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Is supporting dictators an alternative to Islamists taking power?
There is growing discomfort in the Washington DC and other Western capitals about the increasing support to Islamism by Arab public after the upheavals there since December 2010. This is particularly true of the US where there is growing bipartisan disapproval of the way demographics in the Islamic nations have adjusted to the recent changes.

One of the most striking examples of conflicts within the Islamic societies is the case of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Morsi was duly elected leader of the Egypt and even opposition did not complain of much rigging or other electoral malpractice by Muslim Brothers during the Presidential run-off in 2012. He was deposed by Egyptian military before he could complete one year in his office after a popular revolt broke up against his rule in June-July 2013 on the Egyptian streets, particularly in capital Cairo.

The role of the White House was considered dubious by many. Even though Obama did not support Morsi still he faced stark criticism from many conservatives for backing Islamist President and his party Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi and political establishment supportive of him were accused of sustainable and deliberate discriminations against those who do not agree with him, particularly those of secular Muslims and Coptic Christians, overriding Egyptian Constitution and undermining democracy by ignoring and overruling democratic institutions.

The second example is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Despite of all his brutal ways to suppress the popular uprising against his regime and being responsible for many of the worst atrocities done by any ruler on his people, he has survived almost two and three quarters of years since mostly Sunni uprising against his despotic and corrupt regime started.

The real reason is not as much as the Russian Federation and Iran's support to Assad and his forces but it is the deep suspicion of alternatives to his regime by American and other Western political elites. The West is not contesting much Russian and Iranian support to Assad-regime. It believes that once Assad is ousted Islamists swayed by al-Qaeda operatives would take over Damascus and they as a consequence would suppress minorities there, particularly Druze Christians.

Now most of us should agree that this is a genuine concern of the West and therefore it requires a serious discussion. Instead of supporting Islamists based regimes the West could think about supporting dictators to stop Islamic laws to become the law of land. Those who do not know what Islamic laws based on Shariah are, they must understand that these could very well mean end of world for many among those who disagree with them and this is true even about sectarian minorities.

They are mostly the laws of the early post-Mohammedan Arabia and they can be abused and manipulated by hardliners. The most important concerns for non-Muslims and non-conformists are apostasy and blasphemy laws. If followed and abused by the majority, it could mean permanent dominance of it with or without it deserving so.

Fine, the above could be overwhelming reasons of preferring autocrats and dictators over Islamists. But wait! There is a parallel argument left. And this is that as to why Islamic world should converge with the very basic Western ideas about democracy, the rule of law, capitalism and human right? Because, many among Muslims believe in universal ideals and objectives as espoused by the West?

Yes, indeed but there are many others who do not. What should the outside and powerful world do when people are internally divided in conflict and they do not see eye to eye with their fellow nationals on many issues? Should the West impose its beliefs and laws on those societies whose majority do not believe in them? The fact is that for all practical purposes it can and that the argument about imposing those on others should be left to the relevant circumstances.

But I have parallel argument and this is that imposition of out-of-evolution, unnatural laws and beliefs could induce instability and may worsen situation in that particular society. The fact is that if one takes a long term view of the Islamic societies then the Islamism is more reality of present time and projected future than what secularism is and shall be and this reality cannot be wished away so easily.

In longer terms the Islamists would dominate over secularists: this is the reality of the Arab world and Iran. Only their own genuine objections to that can change the game significantly among the Muslim-dominated societies. If by artificial means secularism is ‘managed’ in 2013 and thereafter, a majority would distance itself from the statecraft and those societies could reach melting and boiling points in their histories. It is like opening a Pandora's box and it is unsustainable in middle-to-long terms.

So what should be suggestion for those who matter and could possibly matter? The answer is to have patience. The US-led West cannot teach plurality and diversity to Islamic societies while it itself reject it when facing a tough real-time situation there. The fact is that secularism as an ideology should be preferred over Islamism by the West but not up to the point to decide and dictate who should be the rulers.

The adult universal suffrage should be there in all possible societies, including in many Islamic societies wherever possible, but then the verdict of the people should always be respected. The only way to avoid and contain the conflicts and their spillover effects is to accept the down-to-earth reality. The ad-hoc approach may not yield the desired results.

Therefore, democracy if secularists win or else dictatorship should not be single-lined policy of the West towards the Islamic nations. If it tries so, then the numbers of the Islamists can only increase and beyond a point the West could find itself helpless. One should note that that Islamic secularists and Islamists differ mostly on the degree of application of Shariah and over treatment of minorities. Secularists in Islamic nations are also Muslims and their rule would still be Islamic rule.

The contagious disease to express one’s urgent disapproval of the incumbents is not only confined to Islamic societies. There have been continuing protests in recent weeks in Thailand and Ukraine. In Thailand even the incumbent Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s decisions to dissolve the Lower House of Parliament and to call snap polls are met with lukewarm response among protestors. Many Thai people are calling for removal of Ms. Shinawatra immediately and for replacing the elected government by appointed government of technocrats.

Similarly, Ukrainian people are demanding the government, Parliament and the President to go after their government failed to sign an association agreement with the European Union (EU) which it negotiated hard over the past many years. Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych has till to-date rejected such demands calling for an intensive dialogue with the opposition.

These measures are not good in nature. All societies should have their own stages of evolution while keeping relationship with both advanced and lagging societies. While skipping of some steps of evolutions is helpful and welcome, this cannot be true about all. In particular, people should develop their own local way of governance.

Universal and converging principles should be first tested and localized and only after careful consideration they should be adapted and applied. Simply borrowing ideas and arguments without understanding distributions, distinctions and differences could be harmful to many societies. All should understand- as much as bodies and brains permit and in their own ways while understanding the necessity to integrate with the rest of the world and continuing trying in this direction.

It does not mean that the US should have hands-off approach towards the Islamic world. It should help them out in their endeavor to build a more equal, transparent and just societies. But then such efforts should have limits and proportion and all need to follow the established rules of the game.

The decent rules should not include changing the mandate or helping change the mandate of the people or manipulation beyond a point. There should be some bottomlines. In case of Morsi-like situation repeating itself, the US should try to negotiate but without it asking the incumbent to leave the office. The case of Assad is relatively simpler. I think he needs to go for a better Syria and for a lesser violent Middle East.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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