Unchaining Human Rights, Not Imposing Democracy

[First published December 17, 2004] Amair Taheri has an excellent article, “Eye of the Storm: 7 Arab excuses against reform,” in <I>The Jerusalem Post</>. The seven excuses are:

  • Economic development must precede political change.
  • Democracy is a Western system and hard to sell to the Arabs.
  • Most Arabs are poor and cannot understand democracy, let alone practice it.
  • Democracy would require the Arabs to abandon cherished ancestral values and traditions.
  • Because most Arabs are afflicted by illiteracy, reform should first focus on education
  • Democracy cannot be imposed by force.
  • There can be no democratization in Arab countries until the Palestine-Israel problem is solved.

Taheri does an good job of demolishing these excuses, but it would be easier if in place of democracy, he used the term freedom—even better, human rights. Then the ridiculousness of these excuses becomes self-evident. Try it. Replace democracy in political change in each case with freedom of speech, religion, and organization (such as creating a political party), and from fear.

For example, 

Economic development must precede freedom of speech, religion, and organization, and from fear.

Freedom of speech, religion, and organization, and from fear, is a Western system and hard to sell to the Arabs.

Most Arabs are poor and cannot understand freedom of speech, religion, and organization, and from fear, let alone practice it.

And so on. What we who foster democracy are doing is not exporting it, but unchaining people’s human rights. Period.

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