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Friday, May 20, 2011

Arabs Spring While Freedom Falls

As the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt spread across the Middle East, for months now we have heard the triumphant cries celebrating this “democratic” movement dubbed the “Arab Spring.” “We did our part,” declared the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman. “We killed Bin Laden with a bullet. Now the Arab and Muslim people have a chance to do their part — kill Bin Ladenism with a ballot — that is, with real elections, with real constitutions, real political parties and real progressive politics.”

However, as the “Arab Spring” burns across the Middle East—to Libya, Yemen, Syria, et al—it now seems that far too many Arabs are ready to trade one kind of tyranny for another. For example, in the first vote after Egypt’s Mubarak stepped down, the Egyptian people—by a whopping 78% to 22% margin—voted to give the Muslim Brotherhood dominant political power in the new parliament.

This should come as little surprise. Last June's Pew survey of Egyptians showed 59 percent backed Islamists, and, even more discouraging, 84 percent supported executing Muslims who change their religion. Thus, it seems that many Muslims have yet to understand the basic, most foundational tenet of liberty: there is no freedom without religious freedom.

Therefore, with religious freedom virtually nonexistent in nations where Islam dominates, it should also come as little surprise that of the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), as rated by the Economists Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy, none are full democracies, while 35 are authoritarian regimes (dictatorships). Of the Index’s 10 most authoritarian regimes, 7 of them are members of the OIC.

Clearly, by and large, Islam is an enforced religion. This begs the question, why do these Muslims fear religious freedom?

Renowned Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias (www.rzim.org) recalls a tense interview with the “number three man in the Islamic world, the chief Mullah in Jerusalem,” where Zacharias pointed out that the Koran actually says that there is no compulsion in religion. The Mullah agreed. Zacharias then said, “Are you telling me that a Muslim under you should be free to convert from Islam to Christianity?” The Mullah angrily disagreed.

“You are fooling with words,” Zacharias noted. “If there is no compulsion in religion, then there should be freedom to disbelieve it as well as believe it.” In other words, there is compulsion under Islam. Zacharias concluded, “Islam is not the fastest growing religion in the world. It is the fastest growing enforced religion in the world. If you take the foot off of the necks of the people in Iran, and some of these other countries, tens of thousands of young, so-called Muslim men and women, will make their turn to Christ.”

Thus, we see practically no religious freedom under Islam, and nearly no desire for it. Before applauding the “Arab Spring,” pundits on both sides would have done well to take note of this.

In opposing the bloody French Revolution, Edmund Burke (considered by many the father of modern conservatism) noted that, “When I see the spirit of liberty in action, I see a strong principle at work…but we ought to suspend our judgment until the first effervescence is a little subsided…until we see something deeper than the agitation of a troubled and frothy surface…

“I should therefore suspend my congratulations on the new liberty of France, until I was informed how it had been combined with government; with public force; with the discipline and obedience of armies;…with morality and religion;…with peace and order; with civil and social manners. All these (in their way) are good things too; and, without them, liberty is not a benefit whilst it lasts, and is not likely to continue long. The effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they please: We ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations.”

In other words, as George Will recently put it, “Before we congratulate people on their freedom, we should see what use they make of it.” There should be zero congratulations of democracy in the Middle East until religious freedom is received.

Copyright 2011, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

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