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Each day the headlines from the Arab world get worse: bombings in Egypt where the army is jailing journalists and secular activists … Al-Qaida takes control of cities in Iraq … Militant Islamists aided by foreign fighters join the civil war in Syria. What’s going on? Marwan Muasher, a veteran diplomat and scholar, says the Middle East is a highly diverse region with Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Christians and various tribes. He argues in a new book that the only way the political uprisings in Arab nations will result in positive change is if governments tolerate dissent and embrace different sectarian strains.
- Marwan Muasher Vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment, overseeing research in Washington and Beirut on the Middle East. He is a former Senator in the Jordanian Parliament, he also served as Deputy Prime Minister in charge of reform (2004-2005), Foreign Minister (2002-2004), Ambassador to the U.S. (1997-2002), Minister of Information (1996-1997), Ambassador to Israel (1995-1996), and spokesman to the Middle East peace talks (1991-1994).
Read An Excerpt
Excerpted from “The Second Arab Awakening: And the Battle for Pluralism” by Marwan Muasher. Copyright © 2014 by Marwan Muasher. Excerpted by permission of Yale University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. When demonstrations erupted in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen three years ago, the West thought this Arab spring could lead to democracy. But former diplomat Marwan Muasher argues in a new book that just because you get rid of a despotic ruler does not mean you end up with democracy.
MS. DIANE REHMHis new book is titled "The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism." Author Marwan Muasher joins me here in the studio. I look forward to hearing your questions, comments. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And welcome to you, Mr. Ambassador.
MR. MARWAN MUASHERIt's nice to be here. Thank you, Diane.
REHMGood to see you again, sir. You say that there have been misunderstandings in the West regarding the Arab uprising. Say how.
MUASHERI think there was this romantic notion that, you know, getting rid of despotic rulers is somehow going to evolve into democratic and pluralistic cultures overnight. And so it was a misnomer to call it an Arab spring, in my view, three years ago. It is equally simplistic to call it an Arab winter today. This is a transformational process, a historic process that, in my view, needed to happen. The status quo in the Arab world could not have stayed the same. But now that it has happened, it is simplistic to expect it to unfold in a short three years.
REHMExplain what you mean for us by pluralism and the battle for it.
MUASHERI think pluralism should be the operating system in the Arab world. It is a necessary, not maybe sufficient condition, but a necessary one for democratic cultures. And what I mean by pluralism is political pluralism, in other words, peaceful rotation of power, the right of all political parties to exist and organize at all times.
MUASHERI mean cultural pluralism, religious pluralism, and gender pluralism. In other words, the diversity of the Arab world that has a lot of ethnic religious communities, as well as political ideologies, must be respected. And diversity must be seen as a strength in the Arab world, not a weakness, if the Arab world is to evolve into democratic societies.
REHMDoesn't that come down to, within the Arab world itself, respect for the rights of others? You currently have Sunnis battling Shias. You have Christians battling Muslims. You have no respect for pluralism within those countries.
MUASHERThat is true. And that is because national identities were not really forged in many countries in the Arab world. Much of the Arab world, particularly in the eastern part, you know, countries were modern-day creations by the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 where borders were artificially created, where ethnic and religious communities were put together regardless of, you know, any sense of national unity.
MUASHERBut more importantly, since Sykes-Picot, none of these countries, whether they are Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, none of these countries made a serious effort to forge national identities so that, you know, a national citizenship -- a national identity trumps all these other sub-identities that you talked about. And as a result, we're paying the price today in a horrific war in Syria, multiple wars in Lebanon, chaos and war in Iraq, et cetera.
MUASHERAnd until there is a serious effort that, of course, will take decades -- this is not something that is going to happen overnight. But until such a serious effort is really attempted, these countries will continue to suffer for some time.
REHMYou actually call the current political uprisings the second Arab awakening. Talk about what you regard as the first Arab awakening.
MUASHERThere was a period in Arab history -- in contemporary Arab history in the mid-19th century and early part of the 20th century when an intellectual movement started to take place in countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, a movement that started to call for independence from Ottoman rule and later on independence from colonial rule. That movement then made its way into popular movements that indeed resulted in achieving independence in most Arab countries from both Ottoman and colonial rule.
