Arabs and Democracy: A Question for Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria wrote in Time magazine (4/16/12) that “the Arab Spring is looking less appealing by the week.” The problem is a “messier reality,” and he zeroes in on Egypt:

And now, as Egypt’s presidential election approaches, we see the rise of two candidates from Islamic parties, Khairat al-Shater and Hazem Salah Abu Ismail. The former is often described as a moderate, the latter as a radical. Much of what we’re seeing might well be the tumult that accompanies the end of decades of tyranny and the rise of long-suppressed forces, but it raises the question, Why does it seem that democracy has such a hard time taking root in the Arab world?

It’s a staple of corporate media commentary to lament democracies that might produce leaders that we find disagreeable (and yet somehow it’s their commitment to democracy that is deemed questionable). And this is tough to take from someone like Zakaria, who spent much of the George W. Bush years extolling his pro-democratic credentials, going so far as to argue that Bush’s ignorance was strength: “Bush’s capacity to imagine a different Middle East may actually be related to his relative ignorance of the region. Had he traveled to the Middle East and seen its many dysfunctions, he might have been disheartened.”

In any event, the news over the weekend was that both candidates Zakaria singled out above have been disqualified from the election. This raises a question for Zakaria: Since their candidacies were a sign that democracy is having a hard time taking root in Egypt, is that country’s decision to bar them mean they are now moving closer to democracy, or further from it?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.