Islamic Fundamentalism

March 24, 2000 • Volume 10, Issue 11
Can democracy flourish in strict Islamic states?
By David Masci

Introduction

An Egyptian court last year banned schoolgirls from wearing the niqab, or full-face veil. President Hosni Mubarak has cracked down on violent, anti-government fundamentalism in Egypt but has tried to accommodate more moderate factions by giving religion a more prominent role in society. (Photo Credit: AFP Photo/Amr Nabil)
An Egyptian court last year banned schoolgirls from wearing the niqab, or full-face veil. President Hosni Mubarak has cracked down on violent, anti-government fundamentalism in Egypt but has tried to accommodate more moderate factions by giving religion a more prominent role in society. (Photo Credit: AFP Photo/Amr Nabil)

The recent election of reform candidates to Iran's parliament dealt a blow to the nation's strict Islamic government. Despite Iran's generally free elections, many Westerners say that democracy is inherently impossible in countries run by Islamic fundamentalists. Since the ruling clerics believe God inspires their policies, it is argued, there is little room for the kind of public debate that is vital to a democracy. In addition, fundamentalist states such as Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan are seen as supportive of terrorism and generally hostile to the West. But other experts on the Middle East say the threat posed by fundamentalist states has been exaggerated, largely by the media. They also contend that Iran's elections are proof that Islamic fundamentalism and democracy can coexist.

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Mar. 24, 2000  Islamic Fundamentalism
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