Author: Deposing Saddam Backfired

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While politicians and media pundits debate the success of U.S. attempts to instill a democratic government in Iraq, author and social scientist Elie Elhadj, Ph.D., explains why thoughts of a democratic Arab-Muslim nation are nothing but fantasy.
“Arab people are characterized by obedience to a hierarchical authority,” Syrian-born Elhadj states. “Western-style democracy can never fill this cultural mandate.”

In his newly-released book, “The Islamic Shield: Arab Resistance to Democratic and Religious Reforms” (BrownWalker Press, 2006), Elhadj explains how Muslim-Arab political and religious leaders raise the tenets of Islam in a shield against democracy in order to protect their power. Constant preaching by Islam’s religious leaders, instructing Muslims to blindly obey their leaders, has created an attitude of political quietism in regard to the tyranny of Arab rulers and ambivalence towards democracy, Elhadj says in his book.

Using Syria and Saudi Arabia as the archetypal Arab governments, “The Islamic Shield” outlines the numerous reasons why genuine democratic reforms are not likely to emerge in Arab countries for a very long time. Instead, Elhadj proposes that a benevolent dictatorship may be a more hopeful and realistic expectation, especially since democratic elections are likely to result in the election of a theocratic dictator rather than a secular  democratic one. A benevolent dictatorship would fulfill the goal of reducing Arab rulers’ cruelty, which fans the flame of Islamic extremism and Jihadism, he states.

Jihadism and its causes are examined in detail by Elhadj. He makes the case that Jihadist terrorism is fueled by the oppression and frustration of the Arab masses that results not only from tyrannical Arab rule, but also from the perception of biased American policies in the Middle East. Combined with the growing influence from extremist factions within Islam, these oppressions form a vicious cycle of violent confrontation, Elhadj says.

“Islamist extremism alone does not cause terrorism,” Elhadj states. “What Islamist extremism does is to turn political frustrations into religious crusades.” The United States may even have created a set-back for themselves in the effort to democratize the Middle East, he suggests. As the United States deposed the Arab World’s most secular regime in Iraq, a theocratic leadership aligned to Tehran emerged with potentially far-reaching regional political and religious consequences.

Elhadj is a banker with 30 years of banking experience in New York, Philadelphia, London and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. For most of the 1990s, Elhadj was chief executive officer of a major Saudi bank. At age 54, he joined London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies to attain his Master’s Degree and Ph.D. His doctoral dissertation addressed issues of food self-sufficiency and water politics in the Middle East.

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