During a December 20, 2008 visit to the Omani capital Muscat, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering stated that democracy in the Middle East must evolve from within, that it must reflect local traditions and values, and that the West should not pressure the region to adopt a European-style democratic system. This statement sparked criticism among Arab intellectuals; the next day, 'Omran Salman, editor of the reformist website Aafaq.org, posted an article harshly critical of Poettering's statements.
Following are excerpts from Salman's article:
Western Officials Would Rather Keep the Middle East Under Dictatorships
"…What is the meaning of statements [such as Poettering's]... that the democratic system followed in Europe is appropriate for countries all over the world except in the Arab region?
"Naturally, such statements are not innocuous, nor are they for the benefit of these alleged exceptions [i.e. the Arab countries]; rather, they are manifestations of racist tendencies as well as self-serving objectives.
"These people [like Poettering] believe that Arabs deserve nothing better than their present governments – [that is,] they do not deserve the democracy enjoyed by civilized nations. It follows that it is better not to pressure dictatorial regimes but instead to grant their wishes, [and receive] in exchange agreements, money, and profits – while the people there can go to hell.
"In reality, the European Parliament president, who should be ashamed of himself, is not the only traitor in this group [of Western statesmen]. Unfortunately, many senior European and U.S. officials share his opinion, with some of them [even] vying to turn over a new leaf [in relations with] dictatorial governments like those of [Syrian President] Bashar Al-Assad, [Libyan Leader Mu'ammar] Al-Qaddafi, and others.
SUPPORT OUR WORK
"Their positions are based on the following premises:
"-People are not equal in how they achieve democracy – that is, there are first-class nations and second-class nations. The first class – Europe and the West – deserve the highest level of democracy, while the Arab nations are second class and [hence] inherently different, and must obey the rules of their [respective] governments.
"-The best way to safeguard Western interests is by preserving the existing tyrannical regimes – not by offering [these] nations an opportunity to embrace democracy, since such [a development] may harm these [i.e. Western] interests.
"-The democratic experience is by nature cumulative; thus there is no need to promote or facilitate democracy, especially for Arab countries. However, this does not apply to Eastern Europe, South America, or Asia, [where democracy was implemented quickly].
"-Each nation in the region has its own unique cultural characteristics and traditions, which must be respected; it would therefore be a mistake either to impose democracy on them [i.e. the Arab nations] or to pressure them to adopt [democracy].
"As I have already said, this is [all] just an excuse used by some Western politicians to justify their ties with tyrannical and corrupt governments in the Arab world. This [attitude] shows their disdain for the nations of this region, and [shows that] they are being treated as inferior species."
Arab Peoples Want Freedom and Democracy Too
"The truth is – even though these [Western] opportunists do not think so according to their logic – that all nations are equally [entitled] to freedom and democracy. There is no nation that is not striving and fighting for freedom – and the Arab nations are no exception.
"Furthermore, democracy is not some garment that people wear because of their traditions, or because of the local climate. It is a universal human value that transcends continents and cultures.
"Rule of law, a government elected by the people, [the government's] accountability to [its citizens], separation of authorities, pluralism, transfer of power by peaceful means – [all these] do not depend on unique [characteristics] or regional custom. If they are good for the West, they are also good for the East, and for anywhere else in the world.
"The only thing left to say is that all reformists, and all those who defend democracy and freedom in the Arab countries, must condemn the racism and opportunism of these politicians – including the president of the European Parliament…"