MUASHERThat is what I call the first Arab awakening. Where it failed is in creating democratic pluralistic societies after independence. And so once independence was achieved, no Arab country, whether a republic or a monarchy, whether a progressive one or a conservative one, did any effort to create the institutions necessary for democratic societies to emerge.
REHMAnd why do you think that was?
MUASHERThis is a region that has not known a democracy. This is a region where the principle obsession was with independence. And once these parties, these forces came to power, they did not want to leave. The Arab-Israeli conflict did not help and was used as an excuse by these governments to claim to people that no effort should really, you know, be done, other than the effort to liberate Palestine.
MUASHERAnd once Palestine was not liberated and once reform was not achieved, you know, the idea of, if you want, Arab nationalism or Pan-Arabism really was shattered in 1967 with the Arab-Israeli conflict. After that period, the only force that was sort of allowed to operate were the Islamists because they -- you know, people could not basically close mosques. And Islamists came up with the slogan "Islam is the solution."
MUASHERAnd it was a very popular slogan, not because people necessarily identified with it all the time, but because it was an alternative to a shattered, if you want, period in the Arab world of Pan-Arabism. I think the second Arab awakening, which only started -- and as I said, we don't yet know where it will go. In three short years, I think people are starting to move to a third phase where delivery is the solution. In other words, they don't care whether their governments are secular or Islamist or religious.
MUASHERThey care whether the economy, you know, is going to be the focus of these governments' attention. We have seen this very clearly in Egypt where the same street that brought the Islamists to power last year is the street that went against it in one short year.
REHMAnd you're saying that's for economic reasons?
MUASHERBecause -- absolutely because the Islamists were not able to deliver on the economy. That is, in my view, what will determine the success or failure of forces in the Arab world, whether they are secular or religious.
REHMBut, Mr. Ambassador, as you point out, that occurred within one short year. The public turned against the very people it had elected, and yet one has to say, surely, the people in any country would need longer than one year to turn things around.
MUASHERThere is no question about that. In fact, you know, there are studies by the IMF that show that in any transition around the world, it takes an average of five years for all the major economic indicators to go back to their pre-transition level. The problem is that forces who do not deliver on the economy -- because people are impatient. But forces who attempt to dominate the political scene and rule in an exclusionist manner are also not going to succeed.
MUASHERThe Islamists tried to do that, and they have failed. Of course, before them, almost all status quo or secular forces ruling the Arab world have also ruled in an exclusionist manner. And I think that era is coming to an end. in other words, countries who will succeed in the Middle East are those who will adopt inclusion as part of their program. This has been done, for example, in a country like Tunisia, and people tend to forget.
MUASHERYou know, among all the violence and war in Syria, the chaos in Egypt, they tend to forget that there is already a successful -- at least until now -- experiment in Tunisia where we have a coalition government where a constitution was agreed to through an inclusionist process that included Islamists and secular forces alike, one that produced a constitution that is today, by far, the best constitution in the Arab world, upholding total parity between men and women, the right to believe or not to believe, a commitment to peaceful rotation of power at all times, et cetera.
MUASHERAnd that is, I think, the lesson that, if no single party has the answer to all the problems facing the Arab world today, then inclusion must be a rule of the game for now.
REHMMarwan Muasher, his new book is titled "The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism." He is currently vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment. He has served as Jordan's ambassador to the U.S., foreign minister, and deputy prime minister. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Marwan Muasher is with me. We're talking about his new book titled, "The Second Arab Awakening: And the Battle for Pluralism." Here is an email saying, "The fundamental problem Muslim countries face is their adamant desire to have governments based on Sharia law in matters of religion. There are too many ways to interpret the scripture and debate how many angels can stand on the head of the pin. This can never resolved to anyone's satisfaction. Religion must be removed from government and set to decide for free choice." Would you agree?
