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The Editorial

Delight in democracy

The present troubles in the Middle East and North Africa should make us very thankful for our system of democracy.

John Benton

Since the turn of the year, the ‘Arab Spring’ has brought demonstrations in many Muslim countries as people seek freedom. Whereas governments have been toppled in Tunisia and Egypt, popular protests elsewhere are being brutally suppressed. It is arguable that such uprisings indicate deep weaknesses in Islam. Theodore Dalrymple* has highlighted two. The first is political. Within Islam ‘the legitimacy of temporal power could always be challenged by those who, citing Muhammad’s spiritual role, claimed greater religious purity, or authority... With power constantly liable to challenge from the pious, or the allegedly pious, tyranny becomes the only guarantor of stability’. It is such oppression which has triggered the demonstrations. The second problem for Islam is intellectual. ‘In the West, the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, acting upon the space that had always existed, at least potentially, in Christianity between Church and State, liberated individual men to think for themselves... Islam with no separate secular sphere where enquiry could flourish free from the claims of religion, if only for technical purposes, was hopelessly left behind.’ We wish the Arab Spring well. However, there is a danger. History teaches us that those who start revolutions are not always the ones who come to power.