[Published in The Daily]
Since 9/11, much ink has been spilled on the troubles of the world of Islam. The problem was painfully obvious: There were only a few functioning democracies in the Muslim world, and simply none among the Arabs. Some even presumed a fundamental contradiction between Islam and democracy. Islam, they argued, could only produce dictatorial regimes.
But there was a serious flaw in this argument. Most of the Middle Eastern dictators — Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Bashar al-Assad of Syria — were secular, not Islamic, figures. In fact, the Islamic groups in these countries, such as the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and its various franchises, were often brutally suppressed by the secular autocrats in question.