MUASHERI would agree that regardless of what people believed in, if they want to practice politics, then the principle of, you know, rotation of power and a commitment to basic rights, individual rights must be adhered to regardless of the, you know, position of any religious party. But I would not agree that this is an impediment to democracy in the Arab world. If you look at the case of Tunisia once again, the Islamists, you know, the biggest actually force that won a plurality of votes in Tunisia already accepted a constitution that upholds the right to believe or not believe.
MUASHERSo -- and accepted a constitution that is not based on Sharia. So I think that the street is making this very clear. If you look at a place like Egypt, all the polls would show you that the street in Egypt is very religious and very conservative, in fact. Ninety percent of Egyptians would consider themselves as religious or conservative. But that is different from that street wanting its government to tell it how to be conservative and religious.
MUASHERSeventy percent of Egyptians want their government to worry about the economy, 2 percent want their government to worry about ideology. So that is a very important lesson that we actually saw implemented in Egypt. As I mentioned before, this is the same street today that, you know, does not hold the Muslim Brotherhood in high regard. This is the same street that brought the Muslim Brotherhood last year to power.
REHMMr. Ambassador, what about your own country, Jordan, ruled by a monarchy and yet seemingly at peace right now? How long do you expect that monarchy to continue to operate?
MUASHERThe monarchy in Jordan, as an institution, is not under threat. In other words, both major ethnic groups in the country, the east Jordanians and the Palestinians, want the monarchy as an institution because they want it to be an arbiter on existential issues facing the country. Having said that, most people want the system to evolve. In other words, to be, you know, more open to allow for power sharing in which the legislative and judicial powers are made stronger.
MUASHERAnd I think that weather it is Jordan or any of the other countries that have not undergone transition have to evolve. The status quo is simply not sustainable in the Arab world.
REHMDo you see Saudi Arabia evolving?
MUASHERIt will have to evolve.
MUASHERYou know, the Saudi Arabia has a different, you know, tribal system. The ruling monarchy or family is more than 60,000 people. So it will be more difficult for the Saudis to evolve than a place like Jordan where, you know, it is more open minded and the education level is good. But the Saudis have something Jordan doesn't have, which is money. And money has been able to at least slow down the process, if you want.
MUASHERBut it cannot stop it. In a place like Kuwait where there is today, you know, serious opposition to how the system conducts its affairs, this is opposition from people with money. It is not opposition from the poor people only. So whether it is rich monarchies, poor monarchies or other countries that have not undergone transition, this is a wave that is not going to go away. And either countries evolve or they face, you know, more dire consequences.
REHMLet's go back to Tunisia for a moment. How do you see that progressing economically?
MUASHERTunisia, again, will need time economically to bring back foreign investment, to bring back tourism to the country, to provide employment and jobs, to provide a more inclusive growth than was the case before. And they are actually on their way to doing that. If you look at the economic indicators of Tunisia today, they have not gone back certainly to pre-transition levels. But the deterioration has stopped and they are moving in the right direction.
MUASHERIt is because they did everything right. They, you know, agreed on a -- to rule through a coalition government. They agreed to write a constitution before agreeing on elections and other issues so that there is a consensus among all forces of society. There is an educated middle class and there is a military that has kept neutral and did not interfere.
REHMAnd by contrast, sadly, we see what's happening in Syria. How do you see that situation resolving itself, moving toward a different kind of society that allows for people to experience the kind of pluralism you're promoting?
MUASHERWell, we need to first remember that Syria -- the Syrian uprising started very peacefully. For a months, we did not have radical Islamists, we did not have al-Qaida or other fighters coming from outside the country. This was a peaceful uprising by Syrians themselves calling for better government. They were faced by a regime who is stopping at nothing, you know, with barrel bombs now, with no regard for human life in whatever way.
MUASHERUnfortunately, because the regime is stopping at nothing, you know, a vacuum was created in which we did have today foreign fighters coming from abroad, whether the Sunni al-Qaida or the Shiite Iranian fighters, et cetera. And we have a situation where no side can win militarily. Neither the regime can exert its influence over all of Syria, not the opposition which also, unfortunately, is not united can exert its, you know, authority over all of Syria.
