Although the dialog between representatives of Islamic trends and researchers of Western academic institutions concerned with Arab politics affairs is no longer something new or rare, it has been characterized by generalization and seen with criticism, suspicion and accusation.
The Islamists on the one hand are employing the dialog with Western institutions to deliver three main concepts:
1- they believe in democracy and, accordingly, seek to push forward constitutional and political reform in Arab societies;
2- ruling elites alone are to be blamed for stumbling reform process and continuous absence of democracy;
3- the West, by backing the ruling elites, is responsible for power monopoly by the ruling elites and the sidelining of democratic trends, on top of which are the Islamists.
Western researchers in their dialogs with Islamists are always focusing on the following questions:
1- how can the West trust the Islamic trends’ compliance with democracy while there are several totalitarian and suppressive practices by Islamists-run governments?
2- How can Western governments abandon their coalition with the ruling elites while this is the certain guarantee of their vital interests in the Arab world? There is no effective opposition except Islamic trends, which always vow to target the West’s interests;
3- Is it realistically imaginable that the West, which cares for Israel’s security, may open to Islamic trends, the largest number of which classifies the destruction of the Hebrew State as a main goal?
What is real is that the ideological and political certainties behind the Islamists’ concepts and the Western researchers’ questions should take both sides to a deeper and more definite dialog.
Islamic trends’ representatives realize that their desire for constitutional and political reform is hindered by some real difficulties which prevent some trends from complying with democracy in words and deeds.
For while the ABC of democracy says the final reference of the political process is the constitution and laws, some Islamists are placing Sharia above the constitution and the law.
When posing their questions about Islamic trends seriousness regarding democracy, Western researchers have to differentiate between the cases in which Islamists rose to power without elections and without a discourse with a clear democratic vocabulary like in Iran and Sudan, and the discourse and practices of democratically-elected Islamists in Arab parliaments.
Islamists say that the West adopts double standards and that Western governments fully depend on their alliances with the ruling elites to protect their interests in the Arab World.
For their part, researchers continuously stress the repercussions of Islamists’ increasing role, their possible rise to power and the side effects of that on vital Western interests and Israel’s security.
Well, all this reflects both sides’ real concerns that cannot be removed easily.
With a continual double-standard policy and Islamists opposed to it, the only alternative is that both sides start to search for areas of agreement away from the regional scene and its difficult clashes and interests.
I am sure such areas are available when it comes to issues of internal policies. I am also sure such areas can engineer a gradual way for reforms in order to deepen participation and freedom without directly replacing the ruling elites with Islamists.