Arab Freedom Ahoy

I will quote some interesting posts from the weblog of Professor R.J. Rummel, the Democratic Peace. Professor Rummel has interesting research works, I agree with many of his thoughts.

Here are some selected posts of Professor Rummel's weblog:

Arab Freedom Ahoy

June 5, 2005

There are many commentators and analysts who assert that Arabs are not interested in democratic freedom, or that the Arab culture is hostile to it. It is important, therefore, to publicize the Arab Human Development Report 2004: Towards Freedom in the Arab World published by the United Nations Development Programme, Arab Fund For Economic And Social Development (link here). It begins with the theme of the whole report:

Of all the impediments to an Arab renaissance, political restrictions on human development are the most stubborn. This Report therefore focuses on the acute deficit of freedom and good governance.

Given its source and funding, the report is surprisingly honest:

No Arab thinker today doubts that freedom is a vital and necessary condition, though not the only one, for a new Arab renaissance, or that the Arab world’s capacity to face up to its internal and external challenges, depends on ending tyranny and securing fundamental rights and freedoms.

Ah, you might think, it must mean something different by freedom than we do in the West. No way. By freedom the report means not only civil and political rights, the rule of law, and an independent judiciary, and therefore, as it says, "freedom from oppression," but also "the liberation of the individual from all factors that are inconsistent with human dignity, such as hunger, disease, ignorance, and poverty." These, the report points out, rest upon popular participation, government transparency, accountability, and fair and free selection processes. In other words, democracy as we know it.Keep in mind this is an Arab report as it also asserts what we all know:

Some Arab governments also violate the right to life extra-legally and extra-judicially. Human rights organizations have observed that official reports on killings tend to be short on facts. In most Arab states, the names of the victims are not mentioned, and no public investigation is conducted.

Extremist groups which perpetrate assassinations and bombings and espouse the use of violence also violate the right to life. Armed confrontations between security forces and armed groups result in civilian casualties that can outnumber victims in the ranks of the combatants.

And more surprising, it also frankly deals with the way Arab men treat their women:

In general, women suffer from inequality with men and are vulnerable to discrimination, both at law and in practice.

Despite laudable efforts to promote the status of women, success remains limited. Greater progress is required in women’s political participation, in changes to personal status laws, in the integration of women in development, and in the right of a woman married to a foreign husband to transmit her citizenship to her children. The inability of existing legislation to protect women from domestic violence or violence on the part of the state and society is another deficit area.

And now for the most important observation of this report -- the claim the Arab and Muslim "mind" makes them incapable of democracy. Says the report:

[A] recent research effort, the World Values Survey (WVS), has exposed the falseness of these claims by demonstrating that there is a rational and understandable thirst among Arabs to be rid of despots and to enjoy democratic governance. Among the nine regions surveyed by the WVS, which included the advanced Western countries, Arab countries topped the list of those agreeing that “democracy is better that any other form of governance.” A substantially high percentage also rejected authoritarian rule (defined as a strong ruler who disregards parliament or elections).

Why have Arab countries failed to meet their people's desire for freedom and democracy?Undoubtedly, the real flaw behind the failure

of democracy in several Arab countries is not cultural in origin. It lies in the convergence of political, social and economic structures that have suppressed or eliminated organized social and political actors capable of turning the crisis of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes to their advantage. The elimination of such forces has sapped the democratic movement of any real forward momentum. In addition, there are region- specific complexities that have deepened the crisis.

In other words, dictatorships are at fault. There is much to gladden the freedomist in this report. Even if it is projecting on the Arab world a bias toward freedom, this report still contains enough undoubted detail and facts, like the above WVS survey, to question the view that democracy is incompatible with Arab culture, and that President Bush's Forward Strategy of Freedom for the region is grossly unrealistic.