MUASHERA political solution must be found. But the Geneva process so far, which has attempted a political solution has failed miserably. It is very clear that the regime has no intention of engaging in any political process. That, of course, is going to lead according to the Geneva process in its ouster in the end. And in the absence of any serious alternative to find a political settlement, I'm afraid that we're going to be stuck with this situation for quite some time.
MUASHERA situation in which Syria has already lost about half of its GDP, already has 9 to 10 million refugees inside or outside the country, a third of its population. And any situation that is, of course, affecting its neighbors, particularly Jordan and Lebanon where today more than 20 to 25 percent of the population of these two countries are from Syrian refugees.
REHMHow long? How long?
MUASHERYou know, it's a very good question. Nobody knows and nobody has answers. It is clear that the U.S., for example, has already acknowledged that its policy has failed. But it is also clear that neither the U.S. nor the international community has any intention to intervene militarily in the conflict, not that intervention is going to solve the problem, frankly. I think the U.S. today is in the process of reevaluating what can be done in a way that would force the regime to engage seriously in a political process but there are no answers. And I expect 2014 will be an extremely difficult for Syria and its neighbors.
REHMYou don't ever could see Bashar al-Assad stepping down?
REHMNot by choice.
REHMNot by choice.
MUASHERNot by choice. This is a regime -- and I, you know, when I was in government, of course, I've known this regime. This is a regime that looks at things in a zero sum way. It is not a regime that believes in compromises. It is not a regime that believes in opening up.
REHMAnd with that ongoing struggle, how might that affect the so-called gigantic pluralism of the rest of the Arab world?
MUASHERWell, it is -- it is sending an extremely negative message about pluralism. You know, this is becoming a sectarian conflict. It did not start as such, I keep reminding people. But it is now being used by those forces who are extremists on both sides and who are fueling the sectarian divide, whether al-Qaida types on the Sunni scale or Iranians and the Shiite fighters on the Shiite side. So that is affecting pluralism in a very major way.
MUASHERThere are communities in Syria, the Christians who are, you know, you know, terrified of what might happen to them in case the radical groups assume power in Syria. And so, you know, rather than send a message that pluralism should be operating system, in Syria pluralism is under great threat because of the undergoing -- because of the civil war.
REHMI guess what I'm asking is while that struggle continues, can the kind of pluralism that you envisioned take place throughout the rest of the Arab world?
MUASHERDiane, what I call for is not something that will be done overnight. There are no shortcuts to democracy anywhere around the world. And the Arab world is no different. What I'm saying is that if the Arab world is to achieve stability and democracy, it cannot stop at just, you know, getting rid of despotic rulers. Getting rid of Bashar al-Assad or of Mubarak or of Gaddafi by itself is not enough to achieve this.
MUASHERWhat has been -- what is positive, in my view, is that the space has been opened. The Arab world was living under artificially induced stability. Stability that was induced by brute force. Now that brute force is out. But that doesn't get replaced by democracy overnight. People have to work for democracy. People have to work for putting in place institutions. And most importantly in my view, and I devote a whole chapter to it in the book, the education system in the Arab world needs to change.
REHMMarwan Muasher, he is vice president for studies the Carnegie Endowment, author of "The Second Arab Awakening: And the Battle for Pluralism." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We have many callers. I do want to go to the phones, 800-433-8850. Let's go now to Tefsa (sp?) or Tesfa in Arlington, VA. Hello, you're on the air.
TESFAGood morning. Good to hear your voice, Diane.
TESFAAnd thank you very much. I like your show. Mr. Ambassador, just like you said, nowadays brute force is no more possible act, it used to be. Now there is a new technique by these new regimes that is blaming the old regime they overthrew and accusing the opposition of terrorism. This is the catch word that gets ears and that's what they are using to stay in power like the Ethiopian regime is putting former -- I mean, a famous journalist like Eskinder Nega in the (unintelligible).
TESFAAnd who Amnesty International and human rights know, the whole world know, but they accused them of terrorism. This is a catch word..
REHMAll right, thank you. Terrorism as a catch word.
