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Better Elected Islamists Than Dictators

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  • Where Have Islamists Leaders Improved?

    Clip: Debaters argue the motion "Better Elected Islamists than Dictators."

  • Islamist Leaders Must Be Able to Organically Evolve

    Clip: Debaters argue the motion "Better Elected Islamists than Dictators."

Debate Details

The popular uprisings of the Arab Spring have left a leadership void that Islamist parties have been quick to fill.  A longtime supporter of former strongmen like Egypt’s Mubarak and Tunisia’s Ben Ali, the U.S. now faces the uncomfortable result of Arab democracy—the rise of Islamist parties that are less amenable to the West than their autocratic predecessors.  Will the Islamists, who once embraced violence, slowly liberalize as they face the difficulties of state leadership? Or will it mean the growth of anti-Americanism and radicalization in the region? 

The Debaters

For the motion

Reuel Marc Gerecht

Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Reuel Marc Gerecht is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a non-partisan institution focusing on national security... Read More

Brian Katulis

Senior Fellow at Center for American Progress

Brian Katulis is a Senior Fellow at American Progress, where his work focuses on U.S. national security policy in the Middle East and South Asia.... Read More

Against the motion

Daniel Pipes

President, Middle East Forum

Daniel Pipes is one of the world’s foremost analysts on the Middle East and Islam. Pipes is President of the Middle East Forum, a nonprofit organization... Read More

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser

Founder and President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy

M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., is the Founder and President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD). A devout Muslim, Dr. Jasser founded AIFD in... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Democracy will have a liberalizing effect on the Islamists as they are held accountable for governance, not just religious ideology.
  • The fundamentalists are critical to the moral and political rejuvenation of their countries, and are therefore key to democratic politics in the region.
  • Representative government empowers citizens, especially religious minorities and women.
Against The Motion
  • Choosing between the lesser of two evils, U.S.-friendly authoritarian regimes are less of a threat than anti-American Islamists.
  • The Islamists' openly promise to reform society through Sharia, Islamic law, a concern for liberals, non-Muslims and women.
  • Elected Islamists are dictators at the end of the day.
  • They use the tools of democracy, but without separation of church and state you cannot have a true democracy.


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  • Results
  • Breakdown

The Research

The Research

Issue Guide: One Year of 'Arab Spring' Upheavals

Jonathan Masters and Aimee Rawlins
December 12, 2011

Analysis and essential background on the central issues facing the Middle East one year after the uprisings began.

Egypt Elections: Sharia Can Support Democracy

Mahmood Delkhasteh and Hassan Rezaei
May 23, 2012

In Egypt elections for president today, the role of Islam in government is a big question. But a freedom-based interpretation of sharia can support democracy in the Arab world. Such a form of sharia in the early stages of the Iran Revolution set a precedent – before it was snuffed out.

Islamists, Dictators, and Bad Choices

Abraham H. Miller
December 11, 2011

The Obama administration has jettisoned Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, a compliant dictator who represented our interests, in favor of the chimera of a popular democratic movement that, like the one in Iran in 1979, has proved to be merely a stepping-stone to the rise of the fundamentalists.

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