Link of Note
"The unmentionable Freedom" (5/28/05) By Joseph Loconte, The Heritage Foundation

Joseph Loconte is a research fellow in religion at the Heritage Foundation. He says:

Last month a group of Arab intellectuals released their third report in an unprecedented study of the many failures--economic, social, and political--that plague the world's Arab states. The latest report, "Towards Freedom in the Arab World," endorses democracy and laments the "acute deficit of freedom and good governance" in Muslim countries. Its authors are getting high marks from the Bush administration. Too bad they've largely ignored the most basic freedom under any democratic government: the guarantee of religious liberty.?

Although understandable, given his interest in religion, I think he overdoes his criticism of the report for not explicitly favoring religious freedom. But this is implicit in the report's general treatment of freedom, and then there are these snippets:

The dominant trend in Islamic jurisprudence supports freedom. Enlightened Islamic interpretations find that the tools of democracy - when used properly – offer one possible practical arrangement for applying the principle of consultation (al-shura). The fundamental principles in Islam which dictate good governance, include the realization of justice and equality, the assurance of public freedoms, the right of the nation to appoint and dismiss rulers, and guarantees of all public and private rights for non-Muslims and Muslims alike. Notwithstanding these key theological and philosophical interpretations, political forces, in power and in opposition, have selectively appropriated Islam to support and perpetuate their oppressive rule.

. . . . In contemporary jurisprudence, human rights constitute the collection of rights incorporated in international agreements and treaties that guarantee all people, irrespective of their nationality, ethnicity, language, sex, religion, ideology and abilities, the fundamental rights to which they are entitled by virtue of being human. However, in Arab countries the issue of ‘specificity’ is frequently raised to weaken international human rights law.

. . . . The confusion between religion and state is nowhere more clearly demonstrated than in the Sudanese Constitution, which provides that God, the Creator of humankind, holds supremacy over the State, without specifying the meaning of supremacy. Governance practices apparently sanctioned by God are likely to be immune to criticism and opposition.


How Free Are Middle Eastern Nations

November 20, 2005

The BBC has published (here) news about an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU — here) study on Middle East freedom. I present the full BBC article below (don't let the British spelling get you):

There is a wide range of democratization across the Middle East, a survey by a leading research and advisory firm has found.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranked 20 countries on 15 indicators of political and civil liberty.

The Index of Political Freedom lists Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Iraq and the Palestinian Territories as the most democratic parts of the region.

Libya received the lowest rating, below Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Reform resisted

The EIU scored each country on a 10-point scale, awarding one point for the least political freedom and 10 for the most.


Israel: 8.20
Lebanon: 6.55
Morocco: 5.20
Iraq: 5.05
Palestine: 5.05
Kuwait: 4.90
Tunisia: 4.60
Jordan: 4.45
Qatar: 4.45
Egypt: 4.30
Sudan: 4.30
Yemen: 4.30
Algeria: 4.15
Oman: 4.00
Bahrain: 3.85
Iran: 3.85
UAE: 3.70
Saudi Arabia: 2.80
Syria: 2.80
Libya: 2.05

Source: EIU

The analysts found little evidence of democratisation in some countries.Sitting at the bottom of the table, Libya has long had a reputation as one of the world's worst violators of human rights.

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's government has also long restricted freedom of expression and independent political activity.Saudi Arabia held its first ever exercise in democracy in February 2005 when it held municipal elections, but remains an absolute monarchy that has resisted pressure for reform.

Syria, meanwhile, is renowned for its authoritarian rule even though there has been a degree of liberalisation under President Bashar al-Assad.ProgressThough there are few surprises at the bottom of the table, the top five may raise eyebrows.

It contains three of the most volatile parts of the region: Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories and Iraq.


Election of head of government
Election of parliament
Fairness of electoral laws
Right to organise political parties
Power of elected representatives
Presence of an opposition
TransparencyMinority participation
Level of corruption
Freedom of assembly
Independence of the judiciary
Press freedom
Religious freedom
Rule of law
Property rights

Source: EIUBBC

Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says there is unquestionably a new mood in the region, but progress has been uneven.Lebanon is free in a very particular sense: it is no longer under military occupation.

