International

A plea from Arab and Muslim intellectuals

On the website of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy is an open letter from Arab and Muslim intellectuals to President Bush politely asking him to live up to his commitment to support democrats in the Muslim world.

It is our belief that the main problem with U.S. policies in the Middle East (in particular in Iraq, Palestine , and elsewhere) is precisely their failure to live up to America ’s democratic ideals of liberty and justice for all. We have been heartened by the strong commitment to liberty you had expressed in your November 2003 speech at the National Endowment for Democracy and then your second inaugural address, when you said that “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.”
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The US should continue to press for an end to regime repression of democratically spirited liberal and Islamist groups, and to emphatically distance itself from such repression and condemn it in the strongest terms whenever and wherever it occurs. We are confident that if Arab citizens are able to have their choice, they will choose democracy, freedom, peace and progress.
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Perhaps emboldened by the impression that America is wavering in its support for democracy, some autocrats have recently intensified repression. This makes the need for sustained U.S. and international support and pressure more urgent than ever. The region needs to hear again that the course of freedom and democracy is the only course which America, guided by both interest and principle, will support.

The clear message is that the Bush administration’s rhetorical commitment to freedom and democracy is not matched by a willingness to upset certain “friendly” or useful regimes, notably in Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia— a point I’ve made here frequently. Until that changes– until the US is seen consistently taking the side of the democrats over the autocrats in these strategically-important countries– the advocates of liberalization and reform in the Muslim world will have reason to doubt America’s sincerity.

(Hat tip: MEMRI.)

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