A lot of worry is making the rounds about “Political Islam.” Some of it is valid, some a function of what may be termed the unknown. But the extreme form of the worry, the one that gets inordinate media time, is nonsense. And as a basis for making policy, it is not just nonsense but downright dangerous.
It goes like this: the West should oppose Islamist parties from gaining power because even if they gain power electorally, they will break down democracy, like the Nazis did in 1932-33. The political risk, therefore, is so great that democracy itself can be opposed on principle.
This conception of political risk does disservice to proper analysis because it is not based on evidence and logic. It is based on prejudice. And that is something that all risk analysts should avoid.
I recently wrote an op-ed piece in The Huffington Post debunking this supposed political risk. Here are some excerpts from that:
For decades, Americans have been peddled a scenario with two scary arguments: Islamist electoral takeover is first of all very likely, and once victorious, Islamist parties would dismantle democracy altogether.
What has happened in reality is quite the opposite.
Across the world’s 47 Muslim-majority countries, 154 national elections were held between 1990 and 2006. Out of these, Islamist parties won only 12 elections.
If we only consider only those elections that were free and fair, that is, a reflection of popular will, then only three resulted in a victory by an Islamist party.
The specter that produces right-wing nightmares has been extremely rare.
What about the second part of the argument? Was democracy reversed in the three cases in which Islamist parties won fair and square?
Read more here to find out.