In the name of democracy, Arab Spring riots led to the rise of Islamic political power across the Middle East.
The western state of mind associates democracy with freedom and liberty. But as we witness Islamic governments spring in Tunisia, Egypt and Lybia, it seems that the western state of mind has no place in Islamic democracies.
Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish journalist, author of “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, explores this issue in his NY Times opinion - what if democracy does not serve liberty? What if elected Islamist parties impose laws that curb individual freedoms — like banning alcohol or executing converts — all with popular support?
While the secular youth brought Arab Spring revolution to fruitation, it is the Islamic parties that won political power. With Islamic political power rising, the divide between secular and religious faction increases.
This new battle is more intimate - it is a battle on identity, on values. In Tunisia, a year after the revolution, secular parents, surprised to find their daughter covering her hair in public, worry they are losing their child to extremism. Families argue over son's decision to grow a beard and demonstrate against western values that were always part of their culture.
The radical Islamic parties, known as the Salafist parties, play a big role behind the scenes in Egypt and Tunisia. While these parties may be the 2nd biggest in Parliament, they still have significant political power. These people are not happy with their right to demonstrate in a democractic country. They'd like to take it a step further and adopt Sharia law as the official law book of the state.
As this battle rages on, we should remember that power to the people does not guarantee the continuation of personal freedom and basic rights like freedom of speech or freedom of religion. In the name of democracy we may witness the rise of sharia law in Egypt and Tunisia, sending personal freedom tumbling down.