Most Palestinians do not enjoy that freedom, and yet they have just had local elections and are preparing for parliamentary ones in January, our correspondent says.

As for Iraq, its high score is a bit surprising, given the level of violence there, our correspondent says.

Iraqis no long live under a dictatorship and now have plenty of publications and political parties to choose from. But their freedom of movement is constrained by the bombings and kidnappings, and that is a big limitation.

Related post: WORLD FREEDOM 2005

Muslim Arabs Value Democracy

July 24, 2005

A Large Majority of Arab Muslims Favor Democracy

For those interested in freedom and systematically collected statistics on it, there are a few essential websites to know about. Among them are Freedom House and its rating of countries by their freedom and various reports on democracy; and another is the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal "Index of Economic Freedom". Another site, apparently not well known outside of academia, is The World Values Survey at the University of Michigan.

So much of what the media has to say about other countries, their values, and their view of democracy and the United States, is by assumption, unreliable personal experiences, and hearsay. Yet, here is a huge survey that assessed the values of 65 societies over six continents and encompassing 80 percent of the population. Moreover, they can track the change in values of particular societies over time, since they have done surveys in 1981 (limited to Europe), 1990-191, 1995-1996, and 1999-2001 (all global). Their sample for each nation ran to at least 1,000 people. All their reports and data are available from their website or given links.

On more thing. Their systematic analysis of the values they uncover is systematic and at the forefront of available methodologies. They use correlation, multiple regression, and factor analysis extensively, on which I have written a textbook (see my summary article here, and so I can attest to the validity of their results.

Of course, I will be exploiting their conclusions and data as relevant to freedomism, and for this blog want to focus on the valuation of democracy among Arab Muslim countries. I don't need to garner quotes for what is obvious in the American media, which is the belief that by culture and religion, Arabs do not think highly of democracy. Or to make this comparative, they think much less highly of democracy than do Western democracies. Wrong. See their studies, Muslims and Democracy" (use the search box in the upper right to search under the author, Fares al-Braizat), and "The Worldviews of Islamic Publics in Global Perspective" (use the search box to search under the author, Ronald Inglehart).

Some tidbits from both studies:

The major differences in values lie along two dimensions (75% of the variance) a traditional vs. secular rational dimension, or religiosity vs. economic development; and a survival values vs. self-expression (e.g., economic security over self-expression).

Religion defines compact cultural zones, but historical experience plays a role as for those nations that were ruled by communism

As low income societies, fourteen Islamic societies tend to emphasize tradition and survival values (e.g., low tolerance of outgroups such as gays and women, and low valuation of freedom of speech and political participation), except for Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran, which tend to be more secular-rational.

The correlations between secular ration societies across the globe and freedom is.83.

To the statement that, "Democracy may have problems but it's better than any other form of government," the people of five Arab countries strongly agreed. See the table below. Note with amazement how this agreement is greater than that for the sample from other regions, such as Western Europe. That for other Muslim nations is a little lower, but still greater than for Latin American and U.S./Canada/Australia/New Zealand.

I trust the validity of this study, and therefore must ask: why is there such a democracy deficit in the world's 47 Muslim countries, only a fourth of which are at least electoral democracies? In the main, it is the rule by dictators who fear radical Islamicists. Besides their personal gain and their lust for power, these dictators see democratization as a risky gamble. Thus, they use the popular language of democracy to maintain the rule. Given the popularity of democracy among the people, why don't they rise up and demand democracy. Tradition, religion, but above all the fear of what dictatorship will do to them.

As Natan Sharansky wrote in his important and informative book, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, what most clearly distinguishes democracy from nondemocracies is that in nondemocracies people live in fear. We see this in the Arab countries. Therefore, if the democratization the Arab people value is to come, it must come from pressure from the outside. In this, the Forward Strategy of Freedom of President Bush is well aligned with our understanding of the Middle East, and it is working.

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