MUASHERThere have been many excuses given by, frankly, Arab regimes in the past not to engage in a process of reform. Today in Egypt, unfortunately, you know, the secular military -- secular and the military regime that are ruling are also accusing the Islamists, all the Islamists of being terrorists and ruling in the same exclusionist way that they have accused the Islamists of ruling by last year. That is not going to provide any answers.
MUASHERI agree with the caller. If you look at Egypt today, for example, General Asisi is a very popular man. And he is popular because he has been able to sort of unseat, if you want, an unpopular regime by the Islamists. Next year, if General Asisi does not deliver on the economy, I doubt that he will enjoy the same popularity that he does today.
REHMWhat does he have to do to deliver on the economy quickly enough to satisfy the people?
MUASHERWell, delivering quickly is not going to be possible, as I said. What he can do is engage in an inclusionary process. In other words, you cannot anymore exclude forces from society and accuse them of being traitors. We've tried that so many times in the Arab world. Anybody who disagrees with your views is a traitor. And where did that bring the Arab world today? The only way that the Arab world can put itself on a sure course to prosperity and stability is by inclusion.
MUASHERInclusion does not mean that you agree with your enemy or your foe. But inclusion does mean that you have fight not only for your right to operate, but for your, you know, enemy's right to operate as well. Otherwise, if you allow yourself to exclude forces in society, you are immediately allowing them to exclude you if they come to power. That was not what Tunisia did and Tunisia today can offer a very good example of how to do it the right way in the Arab world.
REHM"The Second Arab Awakening," that's the title of Marwan Muasher's book. Short break here. We'll be back with more of your calls.
REHMWelcome back. Marwan Muasher is my guest. He is former ambassador from Jordan to the U.S. Here's an email from Judy. She says, "I heard a scholar argue recently that Arab countries develop based on their histories which differ. Tunisia, for example, was a French colony, unlike Libya and Egypt. Can you comment on how that history influences its present?"
MUASHERYes. Of course, the Arab world, just because it is named the Arab world and shares the same language and maybe culture does not mean that each country is the same and does not mean that each country is going to develop in the same way. I keep reminding people again that 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Poland did not evolve in the same manner that Bulgaria or Romania did.
MUASHERAnd so, depending on the peculiarities of each country, you are going to see a different pace of development. Tunisia is -- I don't think the problem is with the, you know, with the French heritage. But Tunisia had an educated middle class. Bourguiba did a lot to, you know, give women rights in Tunisia and developed a middle class, even while the political system was closed.
MUASHERThe Islamist Party in Tunisia has always been a moderate party. In fact, Ghannouchi lived in Britain -- the leader of the Islamist Party -- for many years. And so Tunisia was able to evolve in a rather positive way. It is also a more or less homogeneous society.
MUASHERIt does not have the problem that, you know, the national identities of the eastern part of the Arab world has. Egypt is different. Again, Egypt is the biggest Arab country. It has a history of bureaucracy. Civil society is strong. Egypt as a modern country started in the early 1800s, less homogeneous than Tunisia, Copts, of course, comprising 10 percent of the population.
MUASHERAnd let us not forget the Muslim Brotherhood as a movement started in Egypt and was a movement that was outlawed by the government and, at one point, adopted violent means. Libya -- and, again, is a third example -- where Qaddafi did everything he can to rule almost single-handedly. There is no bureaucracy in Libya. There is no civil society, no political parties, no infrastructure, no army, and so what they do have, of course, is money.
MUASHERBut money alone cannot solve all the problems. It is a tribal society made up of three distinct entities or geographical entities, and therefore Libya is going to take a very long time, longer than both Egypt and Tunisia. I think Egypt is going through a process where it tried to rule exclusion -- in an exclusionist way by the Islamists. It did not work.
MUASHERThe secular party's now forces were backing the military will try again to rule through an exclusionistist (sic) course. I don't think that will work. But in the end, I think that in few years, maybe 10, maybe 15, Egypt will get it right.
REHMYou've spoken about religious differences, political differences, economic goals. What about women's rights and to what extent does the evolution of these individual Arab countries, in their battle for pluralism, depend on the rising of women's rights?
