An “Arab Spring” Or An “Islamic Winter?”
An “Arab Spring” or an “Islamic Winter?”
The assassination of Muammar Gaddafi marked another victory for the “Arab Spring”—the revolutionary wave of demonstrations, protests, and fighting that has shaken the Arab world, including Egypt, Libya, Tanzania, and at least a half dozen other Arab nations.
Dictators in other such countries must be “shaking in their boots,” as the saying goes. No wonder several leaders in the region agreed to step down, heading off uprisings in their own countries.
These protests are extraordinary in that they involve people who have, for the most part, suffered silently under cruel dictators who wantonly massacred their own people for political gain.
Put yourself in their shoes. They have lived with censorship both of the press and of their personal associations; if they were critical of their country or their dictator they risked being persecuted—or even killed. They have faced government corruption and extreme poverty.
Many in the younger generation have looked to the West and thought, “Why can’t we be like these other countries that have freedom and prosperity?” So they began revolutions and, in a few instances at least, they have succeeded spectacularly. I applaud their bravery.
However, the body of Gaddafi was not yet buried when the leader of Libya’s transitional government began calling for that country to become a Muslim state and to institute Sharia law, that body of jurisprudence that controls virtually all aspects of life, manners, ethics, and religious practices.
A large percentage of the population believes that their troubles spring from the fact that they do not take their faith seriously enough. The answer, they think, is a “pure Islam.”
Trouble is, a true democracy rests on freedom—and Islam does not allow the freedom needed for a true democracy.
Consider Egypt, for example. When the demonstrations began in Tahrir Square (Freedom Square) on January 25, 2011, Muslims and Coptic Christians united in their opposition to overthrow Hosni Mubarak. When he abdicated, hopes were high that Coptic Christians and Muslims could live in peace, with a provisional government followed by free elections a few months later. But alas, this has not happened.
Christians in Egypt are now being targeted and persecuted more fiercely than they were under Mubarak. The radical Muslims, who want to institute an Islamic state where every aspect of human life is controlled by Sharia law, have seized this opportunity to gain a foothold in the country.
Far from gaining freedom, the common people might be headed for a stringent religious control that will be more restrictive and demanding than their previous dictators. And as for Christians, they will fare much worse.
Islam & Democracy: Two Worlds in Conflict
The “Arab Spring” caused many in the West to hope for greater freedom and stability in the Middle East… but can democracy coexist with the increasing demands of Islamic fundamentalists? And how should Western Christians respond to the plight of our brothers and sisters in the region? Let’s outline the impact of Sharia law and the “Arab Spring.”
Q: Why do you say that Islam cannot tolerate a true democracy?
A: Islam does not believe in the rule of man, but rather of Allah as witnessed in the Quran and the hadith (the sayings and conduct of Muhammad). Thus there is no room for the kind of pluralism that is necessary to have a true democracy. Democracy depends on the freedom to express various views about religion, politics, and the rule of law, all of which are tightly controlled in Islamic countries.
Q: Is not Turkey an example of a democracy in an Islamic country?
A: The father of modern Turkey was Mustafa Ataturk, who insisted that Turkey should be westernized, and so banned the burka and instituted the Western alphabet and script. Given the secularization of the country, he also insisted that it become a democracy. However, we must make the following points very clear: 1. There is very limited freedom of religion in Turkey.
Throughout the years Christians have been persecuted, maligned, and even killed by extremists who detest Turkey’s freedoms. 2. The democracy in the country is of a limited variety. Yes, they do have political parties, but presently the government is moving toward a more fundamentalist form of Islam. So even here you do not have freedom of the press or freedom of religion. Additionally, Turkey has complicated compulsory Islamic business practices that interfere with the free market system of economics.
Q: We often hear reference to Sharia law. What actually is it?
A: Sharia is a comprehensive code of law that governs every aspect of life, ethics, manners, criminal law, religion, etc. Sharia is so important to a faithful Muslim that even though he might swear allegiance to the US Constitution, he believes that his commitment to Sharia supersedes such a commitment, as the Fort Hood shooter proved.
Q: Can you help us understand some of the actual laws of Sharia?
A: In brief, here are just a few highlights of what Sharia stipulates. 1. It imposes the death penalty for conversion from Islam or for being disrespectful to the Quran. 2. Muslim men may marry Christian women but no Muslim woman may marry a Christian man. 3. A husband is permitted to beat his wife to compel her to obey him. 4. A woman who is raped may be convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse and may be punished by stoning or lashes (unless she can produce four male witnesses who can prove that she was not guilty of what happened; her own testimony does not count). 5. Men may have as many as four wives, whereas a woman can only have one husband. 6. All businesses must comply with complicated Sharia banking and lending practices. This list of Sharia laws could be extended indefinitely.
Q: So, what does the so-called “Arab Spring” mean for us?
A: We must shake ourselves free of our complacency and, as much as possible enter into the plight of these countries, particularly supporting our fellow believers (of whom there are increasing numbers). By helping finance Christian radio in these areas, and by sponsoring those organizations that have made connections with the believers, we can help to encourage and strengthen them in their need. What we hear most often from these Christians who are constantly vulnerable to attacks, threats, and humiliation is that they need to know that we are aware of what they are enduring and that we care. I find a subscription to the magazine The Voice of the Martyrs keeps me informed about what our brothers and sisters are enduring around the world. And finally, but most importantly: Pray! Pray! Pray!