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Officials during the “Muslim-Western relations – 10 years past 9/11” session held yesterday. Salim Matramkot
By MOHAMMED IQBAL
DOHA: A top European diplomat yesterday called on the West to stop patronising the Arab Spring and respect the results of the democratic elections that are taking place in the post-revolution Arab countries.
Addressing a session on “Muslim-Western relations – 10 years past 9/11” at the fourth UN Alliance of Civilizations Forum here, Paulo Portas, Foreign Minister of Portugal said that the fall of the autocratic regimes in the Arab world had given a great opportunity to the West to rebuild its relations with the Islamic world.
To achieve this, the West should keep away from exporting democratic models to the Arab countries and stop patronising the Arab revolutions, he cautioned.
“Don’t patronise the Arab Spring. They are not organised by the European governments. Don’t export models to the Arab world. Respect the election results in the Arab countries because it is the basic principle of democracy. We don’t want a repetition of Algeria,” said Portas, pointing to the failure of the European governments to recognise the victory of the Islamists in the first free elections held in Algeria in 1991.
He said the Arab revolutions were not inspired by terrorism or fanaticism, but by people who were tired of corruption and autocracy.
“I am for separation of religion and politics but I don’t see any problem with a spiritual influence in politics. There can be an Islamic interpretation of democracy,” said Portas, noting that the West had become increasingly secular. He added that if Europe could work with the Arab countries to find a lasting solution to the Palestinian issue, it would help a lot in rebuilding its relations with the Arab world.
Ibrahim Kalin, Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister of Turkey, echoed similar views when he said, “Before the Arab Spring, the main question was whether the Arabs were ready for democracy. Now the relevant question is whether the West is ready for democracy in the Arab world.”
He said, politically and psychologically the West is not yet ready to accept democracy in the Arab world, or at least it is hesitant due to fears about who would come out as winners in the elections. “We should overcome such fears,” he said.
Noted Islamic thinker Tariq Ramadan said the growing distrust between the West and the Islamic world could end only when both sides stop “culturalising political issues.”
“Let politicians talk about political issues,” said Ramadan, while arguing that it would be problematic to talk about the Arab revolutions as a religious and cultural experience.
“I am not very optimistic about the potential of the Arab Spring. I still don’t call it spring or revolution. I call it uprising,” he added.
James Bell, director of the International Survey Research for PEW, citing the findings of a survey conducted by his organisation in several Islamic and western countries said that many Muslims, when asked to identify the positive and negative traits of the westerners had said that they were “selfish, violent and greedy.”