MUASHEROne cannot talk about pluralism in a political, cultural, or economic sense if it does not full equality for women. I mean, I'm a strong believer in that. And the proof is everywhere. Unless women are given full rights in the Arab world, there is no hope for the Arab world to achieve the kind of prosperity and stability that I talk about. The Arab uprisings record about women's rights has been mixed.
MUASHERIn Tunisia, it has been good, even in the constituent assembly that was agreed to. You know, you had about 50 women in the assembly out of 219, about 25 percent. In the constitution -- in the new constitution, there are clauses to ensure at least legal rights for women are the same. One cannot, of course, ensure, you know, cultural equality.
MUASHERCultural discrimination is going to be there for quite some time. But at least from a legal point of view, women should have full parity with men. And that has been achieved in the Tunisian constitution. Unfortunately, in other cases, even in Egypt and other cases, this has not been the same. And women's causes have not really been helped by these uprisings.
REHMYou know, I think we heard so much about women's ability to even drive a car in Saudi Arabia, to even have the most minimal of rights in some of the Arab countries, it just seems as though every time women make some small step toward progress, somebody comes along and says, no, you won't.
MUASHERWell, the Saudis are an extreme case. I mean, they're the only country, not just in the Arab world but in the whole world, to forbid women from driving. But it's not...
REHMDo women drive in Iran?
MUASHEROh, yes. They do. They do. They have to wear, you know, the -- but they do drive. It's the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. But that's just part of the problem. You know, the bigger issue, the bigger picture, of course, is that women are discriminated against in...
MUASHERTotally in many, many ways, and you cannot hope to build stable societies with half of your workforce being treated in this manner. But, once again, to be fair to the rest of the Arab world, I mean, the Saudi case is an extreme case.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Tony in St. Petersburg, Fla. You're on the air, Tony.
TONYThank you, Diane, for taking my call.
TONYI really enjoy your show.
TONYThis has been a very interesting discussion. And my question is, everything that I'm hearing, I don't disagree with. I don't think it's something that's going to be resolved quickly. I think it has an evolutionary process. Every country obviously will be different. But one of the things that I, you know, see this pointing to is the fact it's not only political power sharing, but it's also financial power sharing.
TONYAnd I think that's really what's driving the amount of, you know, distrust and all of the, you know, the uproar that you see in the streets because people are thinking they'll all have to come more aware of what's going on all throughout the world. So it's become a very small world. And we see what's going on. And they want a piece of the pie, too...
TONYAnd the exclusion has been an ongoing thing regardless of whether it's a religious one or, you know, it's a Saudi one in the monarchy. I think people want, you know, a better life. And they want a better lifestyle. I think education has a lot to do with it. And I don't think women are interested whether they have to wear a veil or not. I think they're more interested in, you know, if I study to be a doctor, why can't I go out and practice as a doctor?
REHMAll right. Tony, thanks for your call. Mr. Ambassador.
MUASHERWell, that -- Tony brings up a very important point which is that growth in the Arab world has to be more inclusive. And people have to feel the benefits of the development. What has happened in many parts of the Arab world is that economic reform has been attempted. But it has been attempted in the absence of the political reform process.
MUASHERThe argument was made that we need bread before freedom. And what has happened is that the economic reform, the liberalization, the integration with the world economy, et cetera, have benefited only a small group around regimes. And we've seen this very clearly in Egypt and Tunisia, for example, to the exclusion of all others.
MUASHERThat is a point to be made that, from now on, economic reform without political reform does not work because, unless you build in a system of checks and balances that is able to institutionally check abuses when they happen, economic reform is not going to be felt by the average citizen. So that is an extremely important point. On women, I think it is -- you know, rather than talk about whether they wear the hijab or not, we want to talk about freedom of choice.
MUASHERIf they want to wear the hijab, that's fine. If they don't want to wear the hijab, no one should be able to, you know, force them to do that against their will.
REHMWe've had several questions about Turkey and whether you think Turkey will succumb to the rule of religion.
