the mere reduction of democracy into an authority winning game and a power dividing policy that is both disastrous and catastrophic.
There is a need for the Arab countries to cease from what they call democratization, which is in the real sense the new power-sharing game. This misguidance by democracy may make them be immersed into the struggle over power. And these might end impoverishing democracy from its identity and culture into to that of communal coexistence and social conduct (Salame?? 32). The greatest challenge is that the observed investment into democratic by the nondemocratic mind might lead to the alternative Islamists political tyrannies, religious dictatorship, in the replacement of the militaristic, nationalist, and pan-Arabist as it has been clearly shown by Ghassan Salame in his book.
Although the book has managed to represent the true picture of the situation of democracy in the Arab world, to some extent there are some weaknesses. The book concentrates on democratization in the Middle East while on the other side it ignores the developments that are taking place in the international arena that in turn affects all the states. On addition, the wave of democratization that has its roots in the Southern Europe and continued to the Latin America and the Eastern Europe has not left Arab world unmoved. Also, the author has presented most of the book from a pessimistic point of view. Democracy has a chance of coming into reality in the Arab world as it did few years ago when urbanization had not created the big cities that could not be properly policed when most of the opposition parties had not yet been marginalized. Despite these few weaknesses in the book Salame has managed to argue his point out clearly.
Ghassan Salame has managed in bringing out his argument vividly. Although there are several movements that are advocating for the concept of democracy in the Middle East, what is exhibited in these countries is just but an unending transition period that starts with democracies without democrats, and with all the observed efforts it finally ends at the point it started ‘ democracy without democrats.'