Following the victory of Hamas at Palestinian elections, commentators, such as the Christian Science Monitor‘s Howard LaFranchi (Jan. 27), wonder if the campaign for democracy in the Middle East will actually serve to promote Islamists.
Such electoral results are however not only related to religious fervor, but also to the partial failure of secular regimes to deliver what local populations had expected. Hamas is known to have been a provider of free social services. Moreover, when looking at the ascendance of political Islam in the Middle East, one should remain aware that reasons for Islamist success vary from one country to another, writes Dilip Hiro in the Los Angeles Times, Jan. 25).
A special report in The Economist (Feb. 4) draws attention to a huge difference among trends of political Islam: while al-Qaeda and associates reject the division of the world into modern states, the Muslim Brotherhood (in which Hamas has its roots) has chosen a more pragmatic way. However, according to the respected weekly, western strategists would be wrong to think that the problems of the Islamic world may be addressed by a “divide and rule” policy (be it between al-Qaeda and the Brotherhood or between Sunis and Shias).
This would only lead to more animosity and suspicion toward Western countries. Many Sunnis suspect the US of promoting Shias in order to weaken Sunnis. Following developments in Iraq, America has dangerously come to being seen as “the main arbiter in the balance of power between the different components of the Islamic world.”
— By Jean-Francois-Mayer