Democracy’s battle

Looking at the endless violence in Afghani-stan and Iraq, one wonders whether democracy is the most suitable way to govern countries that have not first achieved the peaceful coexistence of their various warring groups. The troubles may stem from a lack of institutions capable of enforcing order, or from the resistance to foreign occupation, or from the fall of an autocratic regime. But in the battle taking place in parts of the Muslim world there is something else: the extremists’ rejection of the very concept of democracy. Before yesterday’s Afghan elections, the Taliban declared that good Muslims are not allowed to seek state office nor to vote for anyone who does. In Iraq, before the 2005 elections, Osama bin Laden declared, «Anyone who takes part is an infidel.» His followers in the Iraqi group Ansar al-Sunna added: «Democracy is a Greek word meaning the rule of the people, which means that people do what they see fit… This concept is considered apostasy and defies the belief in one God – Muslims’ doctrine.» And yet in Iraq, despite the terrorist attacks, millions voted in 2005 and will do so again next January. Yesterday, the Afghans voted for a president for the second time in their history. The attacks and threats by the Taliban may have kept many voters away, but again millions took part. After decades of war and occupation, Afghanistan has huge problems and is threatened by those who want a return to the dark days of Taliban rule. But yesterday 40 candidates (including two women) tried to unseat President Hamid Karzai. Most of them had no hope but felt that they had to do something for their country because they believe his five-year term was a failure. They were not discouraged by the hopelessness of their bid nor by warlords nor by the enemies of democracy. They were driven by the privilege and responsibility that democracy inspires. As Moinuddin Ulfati, one of the presidential candidates, told yesterday’s New York Times, «being unsuccessful is not a big thing, but being a coward is a big deal.»