As the Other Charlotte noted yesterday, I believe that Iraq should become a democracy’even if this is accomplished at the point of the sword.
But is democracy actually so alien to Islam?

One of the world’s great scholars of Islamic culture thinks democracy and Islam are not as inimical as many are inclined to believe.
Bernard Lewis, who became a sort of intellectual celebrity after 9/11, was interviewed by Elizabeth Wasserman for the Atlantic Monthly (the interview is also available on Arts and Letters Daily).

Lewis has a new book “From Babel to Dragomans,” a study of the West’s consistent failure to communicate with the Middle East.

Here is what Lewis said when asked if tolerance and humanism are anathema to Islam. 
‘They are not anathema to Islam,’ Lewis said, ”on the contrary, Islam has its own humanistic traditions’ but they are certainly anathema to those whom we have gotten into the habit of calling the Islamists. I don’t like the term; I think it’s misleading. I prefer to use ‘Islamic fundamentalists,’ though that’s also a loose analogy.

‘[T]here are certain elements in Islamic law and tradition which I think are conducive to democracy. The idea that government is contractual and consensual, for one thing. According to the Islamic Treatise on Holy Law, the ruler comes to power by an agreement between the ruler and his subjects. This is bilateral. Both sides have obligations. It is also limited. The ruler rules under the Holy Law, which he cannot change and which he must obey. So these two elements, I think, of consent and contract, also have the element of limitation, and can be very conducive to the development of democratic institutions. There is also a deeply rooted rejection in traditional Islamic writing of despotism or dictatorship, of the capricious rule of the ruler without due regard to the law and to the opinion of the various groups in society.’

The US’s support of Israel is often seen as a stumbling block to peace in the Middle East. Lewis, of course, has a different take on why the Palestinian situation is so keenly felt by Muslims: 

‘It is the licensed grievance. In countries where people are becoming increasingly angry and frustrated at all the difficulties under which they live’the poverty, unemployment, oppression’having a grievance which they can express freely is an enormous psychological advantage.’

Wasserman asked Lewis if he is optimistic about the state of things in Iraq.

‘I’m cautiously optimistic about what’s happening in Iraq. What bothers me is what’s happening here in the United States,’ he replied.

Lewis was asked if he referred to the pressure to pull out.

 ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘because the message that this is sending to people in that region is that the Americans are frightened, they want to get out. They’ll abandon us the same as they did in ’91. And you know what happened in ’91.’

I’d love to ask Lewis about Fallujah and the president’s decision to address the Arab world on TV about the so-called atrocities. The Lewis interview was done before the late disasters.

I can’t help thinking that the broadcast was more to appease the American left than the Arab street. But the Fallujah pullout’that speaks loud and clear. We have emboldened our enemy.