MUASHERNo. I think this is too harsh to say that Turkey will succumb. Turkey has had a rather turbulent past in which the army played a role in preserving the secularism, again, by brute force rather than by natural forces. But they have also made very important strides along the way to democracy. They do have different political parties that are able to operate.
MUASHERThey have economically achieved a very good status today. Turkey is the 16th, 17th country, you know, economy of the world. But it is also true that Turkey's government today and Mr. Erdogan is behaving increasingly erratically. As, you know, he has won three terms, I think this is -- but I view this as an argument against anybody staying in office for more than two terms. Once you do, then you start feeling invincible. But having said that, I don't think that Turkey, you know, is going to go back basically to being ruled in an exclusionist manner.
REHMAll right. To Eric in St. Louis, Mo. Hello there.
ERICHi. Hey, I'm struck over and over again as I listen to this conversation about one thing, which is -- this is what occurs to me. I wonder what role is played by the absence of what you might call a Christian ethos that we take for granted in the West, even if we're atheists, and that it has something to do with the model played by Christ himself as a suffering servant, somebody who is not afraid of mingling with outcasts and tried to bring everybody in, so to speak, into the discussion.
ERICWhereas, of course, in Islam, the Islamic ethos, you have Muhammad who operated frequently by coercion, and you have the model of the strong man there at the top.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling.
MUASHERI don't think democracy should be, you know, linked to Christianity or Christian ethos. There are many countries in the region that are predominantly Muslim and that, you know, are democratic societies. I can point out to Malaysia. I can point out to Indonesia. I can point out even to Turkey. So I don't think this is exclusive to a Christian ethos. Muhammad -- you know, I'm not a religious man myself. But Muhammad also talked about Islam being for all mankind in the same way that Christianity also preaches.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Now to Ann Arbor, Mich. John, you're on the air.
JOHNDiane, thanks for taking my comment, which I'll make shorter than I intended.
JOHNThe 2012 Egyptian presidential election was free but not fair. It's a prime example of Sir Michael Dummett's observation that electoral reform is well worth thinking about because a faulty electoral system makes a mess of all of our politics and hence a great deal of all of our lives.
JOHNThe top two runoff system used in the Egyptian election is notorious for not giving representative results. Both polls before the election and the result of the runoff itself strongly suggests that had more Morsi faced in the runoff election, either of the candidates who came in fourth or fifth in the first poll, he would have lost handily.
REHMAll right. Sir, thanks for your call.
MUASHERWell, the Egyptian -- the whole Egyptian transition has been done in a convoluted manner. I mean, regardless of the details of the electoral law, of course, democracy is not just synonymous with elections. What the Egyptians did was jump to elections before they could agree on a constitution that preserved the rights of all communities in Egypt and assured everyone of a place in the system.
MUASHEROnce those elections were won by a certain group, then that group attempted to, you know, place its own views and cultural and religious views on the rest of society. That in Egypt has been the problem. This -- all forces in Egypt behaving in a winner-take-all strategy rather than in agreeing first on a consensus that would allow everybody to be, you know, assured of their future, regardless of who wins a particular election.
REHMAnd finally, Lee asks, "Who is the Arab Abraham Lincoln? Who is the Arab Nelson Mandela?"
MUASHERI wish we have them. We don't. But the fact that we don't today have a Nelson Mandela or an Abraham Lincoln does not mean that the fight for democracy should stop. If we had such people, the fight might have been shorter. But since we don't, I think that people who do believe in pluralism, who do believe in a better future, need to roll up their sleeves and work for one but understanding that this is a process that probably will take decades.
REHMHow optimistic are you that the image of Tunisia will carry through to the rest of the Arab world?
MUASHERWhat I know, Diane, is if we just sit and look at the Arab world and expect it to be democratic without us rolling up our sleeves or pass judgment on it that this is a lost cause, that will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. What we need to do is roll up our sleeves and work for a democratic culture and understand that, you know, this is going to take quite some time.
REHMMarwan Muasher, his new book is titled "The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism." Thank you so much for being here.
REHMMy pleasure. And thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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